The Sciences

What Must the Next President Do to Save Science? DISCOVER's Science Policy Project 2008

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskySep 9, 2008 3:35 PM

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What are the most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? Earlier this year, an impressive group of scientists and media types got behind the idea that the presidential candidates should have a debate on this very topic. Several months later, it's clear that their goal won't be met. So where do we go from here? The prospects for elevating the public political discussion on science aren't great, given the circumstances: Campaign strategists—and likely the nominees themselves—see science as a policy area with a world of downside and not much upside. But when either Barack Obama or John McCain is sworn in as the next commander-in-chief, he will inherit a cauldron of serious problems, from energy to the environment to health care, that will take significant science research and knowledge to solve. As such, we figured it was a good idea to scratch the debates and get right to the recommendations. With that goal in mind, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country's most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to answer the following question:

What are the three most important things the next president can do to positively impact scientific research in the United States?

In the November issue of DISCOVER, we compile and analyze the results. In the meantime, we will be posting each response in its entirety here on Reality Base, as well as additional answers from authors, conservationists, geneticists, and more. Feel free to offer your own ideas and analysis in the comments section. The time for debate is over. Let’s start providing some answers. All past responses can be found here.

EDWARD O. WILSON

Pulitzer Prize-winning conservation biologist Start with the inauguration address, and repeat the theme in later addresses—combined with action—that the United States is determined to lead in science and technology, as a major thrust on behalf of this nation’s cultural and economic health. Set up commissions, composed primarily of distinguished scientists and business leaders, to provide guidance on how such leadership can be widened and strengthened. The commissions would cover, respectively, medicine, environment, alternative energy, basic science, and science education. Urge Congress to join you in a bipartisan manner to achieve the aforementioned goals.

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