Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today accused the Bush Administration of conducting a "war on science" and vowed to promote scientific discovery in research, medicine and space exploration if elected.
"For six and half years under this president, it's been open season on open inquiry," Clinton said in a wide-ranging science and technology position paper. "And by ignoring or manipulating science, the Bush administration is letting our economic competitors get an edge in the global economy."
Firmly pushing one hot button in particular, Clinton promised to sign an Executive Order that would rescind President Bush's ban on federal funding for new lines of embryonic stem cells used in research.
Among other promises:
- Establish a $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund to invest in technologies to promote conservation, combat global warming and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
- Speed the development of a vehicle to replace the aging space shuttle fleet, and "fully fund NASA's Earth Sciences program and initiate a Space-based Climate Change Initiative" to better study global warming.
- Increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health by 50 percent over 5 years.
- Direct all federal department and agency heads to safeguard against political pressure on scientific issues.
- Re-establish the position of Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.
- Ban political appointees from unduly interfering with scientific conclusions and publications.
President Bush has been routinely criticized by environmental groups, and even industry leaders, for being slow to accept the scientific consensus that global warming is real and at least partly caused by human activity. His administration has also been accused by scientists of stifling research.
Several other leading candidates have posted somewhat less lengthy position statements on their Web sites regarding energy policy and health care.
Democratic Sen. Joe Biden sets specific numeric goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 by imposing a cap and trade system, and he would "require that at least 20 percent of the country's electricity comes from clean, renewable sources."
Democrat John Edwards has a detailed platform for on "innovation," promising to "increase spending on basic research at the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health and lift stifling research restrictions." He would also "create the New Energy Economy Fund to invest in clean, renewable energies."
Edwards also would work to depoliticize science and "eliminate political litmus tests for government scientists" and prohibit political appointees from overriding agencies' scientific findings "unless the chief White House science advisor concludes they are erroneous."
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama calls for a "new national energy policy focused on improvements in technology, investments in renewable fuels" but does not get specific.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney: "In technology, we as a country already invest an enormous amount—for instance, in defense technology, space technology, health—but we also need to invest in some of the emerging technologies that are important at a basic science level such as fuel cell technology, power generation, materials science, automotive technology."
Clinton aims for a space exploration program "that involves robust human spaceflight to complete the Space Station and later human missions, expanded robotic spaceflight probes of our solar system leading to future human exploration" by, in part, capitalizing on the expertise of the shuttle program workforce and preventing the sort of "brain drain" she says occurred between the Apollo era and shuttle missions.
"I believe we have to change course—and I know America is ready," Clinton said. "What America achieved after Sputnik is a symbol of what America can do now as we confront a new global economy, new environmental challenges, and the promise of new discoveries in medicine. America led in the 20th century—and with new policies and a renewed commitment to scientific integrity and innovation, America is ready to lead in the 21st."
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Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.