President of What?

If you’re living in the United States (or if you’re following the race to the White House from another country/overseas), you’ve probably noticed that – while the presidential candidates have talked about a broad range of important issues – they haven’t spent a great deal of time discussing scientific topics/science policy… You might be interested to learn that, a grassroots organization, has been calling for – and has apparently now organized – a presidential debate on science and technology.

While it’s not clear which presidential candidates will attend the debate (April 18th in Philadelphia), I think it could be pretty interesting: science/scientific policy is certainly not the most important issue for many Americans, but I’d personally like to learn more about the candidates’ positions on funding, scientific education, and some of the other topics listed on the website.

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few days, and I’ve come up with a few questions I thought I’d throw out to our readers:

What scientific issue(s) could potentially swing your vote one way or another? For example, could you vote for someone who didn’t ‘believe’ in evolution, or would that be an instant ‘thumbs down’? What about a candidate who mandated that abstinence-only programs were the only kinds of sexual education allowed in public junior high/high schools? What ‘hot button’ issue is so important to you that it would cause you to re-think who will get your vote?

With that in mind, what question (or questions) do you think need(s) to be asked during this debate for it to be useful to the scientific community? Should a prominent scientist be asked to co-host the debate? If so, who has the intellect and the charisma to do it (well)?

Let’s say you won the election and were going to be the next president. What big (science-related) changes/initiatives would you make/fund in your first year in office? For example, would you try to double the NIH and/or NSF budget(s) over the next five years? Maybe you would boost NASA’s budget so that we can put a man/woman on Mars in our lifetime? Would you cut back on research related to bio-terrorism or spend more on this topic? (For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that you’re so popular/persuasive that you could convince any relevant governmental bodies to do whatever you recommended…)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)