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AAAS Joins Call for Presidential Debate on Science and Innovation Issues
AAAS announced that it has joined Science Debate 2008, a major effort to mount a presidential debate on science, technology and the economy before the November election.
"Science and engineering have driven half the nation's growth in gross domestic product over the last half-century," said AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, "and lie at the center of many of the major policy and economic challenges the next president will face. We feel that a presidential debate on science would be helpful to America's national political dialogue." Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science, has joined the group's steering committee.
The effort is being co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.), and is also being supported by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chair of the House Science & Technology Committee. It includes several former presidential science advisers from both major political parties.
"We have to recognize there are roughly 7 billion people in the world, half of whom make less than $2 a day. We cannot and would not want to compete with that," said Gordon. "We have to compete at a higher level with a better equipped and skilled workforce than that of our global counterparts—and we do that by focusing on science, education and innovation."
The endorsers of the ScienceDebate2008.com initiative include economists; several Nobel laureates and other leading scientists and engineers; executives from Apple Computer, Google, Merck, Hyatt, and other leading companies; two dozen presidents of major American colleges and research universities; and the editors of major science publications and journals.
Among those supporters are AAAS President David Baltimore, a 1975 Nobel laureate and past president of Caltech who now is the Robert A. Millikan Professor of Biology at the school; and AAAS President-elect Peter Agre, a 2003 Nobel laureate and vice chancellor for science and technology at Duke University Medical Center.
There have been several recent reports warning of potential erosion of the American economy and recommending changes in science and technology policies, said Shawn Lawrence Otto, one of the group's organizers. "A recent Business Roundtable report shows that if current trends continue, in another two years over 90% of all scientists and engineers will live in Asia," Otto said. The group's web site also points to similar findings from a 2005 National Academies of Science report on science and the economy and a National Science Board report released just last week.
"It's a new, global knowledge economy. Dealing with that is going to be a pretty major policy question for the next president—one that affects the pocketbook of every American. When you add global warming, the healthcare crisis, biotechnology, and transportation, it starts looking like many of the major issues the next president will face are not being seriously debated," said Otto. "That's why a leading organization like the AAAS, the world's largest general scientific society, is signing onto our citizen initiative."
Otto said the group has set a date for mid-April and will be formally inviting the candidates in the coming several weeks.
Launched in December 2007, Science Debate 2008 is a citizen initiative led by a group comprised mostly by non-scientists. Through word of mouth and news coverage, the group has rapidly grown to include over 10,000 scientists, engineers, and concerned citizens.
Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The AAAS journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million.
24 January 2008