In an age of growing antiscience politics, fifteen US science and engineering organizations take a stand.
I have been working with fifteen of the top U.S. science and engineering organizations who today released a list of the most important science policy questions that presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Mitt Romney should be debating on the campaign trail. I organized the group, in my role a CEO of the non-profit grassroots science advocacy organization ScienceDebate.org. These leading organizations all feel that because science now affects every aspect of modern life, presidential candidates should be tackling these questions.
The participating organizations include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geosciences Institute, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, The American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, The American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society of Chemical Engineering, the Council on Competitiveness, the US Institute of Electricians and Electronics Engineers, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, ScienceDebate.org, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. ScienceDebate.org's media partner for the project is Scientific American magazine.
This should be a no-brainer at this point. Candidates debate the economy even though they are not economists, foreign policy even though they're not diplomats or generals, and faith and values even though they are not priests or pastors. They should also be debating the big science and, often, environmental questions that have equal or greater impact on voters' lives.
The group feels strongly that these fourteen questions are the most important science questions the candidates and voters should consider in the 2012 election cycle. The list includes questions about innovation and the economy, climate change, energy, improving science education, protecting food and fresh water, requiring vaccinations, managing the Internet, competing in research, preventing pandemics, improving ocean health, exploring space, securing rare natural resources, and improving scientific integrity in the federal government. It is available online at http://www.sciencedebate.org/questions.html
We began the project early this year, when ScienceDebate.org asked thousands of scientists, engineers and other supporters to submit questions online for a possible science debate to be held among the leading candidates. We then recruited the science and engineering organizations to help refine the questions and shape them into a fair and nonpartisan list. I worked with them over the last several months.
The most impressive thing about the list is the universal consensus. The fact that these diverse science and engineering organizations came to a universal consensus shows just how important they feel it is that Americans -- and the candidates for president -- pay attention to these critical problems.
We have asked the Obama and Romney campaigns to address the questions by mid August.
Shawn Lawrence Otto is the writer & co-producer of the film House of Sand and Fog, and a science advocate. Get his new book: Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America,"One of the most important books written in America in the last decade." Starred Kirkus Review; Starred Publishers Weekly review. Visit him at http://www.shawnotto.com. Like him on Facebook. Join ScienceDebate.org to get the presidential candidates to debate science.