February 12, 2008

Science Debate 2008 Date and Venue Set

According to a press release issued yesterday, a date and venue for Science Debate 2008 have been set and invitations to the remaining presidential candidates have been sent.
Candidates invited to debate science & economy
Intel Chair Craig Barrett joins Science Debate 2008;
Debate to be held at the Franklin Institute before Pennsylvania Primary

WASHINGTON – ScienceDebate2008.com, the citizens initiative calling for a presidential debate on science and technology policy, today announced that it has formally invited the presidential candidates to a debate on April 18 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, four days before the Pennsylvania Primary. The invitation to the candidates can be found here.

"The future economic success of the United States depends on out-performing the competition with smart people and smart ideas," said Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel. "Without the best education system and investments in basic research and development we will become a second rate economic power."

“This is about the future of America,” said Shawn Lawrence Otto, one of the debate organizers. “Most of the major policy challenges the next president will face, from climate chance to jobs and economic competitiveness to healthcare to the health of the oceans, center on science and technology. Where is the next transistor economy going to come from? Is there going to be action to address climate change? Do we need a Marshall plan for science in America? What about peak oil? Why are our school children falling behind other countries in math and science, and what should be done about it? We are trying to elevate these important policy issues in the national dialogue. We want voters to have a chance to assess candidates’ in terms of their visionary leadership on these big issues and others like them. It’s not a science quiz, it’s about policy. We’re talking about the health of your family, the health of the economy, and the health of the planet. What are the solutions? We hope the candidates for president will want to explore these issues more thoroughly with the American people.”

The group, started in December 2007 by two out-of-work screenwriters (Otto wrote and coproduced House of Sand and Fog; fellow screenwriter Matthew Chapman wrote Runaway Jury), two scientists and a science journalist has garnered a series of impressive endorsements in recent weeks, including 97 major universities and other organizations, and leading business executives like Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, as well as dozens of Nobel laureates and current and former government officials, including members of President Bush’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and Clinton Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. It is now cosponsored by the AAAS, the Council on Competitiveness, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The list is here.
Apparently only the four remaining "major contenders" -- Clinton, Obama, McCain and Huckabee -- were invited. Ron Paul and Mike Gravel were not. As they've been mathematically eliminated as viable major party candidates at this point, I suppose that's understandable, although I would have liked to have had an opportunity to hear their ideas about the role of science in America over the course of the next four years and beyond, too.

It remains to be seen whether all four candidates will accept the invitation to debate on this topic. This may be a bit cynical of me, but I have a seeking suspicion that at least one of the four may opt not to take part (Huckabee). Of course, that's my own bias showing through; I have no concrete reason to say this, so take it for what it's worth.

This is an important issue to me, and it's likely important to many other individuals in the scientific community by which term I include scientists, science students, and general members of the public who keep up with science and technology in general. Let's hope that more than one of the current crop of candidates feels the same way!

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