Presidential Science

Pretty much lost in the noise and heat of this Presidential campaign has been the positions (if any) of the candidates on issues of significance to the scientific community. Fortunately, Sciencedebate.org has at least solicited responses from the campaigns so you can get some idea on some issues of substance where these candidates stand.  (You can also read the Science summary of the results, though Gary Johnson’s responses apparently came in after Science’s press deadline).

Frankly, none of this will surprise anybody who has heard even a little of the campaign for the two major party candidates (well, except perhaps the Trump campaign’s statement here that “Science is science and facts are facts.” It isn’t clear that is the candidate’s position from many public statements he has made).  Those considering the Libertarian or Green party candidates might want to look at those positions, though.  Johnson, for instance, says that addressing global warming is best done by removing laws and treaties and allowing unfettered business to do what is right (um, yeah, so that is why the air got dirtier after the Clean Air Act was passed or water more tainted after the Clean Water Act and why nobody is having problems with pollution of their wells from oil and gas activities as those companies have been pretty close to being unfettered…NOT). Jill Stein, not too surprisingly, would shut down all nuclear and fossil fuel facilities as soon as possible. She would also ban GMOs, while Johnson would get out of managing any agricultural activities.

Arguably the most interesting topic to those research scientists concerned with the politicization of science are the answers to a question about how their administration would address issues of scientific integrity. Clinton suggests that fraud, while rare, should be “punished and prevented”–although noble sounding, one could wonder if this would be adding more inspection of funded research programs. She would also encourage more code, data, and model sharing (would this encouragement be in the form of additional requirements on NSF grants, say, or construction of some infrastructure, or … ?).  These are all hot button items in the scientific community, so it is nice to see that these are on her (or her campaign’s) radar. Trump simply assures that “there will be total transparency and accountability without political bias.” One does wonder what this means. Johnson seems to be saying that government funding of science is bad because “When government decides to fund A vs B, it has unavoidably put itself in the business of picking winners. That is dangerous.” (Guess those of us who have served on panels have been living more dangerously than we knew). This and platitudes about the First Amendment seem to be his view of scientific integrity (Note to Johnson: pick up a copy of Naomi Oreskes’s Merchants of Doubt and then answer the question: is it better to have government pick the winners, or private enterprise?). Stein takes this opportunity to simply slam corporate involvement in government agencies, saying nothing to the research community.

At least all this is more substantive than the latest health update, internet poll result or tweet coming from the news coverage.  So enjoy.

P.S.–Right after posting this, FiveThirtyEight had a discussion on Trump’s science/technology interests and goals and then followed that up with a discussion of Clinton’s science and technology program (a discussion of less interest to scientists, as it so developed).

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