I touched on the push for a science-based debate in the US Presidential elections before when all the SB'ers were flogging the pet project of The Intersection co-conspirators. Things seem to have quieted down lately and it is worth checking up on progress. I was, and remain, a bit of a tactical skeptic of Science Debate 2008. Nevertheless it is an excellent goal and quixotic as it may be it is worth a few minutes of your time.
The most important development this week, and the reason I'm revisiting this, was the publication of an editorial in Science by Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy.
We in the United States are sliding down a ramp that will take us, in just 4 days, to the much anticipated "Super Tuesday" in the presidential nomination cycle, when voters in over 20 states participate in preliminary elections to select their favorite candidate. I have prepared for this by watching, in alternating stages of boredom and disbelief, the numerous "debates" staged by the creative powers who run television. I wonder whether the same sensations haven't affected our scientific colleagues in other nations, where leadership is decided in an atmosphere that is, well, a bit more stately. Here it may be too late to change anyone's mind about their vote on 5 February, but perhaps between now and the culminating summer conventions that will announce the final party candidates, we can have a debate focusing on the candidates' views about science and technology.
This is a big deal. Perhaps expected, but a big deal that Science editorialize on this issue.
Go check the organizational list at Science Debate 2008. Is your institution on board? Why not?
And how about the list of plebian signatories? Are you on there? Why not?
It costs you nothing to get on board with this. A few minutes to submit your name, maybe a quick email to colleagues. And what do you gain? Well, NIH funding is front and center of everyone's list of topics for a potential debate. As I said, I'm a skeptic on a tactical level that this can be pulled off. I do, however, think that there is a good chance this effort may get 5-10 questions asked of the candidates in the already-scheduled or already-in-negotiation debates. Wouldn't we like one of them to be "What in the heck are you going to do about the NIH"?