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The Sciences

Obama Goes on the Record on Science. (Hint: He's All For It)

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskySeptember 3, 2008 2:11 AM

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We've seen plenty of official statements and soundbite-ready quotes on science policy from both sides of the presidential race. But there's still plenty of room to nail down exactly where each of the candidates stand on the most important issues. Enter ScienceDebate2008 and Scientists & Engineers for America, who, along with a group of other science and engineering organizations, put together 14 questions for each candidate. The questions hit all the major bases, including climate change, energy, education, national security, biotech, conservation, and health care. (For a full list, go here.) The first set of responses, from Obama's camp, are now online. While a lot of it is straight from the political rhetoric handbook (or from policies his campaign has already laid out publicly), it's a concise and helpful overview of his stances on science. Here are a few highlights:Research & Innovation:

My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields..As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school, and I will prioritize math and science teachers.

Climate Change:

I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. I will start reducing emissions immediately by establishing strong annual reduction targets with an intermediate goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Energy:

I have proposed programs that, taken together, will increase federal investment in the clean energy research, development, and deployment to $150 billion over ten years...

[I]t is essential that we create a strong, predictable market for energy innovations with concrete goals that speed introduction of innovative products and provide a strong incentive for private R&D investment in energy technologies. These concrete goals include:

Math & Science Education:

  1. Increasing new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade, and taking other steps that will reduce the energy intensity of our economy 50 percent by 2030;

  2. Increasing fuel economy standards 4 percent per year and providing loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers to build new fuel- efficient cars domestically;

  3. Extending the Production Tax Credit for five years and creating a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard that will require that 10 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025; and

  4. Ensuring that regulations and incentives in all federal agencies support the national energy and environmental goals in ways that encourage innovation and ingenuity.

My administration will work closely with states and local communities to ensure that we recruit math and science graduates to the teaching profession. Through Teacher Service Scholarships, a Teacher Residency Program, and Career Ladders, I will transform the teaching profession from one that has too many underpaid and insufficiently qualified teachers to one that attracts the best STEM teaching talent for our schools.

National Security:

Overseas, I will launch a Shared Security Partnership that invests $5 billion over 3 years to forge an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks. I will also strengthen U.S. intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike and expand the U.S. government’s bioforensics program for tracking the source of any biological weapon...

And to ensure our country is prepared should such an event occur, we must provide our public health system across the country with the surge capacity to confront a crisis and improve our ability to cope with infectious diseases. I will invest in new vaccines and technology to detect attacks and to trace them to their origin, so that we can react in a timely fashion.

Science v. Political Agendas:

I have already established an impressive team of science advisors, including several Nobel Laureates, who are helping me to shape a robust science agenda for my administration.

In addition I will:

Space:

  1. Appoint individuals with strong science and technology backgrounds and unquestioned reputations for integrity and objectivity to the growing number of senior management positions where decisions must incorporate science and technology advice. These positions will be filled promptly with ethical, highly qualified individuals on a non-partisan basis;

  2. Establish the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will lead an interagency effort on best-in-class technologies, sharing of best practices, and safeguarding of our networks;

  3. Strengthen the role of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) by appointing experts who are charged to provide independent advice on critical issues of science and technology. The PCAST will once again be advisory to the president; and

  4. Restore the science integrity of government and restore transparency of decision- making by issuing an Executive Order establishing clear guidelines for the review and release of government publications, guaranteeing that results are released in a timely manner and not distorted by the ideological biases of political appointees. I will strengthen protection for “whistle blowers” who report abuses of these processes.

Between 1958 and 1973, the National Aeronautics and Space Council oversaw the entire space arena for four presidents; the Council was briefly revived from 1989 to 1992. I will re-establish this Council reporting to the president. It will oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial, and national security space activities.

[This post has been appended to put ScienceDebate2008 first in the list of organizers—since we wouldn't want anyone to be left out.]

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