Obama & Science

I’ve been very encouraged reading the science and technology page on the new website for the Office of the President-Elect. Obama seems to be mentioning science a lot, both in education and on its own:

America risks being left behind in the global economy: Revolutionary advances in information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and other fields are reshaping the global economy. Without renewed efforts, the United States risks losing leadership in science, technology and innovation. As a share of the Gross Domestic Product, American federal investment in the physical sciences and engineering research has dropped by half since 1970.

Too many Americans are not prepared to participate in a 21st century economy: A recent international study found that U.S. students perform lower on scientific assessments than students in 16 other economically developed nations, and lower than 20 economically developed nations in math performance. Only one-third of middle class physical science teachers are qualified to teach in that subject, and only one-half of middle school math sciences have educational background in that subject area.

  • Invest in the Sciences: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support doubling federal funding for basic research over ten years, changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology. This will foster home-grown innovation, help ensure the competitiveness of US technology-based businesses, and ensure that 21st century jobs can and will grow in America.
  • Invest in University-Based Research: Barack Obama and Joe Biden strongly support expanding research initiatives at American colleges and universities. The U.S. faces a challenge in funding younger researchers. Obama and Biden will provide new research grants to the most outstanding early-career researchers in the country.
  • Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House: Good policy in Washington depends on sound advice from the nation’s scientists and engineers and decision-making based on the needs of all Americans. Obama and Biden will restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees.(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Make Math and Science Education a National Priority: Obama and Biden will recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. They will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.
  • Increase Science and Math Graduates: Obama and Biden will improve science and math education in K through 12, to prepare more students for these studies in college. They will work to increase our number of science and engineering graduates and encourage undergraduates studying math and science to pursue graduate studies. They will also work to increase the representation of minorities and women in the science and technology pipeline, tapping the diversity of America to meet the increasing demand for a skilled workforce. The challenges of the 21st century can only be met by combining many skills from people with many backgrounds. America’s diversity is a clear competitive advantage if we use it.
  • Advance Stem Cell Research: Despite recent advances pointing to alternatives like adult stem cell and cord blood, embryonic stem cells remain unmatched in their potential for treatment of a wide variety of diseases and health conditions. Barack Obama has been a long-term supporter of increased stem cell research. He introduced legislation while a member of the Illinois Senate that would allow embryonic stem cell research in Illinois. Obama has cosponsored legislation to allow greater federal government funding on a wider array of stem cell lines. Obama believes we need high ethical standards that allow for research on stem cells derived from embryos produced for in vitro fertilization, embryos that would otherwise be needlessly destroyed.

I really love the guy.

6 Responses to “Obama & Science”
  1. Shakir Razak says:


    Obama has the ethic of education burnished in him, though he’s flaky on other stuff….
    He knows that he got to the presidency because of his educational advantages.

    The core problem with America is its introversion and misplaced self-confidence that comes from it’s education, not just science but most of the public school system -it’s just not been invested in.

    Some of it might be down to the corporate world using popular culture to breed a world where aspiration is about becoming rich quick, whether through fame or starting an internet company, or simply distracting with other trivia while aspiring to no more than doing a job only because it pays the bills.

    If policy was based on science then America would already be the world leader in alternative energy and pushing the other G8 countries on the Global-Warming cause, rather than the last, and only caring about alternative fuel because Petroleum might be “foreign” -even Obama has repeatedly talked of “borrowing from china to pay for oil from the middle-east that pays to attack us in america” .

    America and Science have been distracted in part due to the role of science directed by the Department of Defence, which has positives and negatives, but is narrow. As well as the self-interest of legacy and short-sighted companies where only the immediate funding/votes value is considered by the elected representatives.

    Most bright kids look at careers that will pay, which science isn’t always guaranteed to do. Fortunately, the U.S. also has the best V.C. industry in the world and lots of expensive medical insurance to fund medical research (though europe/asia manages fine without that).

    An issue that will be quite quick and easy to correct is the fact that the Bush administration were allowed to edit and conceal the inconvenient truth, but then how many summits did Al Gore come back from deemed a failure by green campaigners.

    Just as President-elect Obama’s election has lifted the horizon of many children and adults of what they are [potentially] capable of becoming, the same needs to be done, just as it used to be, to widen the possibilities, with aspiration and engagement, of alternative jobs and education to include what are now considered “harder” or “boring” subjects that might not necessarily lead to early retirement, travel or power.

    A word of caution though might be that a government can be “too” scientific as well, using it to justify the unpopular or morally inconsiderate, which would equally lead to its dismissal, which is what I’d suggest the UK is/was in danger of becoming wrt to GM, Abortion, human genetics, CJD, IVF and simply the headline cost of science (agree with your husband) against the cost of a hospital.

    Yours kindly,

    Shakir Razak

  2. The BBC did a show in Sept 2008 called “BBC NEWS | Special Reports | The presidents’ guide to science” or something like that.

    It was the show they wanted to show the new president to understand science better. Looked interesting.


    Should be on-line somewhere…

  3. Penny says:

    I appreciate the emphasis on scientific integrity in the White House, which has been missing for the past 8 years, but I’d like to see some more specifics, i.e.: how much for NASA; how much for basic research into climate science; how much of the research money will go into research that has immediate practical applications, such as research into alternative energy generation, climate change mitigation strategies, new clinical treatments for disease, etc.

    The only specific field mentioned in your summary is stem cell research. What about NASA, particle physics, and climate science?

    “A word of caution though might be that a government can be “too” scientific as well, using it to justify the unpopular or morally inconsiderate, which would equally lead to its dismissal, which is what I’d suggest the UK is/was in danger of becoming wrt to GM, Abortion, human genetics, CJD, IVF and simply the headline cost of science (agree with your husband) against the cost of a hospital.”

    I disagree. We need *more* science in the govt, not less. If a scientifically-sound policy pisses some people off because they view it as ‘morally inconsiderate’, too fucking bad.

  4. Doug says:

    Gosh golly, Penny, let me polish up my jackboots and I’ll come right on over. We can practice our goosestepping and our “Sieg Heils.” That is to say, scientific policy with no regard for morality– the sort of “Well, eff-em!” scientific policy you seem to be espousing– sounds pretty darn totalitarian, not to mention ugly and inconsiderate. Or is “ugly and inconsiderate” always okay if it’s for what you– just you, Penny– perceive to be the “common good”…?

  5. Penny says:

    No. I’m just sick of having the morality of a certain highly-religious segment of society rammed down my throat with a stick, as has been occurring under the soon-to-be-ousted regime of President Bush.

    No human endeavor is independent of any moral framework whatsoever, including scientific endeavors, but to extrapolate using a rational, secular moral framework to Nazism is more than just a stretch–it is a complete distortion. I’ve heard the same argument as you’ve put forward here being promulgated by the evangelicals at home as the rationale for abolishing stem cell research, denying women the right to have an abortion, and denying terminally-ill people the right to choose the time and method of their own deaths.

    Ethics has a place in the public sphere, but religion, and the ‘morality’ that comes from it, do not. Keep your religion to yourself, please.

  6. Paula Thomas says:

    The paper seems to have disappeared! I do hope it is not being re-written to pander to religious interests. That would be unfortunate