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"We Need a Science White House"
AAAS Chairman David Baltimore and fellow Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said the U.S. must re-energize its commitment to being the world leader in science and technology and urged the U.S. presidential candidates to more forcefully address S&T issues.
In a commentary published 17 April, the authors expressed disappointment that none of the three main presidential candidates had accepted an invitation to debate S&T policy in Philadelphia in advance of the Pennsylvania primary election. And they called on the next president to seek "a complete overhaul of national science policy... to prepare the U.S. for a future rapidly overtaking us."
"Protecting that future starts with understanding that much of the wealth in this country comes from scientific research and technological innovation," they wrote. "Translating science into commerce has opened up vast new fields of endeavor and has raised the standard of living in America. The country that is on the cutting edge of developing new technology is the country best positioned to benefit from that new technology.
[Photo © and courtesy of California Institute of Technology]
"Our presidential hopefuls should be telling us their positions on critical science issues, but they have not done so yet," Baltimore and Zewail concluded. "We hope they become more responsive in the months ahead."
ScienceDebate 2008, a nonpartisan campaign initiative, had issued an invitation to the candidates to debate on 18 April at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, but the candidates did not respond favorably. The organization has issued a new invitation to U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both Democrats, and John McCain, a Republican, to debate in Oregon on one of three dates in May, just before the state’s 20 May primary.
ScienceDebate 2008 is backed by AAAS, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the Council on Competitiveness, and more than two dozen Nobel laureates—plus thousands of other groups and individuals.
Baltimore, a molecular biologist, shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the reverse transcriptase, the enzyme used by viruses like HIV to turn RNA into a DNA copy. He has conducted extensive research in fields ranging from virology, to cancer to immunology. He is president emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. He has built and led a number of scientific institutions and remains an advisor on issues of scientific development and AIDS research.
Zewail is the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics, and the director of the Physical Biology Center for Ultra-fast Science & Technology and the NSF Laboratory for Molecular Sciences at the Caltech. He was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering developments in the field of femtoscience, making it possible to observe the movement of the individual atoms in a femtosecond (a split second that is a millionth of a billionth of a second).
Edward W. Lempinen
21 April 2008