October 30, 2012

Science and the 2012 Presidential Election.

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This week in science we present to you the Presidential candidate’s positions on some of the most important science issues: Energy, Climate Change and the Environment, Stem Cell Research, the Space Program, Stem Education and Research and Development.  Positions come from the Republican and Democratic Party platforms as well as from each candidate’s responses to “The Top American Science Questions,” by sciencedebate.org.

President Barack Obama:


Rare earth elements and other critical minerals are used by American manufacturers to make high-tech products like the advanced batteries that power everything from hybrid cars to cell phones. My support for the development alternatives to rare earth materials is helping to ensure we have the materials necessary to propel our high-technology economy forward.

Being able to manufacture competitive products in America is too important for us to stand by and do nothing. We’ve got to take control of our energy future, and we can’t let the energy industry take root in other countries because they are allowed to break the rules. That’s why we have joined with Japan and some of our European allies to bring a trade case against China for imposing restrictions on their exports of rare earth materials.

Part of our strategy is also to use the natural resources we have more efficiently, so we are less reliant on other countries in the first place. To achieve that, I have invested in a series of innovative projects to decrease our reliance on rare earth material and unveiled a federal strategy to promote U.S.-based electronics recycling to keep American manufactures competitive. We are also launching a new, multidisciplinary energy innovation research “hub” to advance our leadership in manufacturing products that rely on rare earth materials and other critical materials. The hub — which will bring together scientists, materials specialists, and others – will aim to develop efficiencies and alternatives that reduce the amount of rare earths that we need as well as develop strategies to ensure that we have a reliable supply of rare earths and other critical materials going forward.

The Top American Science Questions,” by sciencedebate.org

Climate Change and the Environment

“The national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. That is why, in addition to undertaking measures to enhance energy independence and promote efficiency, clean energy, and renewable sources of power here at home, the President and the Democratic Party have steadily worked to build an international framework to combat climate change.” Democratic Party Platform pg 61

“Democrats are committed to protecting our natural resources while creating jobs, preserving habitats, and ensuring that future generations can enjoy our nation’s outdoor heritage. From investing in clean energy to protecting our air, land, and water, Democrats have made protecting the environment a top priority. Today we are responsibly developing our natural resources to create clean energy jobs here at home while encouraging conservation, reducing energy waste, and protecting the environment.” Democratic Party Platform pg 56.

Stem Cell Research

… Further, the President issued an executive order repealing the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research… Democratic party platform pg 48

“Today with the executive order I’m about to sign, we would bring the change that so many scientists, and researchers, doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones that hope for and fought for these past eight years. We will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research.

We also vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield. At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown and it should not be overstate. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand and possibly cure some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them. But that potential would not reveal themselves on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research, from years of lonely trial and errors, much of which never bears fruit. And from a government willing to support that work. From live saving vaccines to pioneering cancer treatments to the sequencing of the human genome – that is the story of scientific progress in America.”

March 9, 2011; President Obama announces the signing of Executive Order 13505 – Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells

Source: The Top American Science Questions, by sciencedebate.org Sep 4, 2012

STEM education

“An excellent education remains the clearest, surest route to the middle class. To compete with other countries we must strengthen STEM education. Early in my administration, I called for a national effort to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement. Last year, I announced an ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade, with growing philanthropic and private sector support. My “Educate to Innovate” campaign is bringing together leading businesses, foundations, non-profits, and professional societies to improve STEM teaching and learning. Recently, I outlined a plan to launch a new national STEM Master Teacher Corps that will be established in 100 sites across the country and be expanded over the next four years to support 10,000 of the best STEM teachers in the nation.”  Source: The Top American Science Questions, by sciencedebate.org Sep 4, 2012


We’re fortunate to be part of a society that can reach beyond our planet and explore frontiers that were only imagined by our ancestors. I am committed to protecting these critical investments in science and technology and pursuing an ambitious new direction for NASA that lays the groundwork for a sustainable program of exploration and innovation.

We have extended the life of the International Space Station, forwarding efforts to foster international cooperation in space, supporting the growth of America’s commercial space industry, and taking on our pressing scientific challenges while continuing the nation’s commitment to robust human space exploration, science, and aeronautics programs.

Research and Development

“I strongly support investments in research and development that help spur America innovation and proposed a goal that, as a country, we invest more than 3 percent of our GDP in public and private research and development–exceeding the level achieved at the height of the space race. That’s w

hy, under the Recovery Act, my administration enacted the largest research and development increase in our nation’s history. Through the Recovery Act, my Administration committed over $100 billion to support groundbreaking innovation with investments in energy, basic research, education and training, advanced vehicle technology, health IT and health research, high speed rail, smart grid, and information technology.”

Source: The Top American Science Questions, by sciencedebate.org Sep 4, 2012

Gov. Mitt Romney:


“The current Administration has used taxpayer dollars to pick winners and losers in the energy sector while publicly threatening to bankrupt anyone who builds a new coal-fired plant and has stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline. The current President has done nothing to disavow the scare campaign against hydraulic fracturing. Furthermore, he has wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars by subsidizing favored companies like Solyndra, which generated bankruptcies rather than kilowatts.” — Republican party platform pg 16”

The goal of energy independence has long proved elusive, but analysts across the spectrum — energy experts, investment firms, even academics at Harvard University — now recognize that surging U.S. energy production, combined with the resources of America’s neighbors, can meet all of the continent’s energy needs within a decade. The key is to embrace these resources and open access to them.

I have put forward a six-part plan for achieving these goals. First, I will empower states to control onshore energy development, including on federal lands within their borders. Second, I will open offshore areas to development. Third, I will pursue a North American Energy Partnership so that America can benefit from the resources of its neighbors. Fourth, I will ensure accurate assessment of the nation’s energy resources by updating decades-old surveys that do not reflect modern technological capabilities. Fifth, I will restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation. And sixth, I will facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.

Source: The Top American Science Questions, by sciencedebate.org Sep 4, 2012

Climate Change and the Environment

“The current Administration’s most recent National Security Strategy reflects the extreme elements in its liberal domestic coalition…Finally, the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression. The word ‘climate,’ in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction… .” Republican party platform pg 40.

“The environment is getting cleaner and healthier. The nation’s air and waterways, as a whole, are much healthier than they were just a few decades ago. Efforts to reduce pollution, encourage recycling, educate the public, and avoid ecological degradation have been a success. To ensure their continued support by the American people, however, we need a dramatic change in the attitude of officials in Washington, a shift from a job-killing punitive mentality to a spirit of cooperation with producers, landowners, and the public.”– Republican party platform pg 18’ Republican Party platform pg 18

Stem Cell Research

“… We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Republican party platform” Republican Party Platform pg 14

“… We call for expanded support for the stem-cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions—with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells—without the destruction of embryonic human life. We urge a ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos… Republican party platform pg 34

Space Program

“Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines. Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate—and surpass—NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.” Republican platform pg 28

STEM education

We advocate the policies and methods that have proven effective: building on the basics, especially STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and phonics; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards” Republican Party Platform pg 35.

The first step is to acknowledge the need for change when the status quo is not working. New systems of learning are needed to compete with traditional four-year colleges: expanded community colleges and technical institutions, private training schools, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector. New models for acquiring advanced skills will be ever more important in the rapidly changing economy of the twenty-first century, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math.” Republican Party Platform pg 37.

Research and Development

“I am a strong supporter of federally funded research, and continued funding would be a top priority in my budget. The answer to spending constraints is not to cut back on crucial investments in America’s future, but rather to spend money more wisely. For instance, President Obama spent $90 billion in stimulus dollars in a failed attempt to promote his green energy agenda. That same spending could have funded the nation’s energy research programs at the level recommended in a recent Harvard University study for nearly twenty years.

Good public policy must also ensure that federal research is being amplified in the private sector, and that major breakthroughs are able to make the leap from the laboratory to the marketplace. Unfortunately, President Obama has pursued policies across a range of fields that will have the opposite effect. For instance, Obamacare imposes an excise tax on the revenue of medical device companies that is already driving jobs and investment overseas. Meanwhile, the FDA’s slow and opaque approval process is rated less than one-fourth as effective as its European counterpart by medical technology companies. Robust NIH funding will only have its desired effect if paired with sensible policies that facilitate medical innovation more broadly.”

Source: The Top American Science Questions, by sciencedebate.org Sep 4, 2012

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