A Periodic Federal Science Update

The Candidates’ Views on Science and Technology -- On September 14, 2016 ScienceDebate.org published the views of the major Presidential candidates on a number of key science, engineering, technology, health, and environmental issues.  On August 10, a coalition of leading U.S. nonpartisan organizations, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, called on U.S. Presidential candidates to address the questions, and encouraged journalists and voters to press the candidates on them during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election season. The major party candidates commented on twenty key issues related to science and engineering including:  innovation; research; climate change; public health; and ocean health.  The following are quotes from the candidates’ responses to these key issues.  The full set of answers to all the issues discussed can be found here.

Innovation – Hillary Clinton

…America’s leadership in science- and engineering-based innovation has provided economic benefits along with major advances in health, safety, security, and quality of life. Education, research, and commercialization are all key to America’s success.  As President, I will work to strengthen each of these core elements of the ecosystem and facilitate public-private partnerships between them to ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation.

Advances in science and engineering start with education. We need universal preschool, to get our kids off to a good start; good K-12 schools and teachers in every ZIP code; and to put higher education in reach for everyone with debt-free college and support for high-quality apprenticeships and training programs. We need strong STEM programming in every school, and we need to provide every public school student with access to education in computer science.

 Both basic and applied research are major drivers of innovation. As President, I will work with Congress to ensure that government funding of research is sufficient to allow for multi-year planning, exploration of emerging research areas, and inflation-adjusted costs. Funding is needed not only for the basic science research agencies and the large science and engineering mission agencies but also for the broader universe of agencies that are increasingly dependent on STEM for their missions...

Innovation – Donald Trump

Innovation has always been one of the great by-products of free market systems.  Entrepreneurs have always found entries into markets by giving consumers more options for the products they desire.  The government should do all it can to reduce barriers to entry into markets and should work at creating a business environment where fair trade is as important as free trade.  Similarly, the federal government should encourage innovation in the areas of space exploration and investment in research and development across the broad landscape of academia.  Though there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget, we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous. 

Research – Hillary Clinton

Science and engineering not only provide the devices and services we enjoy and use on a daily basis—they also help defend against disease, security threats, unmet energy needs, the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, and many other challenging issues with national and global reach. Advancing science and technology will be among my highest priorities as President.

Historically, federally funded basic research–often done without a particular application in mind and intrinsically long term–has yielded breakthrough discoveries of new knowledge and technologies. This knowledge and these technologies have, through the power of innovation, transformed entire sectors of industry, fueled economic growth, and created high-paying jobs.

I share the concerns of the science and technology community, including many in the industry, that the United States is underinvesting in research. Federal funding of basic research amounts to less than one percent of annual federal spending, yet it is an investment that pays big dividends. I believe it is essential that we strengthen our research capacity, by funding talented young investigators, looking for ways to prioritize “high-risk, high-reward” projects that have the potential to transform entire fields, and enhancing partnerships between government, universities, and the private sector. 

Research – Donald Trump

…scientific advances do require long term investment.  This is why we must have programs such as a viable space program and institutional research that serve as incubators to innovation and the advancement of science and engineering in a number of fields.  We should also bring together stakeholders and examine what the priorities ought to be for the nation.  Conservation of resources and finding ways to feed the world beg our strong commitment as do dedicated investment in making the world a healthier place.  The nation is best served by a President and administration that have a vision for a greater, better America.  

Climate Change – Hillary Clinton

When it comes to climate change, the science is crystal clear. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time and its impacts are already being felt at home and around the world. That’s why as President, I will work both domestically and internationally to ensure that we build on recent progress and continue to slash greenhouse gas pollution over the coming years as the science clearly tells us we must.

I will set three goals that we will achieve within ten years of taking office and which will make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century:

·       Generate half of our electricity from clean sources, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term.

·       Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.

·       Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

To get there, my administration will implement and build on the range of pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives that have made the United States a global leader in the battle against climate change.

These standards are also essential for protecting the health of our children, saving American households and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs, and creating thousands of good paying jobs. 

These standards set the floor, not the ceiling. As President, I will launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with those states, cities, and rural communities across the country that are ready to take the lead on clean energy and energy efficiency, giving them the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed. 

Climate Change – Donald Trump

There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.”  Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water.  Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria.  Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population.  Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels.  We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.

Public Health – Hillary Clinton

…we are not investing in public health preparedness and emergency response the way we should to keep our families and communities safe. A 2015 study found that spending on public health had fallen more than nine percent since 2008. And uncertain long-term budgets leave our public health agencies dependent on emergency appropriations—meaning that when Congress fails to step up, communities are left without the resources they need, vaccines languish in development, and more people get sick.

That is why as President, I will create a Public Health Rapid Response Fund, with consistent, year-to-year budgets, to better enable the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local public health departments, hospital systems, and other federal agencies to quickly and aggressively respond to major public health crises and pandemics. I will also ensure that our government has strong leadership and is organized to better support and work with people on the ground facing public health challenges.

In addition, we need to do more to boost our preparedness for biological threats and bioweapons; to support research for new diagnostic tests, therapeutic treatments, and vaccines for emerging diseases; to build capacity in public health departments; to train the next cadre of public health professionals and ensure that public health and environmental health practices are standard to the educations of medical students; and to provide resources for states and local governments to plan for complex, multi-faceted public health threats, like the impacts of climate change, and build more resilient communities.

Public Health – Donald Trump

The implication of the question is that one must provide more resources to research and public health enterprises to make sure we stay ahead of potential health risks.  In a time of limited resources, one must ensure that the nation is getting the greatest bang for the buck.  We cannot simply throw money at these institutions and assume that the nation will be well served.  What we ought to focus on is assessing where we need to be as a nation and then applying resources to those areas where we need the most work.  Our efforts to support research and public health initiatives will have to be balanced with other demands for scarce resources.  Working with Congress—the people’s representatives—my administration will work to establish national priorities and then we will work to make sure that adequate resources are assigned to achieve our goals.

Ocean Health – Hillary Clinton

Our coastal and ocean resources play a critical role in providing nutritious food, good livelihoods, and critical storm protection for our nation. With about 40 percent of our nation’s population living in coastal counties, 1.8 million Americans making their livelihood from fisheries, and 3 billion people globally dependent on the oceans for a major portion of their protein, we cannot afford to ignore the health of our oceans.

I will continue to recover and rebuild U.S. fish stocks by making sound management decisions based on the best available science. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act laid an important foundation for guiding how we manage our fisheries.  My administration will work with fishers so that we continue to have the best managed fisheries in the world, and I will oppose efforts in Congress that seek to weaken Magnuson-Stevens or divorce it from our best science.  These steps will protect the livelihoods of today’s fishers and ensure the health of these resources for generations to come.  

At the same time, we will act globally to address the fisheries crisis.  Ninety percent of our seafood is imported, making the United States one of the top markets for fish from around the world.  Yet, experts estimate that up to 32 percent of that seafood, worth up to $2 billion, comes from “pirate” fishing. This illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing also deprives fishing communities of up to $23 billion per year and puts honest, hardworking American fishers at a disadvantage in the marketplace.  I will work with our industry, and other countries, to implement strong traceability standards for our seafood from bait to plate.

In addition, we must continue to protect and restore the coastal habitat upon which healthy fisheries depend. My administration will work collaboratively across government, academia, and industry to build solutions that keep our waters clean, our coastal and ocean resources healthy, and our communities thriving. 

At the same time, climate change and carbon pollution is also taking a heavy toll on our oceans.  From oyster farms in Washington State to coral reefs in Hawaii and rising seas in Virginia, warming, acidifying waters are damaging our resources and the people who depend on them. I will make sure America continues leading the global fight against climate change, support development of the best climate science, and instruct federal agencies to incorporate that knowledge into their policies and practices so that we are preparing for the future, not just responding to the past.

Ocean Health – Donald Trump

My administration will work with Congress to establish priorities for our government and how we will allocate our limited fiscal resources.  This approach will assure that the people’s voices will be heard on this topic and others.

Hillary Clinton on Ocean and Coastal Issues – Late last month, Hillary Clinton responded to a letter sent by the Blue Frontier, a marine conservation organization, detailing her views on ocean and coastal issues.  In her letter on August 27 she lays out a range of solutions she says she will act on if elected including growing the “Blue Economy,” supporting coastal adaptation to climate change, ending international pirate fishing, expanding sustainable and transparent U.S. fishing and seafood practices and ratifying the Law of the Seas Convention that has been held up by the U.S. Senate for over 20 years.  Read the full response here.  A similar request was submitted to Donald Trump.  A response has not yet been received.

Former Presidential Science Advisor and NSF Director Issues Science Recommendations for the New Administration -- A new report published by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and led by senior fellow in science and technology policy Neal Lane argues that building a strong advisory capacity for science and technology should be among the first issues the next president-elect tackles following his or her election. Dr. Lane served under President Bill Clinton as science advisor, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and before that as director of the National Science Foundation.

The report outlines five recommendations for the next president and another five for the next president’s science advisor. The ten recommendations draw on published materials, including books, journals, peer-reviewed articles, interviews, reports from think tanks and federal agencies, and the reviews of over 60 S&T policy experts.  The report, entitled “The Vital Role of the White House Office of Science and Technology in the New Administration,” makes the following five recommendations for the next president:

  1. Select a science advisor right after election, and nominate that individual to head OSTP immediately after inauguration;
  2. Seek the science advisor’s advice on S&T-related sub-Cabinet and senior agency positions;
  3. Ensure OSTP has the leadership, access, structure, and resources to be effective;
  4. Appoint a diverse membership to President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (by gender, race, disability, S&T sector); and
  5. Renew the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and charge OSTP to develop the administration’s S&T strategy in the first 100 days after inauguration.

Concurrent with the report release, the Baker Institute announced a list of 21 national science and innovation leaders who are endorsing the report. Three of those endorsees were present at the National Press Club event marking the release of the report on September 14th including: Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for former member of Congress; Norm Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin; and Deborah Wince-Smith, President and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness.