The Political Gymnastics of the Science Debate

It’s rare that your weekly routine involves sitting in a room full of future litigators, legislators, and other legal connoisseurs gripped in scientific policy discussion.  The fruitful product of that discourse makes you wonder why there isn’t more limelight being shown on these topics in the national forum.

Over the course of the current race for the role of the United States President, ScienceDebate.Org has charged itself with the mission of bringing law and science forward as a national discussion.  Ideally, it wouldn’t seem like such a hard task — the additional opportunity to distinguish Candidate A from Candidate B seems like just what the SuperPACs would love to invest in!  Unfortunately, the organization has only recently managed to culminate responses from the candidates as of this week.

While it’s nice that both major candidates offered carefully written articulations of their policy, the agenda of the science debate organization was to use the spectacle of the election to propel scientific discussion forward in an existing national debate.  Consider the following question, asked of each of the candidates: “Science and technology have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII, when the federal government first prioritized peacetime science mobilization. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains a world leader in innovation?” With narratives about job-creation hogging the airwaves in battleground states,  I find it amazing that this is the first I’ve heard, in a political setting, about science being the backbone of our economy.

The question itself seems open-ended, leaving candidates the choice whether or not to discuss the role of legislation in scientific progression.  Would more jobs be created if the government increased backing of certain research which has not been traditionally popular with the morally conservative?  Can the economy blossom under a scientific policy switch?  While the voting populace might be more concerned with business experience or voting records, there might be untapped political potential in a candidate’s scientific views.

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2 thoughts on “The Political Gymnastics of the Science Debate

  1. This is a great site, and it’s interesting to finally see more focus on science in politics. Topics like climate change usually seem to receive the greatest attention (although still not much) as a distinction between candidates, but the jobs crisis has offered a new outlet for science- and technology-related political conversations. Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

  2. There is also the issue of governmentally supported research for non-controversial research areas. Governmental grant money has been dramatically reduced in recent years and many university scientists are struggling to continue meaningful research programs. Innovation is dependent on academia and we need to ensure that their valuable research programs are supported.

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