They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so this week I'll flatter several blogs that have asked some interesting questions I'd be interested in proposing to those who hang out here.
Today, I'm wondering what you think of this idea -- a debate focusing solely upon scientific issues for the Presidential candidates. From John Timmer at Ars Technica:
As the US moves deeper into primary season, scientific topics have been sneaking their way into the presidential debates. Most have snuck back out quietly, as candidates provided bland and non-committal answers to questions about climate change and stem cell research (although a simple question about evolution triggered a spasm of clarifications). With the first primaries now only weeks away, a group is calling for the eventual candidates to hold a formal debate devoted to science.Good idea, partisan trap, or both?
The group includes a number of very prominent academics, including 10 Nobel Laureats, as well as a number of science writers and publishers. But it also includes a CEO, a theologian, and four members of the US Congress, two from each party. Among that group is New Jersey's Rush Holt, the only Representative that has a PhD in physics.
The group is apparently fed up with the piecemeal approach to science that's happened in the initial debates, and wants a full program devoted to something it suggests, "may be the most important social issue of our time." The website lists a number of topics it considers especially important, such as climate change, its impact on the oceans and water supply, and attempts to address it via renewable energy research. They also call on the candidates to discuss the relationship between economic growth and scientific progress and education. Another topic mentioned is the ability to preserve scientific integrity within a politicized government, an issue that has reached new prominence during the Bush administration.
As you might imagine, I'm strongly in favor of this effort. I agree that many of the major issues that future presidents will have to deal with will either be directly science and technology focused, or the Sci/Tech community will play a necessary role in their solution. It would be very reassuring to know if and how well the candidates have come to grips with theses issues, and what their general policies regarding research and technology will emphasize. I'm personally pessimistic that any debate will result, but I don't see any harm in focusing attention on the importance of a competent science policy for the US.