Where do the two men who would be President stand on crucial questions about science? Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have released their answers to a series of incisive, science-themed questions assembled by ScienceDebate.
So now, it's your chance to judge the two major-party candidates based on the pressing questions about science and technology facing our country.
ScienceDebate is an independent citizens' initiative devoted to having Obama and Romney face off over fourteen questions on science and science policy in a publicly televised debate. Instead, though, the two candidates chose to release their answers in writing. We've already talked about why the candidates agreeing to a written response, rather than a live debate, is a bittersweet victory, but it's a victory nonetheless, and already some points worth addressing have worked their way into view.
You'll want to head over to SciAm for a side-by-side comparison of the candidates' (sometimes extensive, but almost always fluffy and buzzword-y) responses to each question, but here are some choice excerpts:
Research and the Future
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... We have invested highly in important research being done to improve the health and wellness of all Americans so that we can continue to unravel clues to treating or preventing some of life's most daunting and debilitating diseases, develop powerful new medicines, and even define strategies that will prevent disease from occurring in the first place... While making tough choices, we will continue to prioritize investments in research to ensure that our country remains a global leader and that Americans can remain innovators, working to better their lives and the lives around them.
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... 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... 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.
Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.
I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue - on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk - and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.
Pandemics and Biosecurity
I have no doubt that we can counter any threat we face, but we cannot face it alone. We must continue to work with our international partners, remain diligent in seeking out new threats, and prepare to act should a need arise.
To further improve preparedness, we must continue to invest in the best public health monitoring systems that can be built. I will also encourage advancements in research and manufacturing to increase scientific understanding of new pathogens and improve response time when they emerge. The development of new countermeasures, from diagnostics to antibiotics and antivirals to respirators, will help protect human lives in the face of new bugs and superbugs.
A free and open Internet is essential component of American society and of the modern economy. I support legislation to protect intellectual property online, but any effort to combat online piracy must not reduce freedom of expression, increase cybersecurity risk, or undermine the dynamic, innovative global Internet.
It is not the role of any government to "manage" the Internet. The Internet has flourished precisely because government has so far refrained from regulating this dynamic and essential cornerstone of our economy. I would rely primarily on innovation and market forces, not bureaucrats, to shape the Internet and maximize its economic, social and scientific value.
From investing in research on advances in spaceflight technology, to expanding our commitment to an education system that prepares our students for space and science achievements, I am committed to strengthening the base for America's next generation of spaceflight. No other country can match our capabilities in Earth observation from space. In robotic space exploration, too, nobody else comes close. And I intend to keep it that way.
A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities. I will ensure that NASA has practical and sustainable missions. There will be a balance of pragmatic and top-priority science with inspirational and groundbreaking exploration programs.
Read the rest of the candidates' answers in their entirety over at SciAm.