The presidential candidates on science

Developing an economic competitiveness strategy or climate-change-mitigation policy will inevitably challenge whoever wins in November, points out Shawn Lawrence Otto. It would be nice, he suggests, to know that the chief executive had done his homework.

A Minnesota-based screenwriter, known for the movie House of Sand and Fog, Otto is also a founding organizer of a movement to put science and technology front and center by petitioning both major national parties to engage in dedicated science debates. The American Association for the Advancement of Science joined this call in January, as have over 37,000 other backers (among them Elizabeth Marincola, publisher of Science News) and representatives of 200-plus universities and research organizations. The signatory organizations represent more than 125 million people, Otto says.

Despite its groundswell of support, this campaign, started last November, didn’t persuade any of the candidates to step up to the podium and define his or her stances. Still, Otto’s group hasn’t given up on efforts to organize such a forum, even if it ends up being no more than written responses to questions that end up posted online.

The Science Debate 2008 team sent science and technology questions to Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. Click a link for a blog on how each candidate answered, and for links to tables comparing the candidates’ views on science.

Obama likes research

McCain is bullish on R&D


Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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