August 01 2008 / by justinelee / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government Year: General Rating: 2
Over the past few months Americans have been trying to grasp what each presidential nominee will bring to the table once inaugurated as our Commander-in-Chief this coming January.
With looming issues that include the economy, the war in Iraq, and gas prices, there has been little emphasis placed on how either John McCain or Barack Obama feel about the government’s role in science and technology despite a growing group of citizens who want the issue debated.. These individuals believe that the future of America’s science and technology sectors are crucial to the success of our economy, world image, and ultimately our well-being.
I found this table presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), useful but not definitive.
The table compares the decisions made by McCain and Obama regarding policies on science and technology spanning energy, health care and innovation.
It is clear through this table that Obama has given each issue some more thought: his calls for change include concrete numbers and percentages, while McCain’s do not.
With some more research, I found that much of the same was reflected in McCain and Obama’s campaign websites and other articles written about their stances.
John McCain: In a January 30, 2008 article, WIRED.com wrote a story claiming that McCain is fluent in science and technology issues ,demonstrated through his leadership as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. As chairman he led decisions over climate change, science-related bills, spectrum allocation, telecommunications and media ownership reform, child-safety on the Internet, consumer privacy and NASA.
However, I found little details drawn out about the importance of science and technology on McCain’s website. Mother Jones journalist Jonathan Stein wrote about McCain’s “thin tech stance” in his July 7, 2008 article titled What’s John McCain’s Technology Policy?.
From McCain’s website, I have found only one science-related guarantee: McCain supports the Space Program.
In addition to his lean positions, I have learned that McCain is just learning to use the Internet and doesn’t use e-mail because he hasn’t found a particular need to.
How could McCain make important decisions about science and technology, when he himself is unfamiliar with the Internet, the pinnacle invention of our lifetime?
Many, including Michael Arrington, the co-editor of TechCrunch, don’t feel that McCain’s lacking tech platform or his computer illiteracy, will keep him from supporting innovations in the end.
Taken from Stein’s article, I found some pretty good points made by Brian Reich who is the author of the book Media Rules!: Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect With and Keep Your Audience.
“John McCain probably has thoughts and feelings on technology,” Reich says. “But he doesn’t see it as an electoral priority to talk about the role technology is going to play in our society going forward, because he’s not going to raise any money from Silicon Valley liberals. I think it’s both a policy deficiency in his platform and a political deficiency in his strategy.”
Barack Obama: When it comes to Obama’s commitment to science and technology, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Obama has laid out his positions and proposals clearly and thoroughly on his website. I was first exposed to his ideas when I watched a video clip of his interview with Google executives at the Google campus in the fall of 2007. It was here that he unveiled his plan, which he stated was fueled by the belief that America needed to step up as a world leader in science and innovation. Obama addresses the largeness of the tasks (summarized below) and says he will appoint a Chief Technology Officer to help him out.
- Ensure an open Internet - Create a transparent and connected democracy - Encourage a modern communications infrastructure - Employ technology to solve our nation’s most pressing problems - Improve America’s competitiveness
- Increase the number of graduates and undergraduates pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields - Establish a Teaching Service Scholarship program for recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates - Expand access to computers and broadband connections in public schools - Invest in science education R&D to determine what types of curriculum and instruction work best
Those in technology that have reviewed his proposal seem to be impressed and have only small concerns pointing to some vague points that simply call for redrafting. Overall, Obama has the right idea, now all he has to do is push his rival to a debate so that Americans can be cast more informed votes.
If America’s presence continues to wane in science and innovation, our economy and our well-being will suffer.
In an Financial Times blog entry, Harvard Professor Charles W. Eliot writes that over the long-run there are few issues that are as important to a nation’s long-term economic security and global standing as being a leader in moving life sciences forward.
Scientist William Haseltine agrees. In a Discover magazine article, he writes that America has been falling behind in the sciences as a result of poor government funding. He adds: “Moreover, our government seems to have lost its appetite for large science programs, including the high-energy particle colliders that have been a source of so much technical innovation.”
We need a president who will usher in real change by hiring top policy makers to make America’s competitiveness a priority. At the very least, we could get started with presidential nominees who are willing to answer some questions and discuss the issues.