McCain or Obama: Who will end the War on Science?

From  New Scientist Magazine: The U.S. Leads the World. 40% of global R&D expenditure. 70% of Nobel prizewinners and 75% of world’s top 40 universities by quality of education and research.

All great stuff. But why should we care about the next President’s vision for science in the U.S.?  

New Scientist article, “Who will end the war on science,” sums it up. “The prosperity and security of the US is closely tied to its role as a science and technology leader. At the same time, decisions made by the federal government on issues such as climate change, public health and basic research clearly reverberate far beyond the nation’s borders.” Read the full article here. You’ll be glad you did. Let me know what you think!

  • Darlene,
    One always has to wonder where authors get this “we’re number one” stuff. We may indeed have 75% of the world’s top 40 universities by quality of education and research, but how does that statistic break out? Is it all science research? Is it based on Ph.D’s Awarded? And how many of those are to folks who remained here in the US after they got their degrees?

    Leaving that aside, the US is suffering from some research and technology challenges. Federal agencies charged with things like satellite data collection find that their satellites wear out, and because of the replacement cost, the new satellites often lack all the sensors that their predecessors had. This results in ocean scientists having to “buy” ocean color or ocean sea surface height data from the EU, Japan, and now China and India. Are we still leaders if we can’t get the data we need to study processes in our own oceans?

  • Darlene,
    One always has to wonder where authors get this “we’re number one” stuff. We may indeed have 75% of the world’s top 40 universities by quality of education and research, but how does that statistic break out? Is it all science research? Is it based on Ph.D’s Awarded? And how many of those are to folks who remained here in the US after they got their degrees?

    Leaving that aside, the US is suffering from some research and technology challenges. Federal agencies charged with things like satellite data collection find that their satellites wear out, and because of the replacement cost, the new satellites often lack all the sensors that their predecessors had. This results in ocean scientists having to “buy” ocean color or ocean sea surface height data from the EU, Japan, and now China and India. Are we still leaders if we can’t get the data we need to study processes in our own oceans?

  • This article ignores the fact that the Bush Administration has upped the NSF budget for 2009 14% over 2008, and that the budget for NSF has remained relatively constant over the last 7 years, holding steady at around $4.5 billion (see http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/nsfauth09p.pdf). Other agencies have received cuts, as NASA people are constantly reminded every time they ask for a 3% raise.

    I think it’s safe to say that the Bush Administration “gets it.” however, in government thinking, a reduction of increase or a steady budget is considered a “cut.”

    As far as the two candidates go, I think their pro-science, pro-technology stances are pretty equal, as the article states. McCain and Obama are coming at it from different angles. McCain is more interested in the competitive/leadership aspects while Obama is more interested in the pure science aspects.

    Furthermore, this “suppression” of James Hansen is an urban legend that needs to be put to rest. The Office of the Inspector General found that “With respect to NASA’s climate change research activities, we found no evidence indicating that NASA blocked or interfered with the actual research activities of its climate change scientists.” The only thing Dr. Hansen has been “suppressed” on is his continuing political activity on government time, something specifically forbidden by law. As the OIG report states (oig.nasa.gov/investigations/OI_STI_Summary.pdf), “Our investigative efforts revealed that NASA’s decision was based, in part, on concern that Dr. Hansen would not limit his responses to scientific information but would instead entertain a discussion on policy issues.”

    If Dr. Hansen wishes to continue to be a NASA scientist (and hence a public servant), he must abide by the laws that govern political activities by public servants. However, it is his status as a “NASA scientist” that gives him the credibility to pontificate about global warming policy as he does. If he wants to advocate for particular government policies regarding global warming, he must, ipso facto, cease being a NASA scientist, resign from the agency, and become a lobbyist or politician. If he wishes to continue being a NASA scientist, then he must abide by the Hatch Act (http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm), which states that federal employees must not

    “engage in political activity while:
    –on duty
    –in a government office
    –wearing an official uniform
    –using a government vehicle.”

    Furthermore, he must restrict his political activities in his official position and must make VERY CLEAR, UP FRONT, AND AT EVERY PRESS CONFERENCE, that his opinions about global warming policy are strictly his own, and do not reflect the policies or beliefs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is time for Dr. Hansen to make his decision.

    /b

  • This article ignores the fact that the Bush Administration has upped the NSF budget for 2009 14% over 2008, and that the budget for NSF has remained relatively constant over the last 7 years, holding steady at around $4.5 billion (see http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/nsfauth09p.pdf). Other agencies have received cuts, as NASA people are constantly reminded every time they ask for a 3% raise.

    I think it’s safe to say that the Bush Administration “gets it.” however, in government thinking, a reduction of increase or a steady budget is considered a “cut.”

    As far as the two candidates go, I think their pro-science, pro-technology stances are pretty equal, as the article states. McCain and Obama are coming at it from different angles. McCain is more interested in the competitive/leadership aspects while Obama is more interested in the pure science aspects.

    Furthermore, this “suppression” of James Hansen is an urban legend that needs to be put to rest. The Office of the Inspector General found that “With respect to NASA’s climate change research activities, we found no evidence indicating that NASA blocked or interfered with the actual research activities of its climate change scientists.” The only thing Dr. Hansen has been “suppressed” on is his continuing political activity on government time, something specifically forbidden by law. As the OIG report states (oig.nasa.gov/investigations/OI_STI_Summary.pdf), “Our investigative efforts revealed that NASA’s decision was based, in part, on concern that Dr. Hansen would not limit his responses to scientific information but would instead entertain a discussion on policy issues.”

    If Dr. Hansen wishes to continue to be a NASA scientist (and hence a public servant), he must abide by the laws that govern political activities by public servants. However, it is his status as a “NASA scientist” that gives him the credibility to pontificate about global warming policy as he does. If he wants to advocate for particular government policies regarding global warming, he must, ipso facto, cease being a NASA scientist, resign from the agency, and become a lobbyist or politician. If he wishes to continue being a NASA scientist, then he must abide by the Hatch Act (http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm), which states that federal employees must not

    “engage in political activity while:
    –on duty
    –in a government office
    –wearing an official uniform
    –using a government vehicle.”

    Furthermore, he must restrict his political activities in his official position and must make VERY CLEAR, UP FRONT, AND AT EVERY PRESS CONFERENCE, that his opinions about global warming policy are strictly his own, and do not reflect the policies or beliefs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is time for Dr. Hansen to make his decision.

    /b