Last Friday the Obama campaign made a big move in courting the country’s nerds, geeks and overall science-friendly voters. First the campaign announced that 61 Nobel laureates in science signed a letter supporting Obama’s election, then the campaign unveiled a new science policy centered on increased funding and an emphasis on math and science education.
The policy expands on a less-detailed three page fact sheet posted to the Obama campaign website earlier in the year. The policy focuses on doubling the budget of the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health and other science oriented agencies over the next ten years, creating scholarships to augment the salaries of math and science teachers, and, of course, investing in green technologies.
The new Obama policy also pledges to “ensure independent, non-ideological, expert science and technology advisory committees.” That claim will be music to the ears of the 61 Nobel laureates supporting Obama, as their letter specifically mentions that, “During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country’s scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government’s scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations.”
The endorsement letter, signed by such scientific luminaries as Don Glaser, inventor of the bubble chamber and James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, goes on to say that “our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk.”
Dire warnings aside, Obama’s focus on science is interesting in that it has yet to be matched by a similar emphasis from the McCain camp. While both candidates responded to the ScienceDebate 2008 questions with large-scale plans, only the Obama campaign has released a detailed policy outline. No doubt the McCain campaign will release a more in-depth policy paper shortly, though a release of Ron Paul or Ralph Nader’s plans remains unlikely.