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AAAS Congratulates President-elect Barack Obama
[The following is a statement from Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science.]
AAAS, the world's largest general science society, congratulates the next president of the United States, U.S. Senator Barack Obama, on his historic and decisive election-day victory. We extend our congratulations as well to Senator John McCain for his service to the American people, and for his participation in an election that is a cornerstone of democracy.
In his acceptance speech of November 4th, 2008, President-elect Obama told the story of a 106-year-old American woman named Ann Nixon Cooper. He noted that, during her lifetime, "a man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin," and "a world was connected by our own science and imagination."
President-elect Obama further called on U.S. citizens to "put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace."
At AAAS, our long-standing conviction is that science and technology can be keys to economic prosperity and a brighter future for all children. By advancing American scientific know-how, we clearly can empower the next generation of problem solvers to improve human quality-of-life and serve society—not only in the United States, but around the world.
Clearly, President-elect Obama's first priorities will include a series of pivotal nominations. As he makes those decisions, we hope that the president-elect will act quickly to nominate—by inauguration day on January 20th—a cabinet-rank Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. We further propose that the president-elect will broaden science advice to the White House by reinvigorating the Office of Science and Technology Policy, as recommended by a host of leading advisory groups.
As President-elect Obama and policy-makers move to calm economic fears and address the federal budget, we hope that the role of research and development as a key economic stimulus can be reevaluated at the highest levels. We have been encouraged by the next president's clear recognition of the relationship between science and economic progress. President-elect Obama has written, for example, that "progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs." We applaud his foresight regarding the importance of science to the economy.
On behalf of the scientific community, AAAS also commends President-elect Obama's pledge—posted months ago to the ScienceDebate2008 Web site—to "increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering."
After all, we know that scientific discovery has been responsible for half of America's economic growth since World War II. Microsoft's Bill Gates has expressed it this way: "Our unmatched ability to turn new ideas in science and technology into thriving businesses has been the engine of growth and job creation that has made our economy among the most dynamic and competitive in the world."
More broadly, in these trying economic times, a high-quality science education is no longer a luxury for the gifted and wealthy, but in fact a baseline requirement for any student hoping to compete for jobs in the 21st century. Whether they are rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic, male, female or in any other category, all children deserve our very best efforts to teach them science and mathematics.
Sadly, a recent comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average math scores ranked 24th. The need for exceptional teachers and others who will inspire the next-generation of scientists and engineers is clear. U.S. competitiveness and our ability to contribute innovative solutions to pressing world problems are now clearly in jeopardy as fewer U.S. students pursue science and technology careers. At the same time, middle-aged researchers are retiring in droves, and international students are returning home to find jobs.
Fifty years ago, the beeping of a Soviet satellite called Sputnik triggered a frenzy of U.S. efforts to excel at science and technology. But complacency can be replaced by enthusiasm and innovation, and domestic and international challenges can be met if the new administration and Congress work together in a bipartisan fashion.
Improving healthcare policy represents a key challenge that will require the new president and lawmakers to find solutions. As with the economy, improvements in healthcare hinge upon advances in science and science education. Children who fail to grasp core principles of science will be ill-prepared to compete for jobs in the future, and they certainly can never be expected to invent new technologies or to unravel the mechanisms of tumor formation or infection.
U.S. energy dependence and the reality of global climate change also will demand fast action by the new president. As the AAAS Board of Directors has noted, there is now broad agreement throughout the scientific community and among Republicans and Democrats alike that global climate change is real and being accelerated by fossil-fuel burning and deforestation. We are thus enthusiastic about the next president's promise to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and to pursue a multi-faceted energy policy.
Yet another immediate challenge to the new president will be the need to ensure national security and to work toward improving global stability. Scientists can play an essential role as bridge-builders, leveraging multi-national research collaborations to promote international progress based on productive alliances.
AAAS sees international research cooperation as an important tool for initiating dialogue, building trust and expanding understanding between countries and societies. The practice of science diplomacy can play an important role in promoting the civil exchange of ideas and information to improve human welfare everywhere.
We at AAAS remain eager to support new science policy in any way possible. Representing some 10 million individual scientists worldwide, AAAS looks forward to working with the administration of President-elect Obama, in particular by providing objective, authoritative and nonpartisan information to guide science policy and to serve society.
5 November 2008