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McCain or Obama - who is good for science? Chapter 1: About planetariums and other nonsense

The US presidential candidates answer any questions about science, but also mention the issue in their election campaign. And this time, what do you think about innovation, and should we invest money in science and technology *

Obama and McCain. Courtesy of Daily Mail - Information Week
Obama and McCain. Courtesy of Daily Mail - Information Week

In preparation for the US elections, which come after eight years of abuse of science, of which it turns out that the ban on the use of federal budgets for stem cell research is only the smallest of them, we decided to examine the position of the two presidential candidates on scientific issues. Of course, interviewing them from Israel on this subject is impossible, therefore we had to make do with what they write about themselves or answer questions from other journalists all over the web.

The story of a projector

One of the regular sources of the science site is the universe today site, a site that is mostly dedicated to space news, and is absolutely not a political site, although in any debate it always leans in favor of science (evolution, bad astronomy, etc.). But something about what John McCain said made the site's editors angry. McCain is angry that Obama demanded unique budgets for various institutions in the order of a billion dollars. In the USA it is called Earmarks or "pork barrel" (money for a specific project in the legislator's constituency). "Obama Votes to Appropriate $3 Million for Overhead Projector at Chicago, Illinois Planetarium."

So first of all there is a big difference between an overhead projector and a planetarium projection system. Second, Obama submitted the request but did not participate in the vote. By the way, a few weeks ago, McCain referred to Obama's demand for money for the planetarium and other nonsense. "Nonsense"? Asks Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today reporter: "Over 110 million people around the world visit planetariums regularly every year. Planetariums are an important educational tool that encourages scientific literacy, and they inspire young people who want to become astronomers and astronauts and many others who want to work in scientific or science-related professions."

According to her, Obama's website indicates the list of requirements for the 2008 budget year, and it specifically mentions the "Alder Planetarium", in order to support the replacement of the projectors and related equipment in the amount of 3 million dollars. The description states that the 40-year-old projection system breaks down often and spare parts are no longer available. Soon, the students and other museum enthusiasts will be left without the important tool that provides them with an educational experience." Is an attempt to preserve an old institution in his constituency (Adler opened in 1930) considered a prohibited budget?"

By the way not only space. A few weeks ago, I heard McCain himself in a segment of his election rally express his satisfaction that he was able to cancel a DNA mapping project of the bears in the state of Montana. "I have no idea if it is DNA tests for the purpose of identifying paternity or for the purpose of deciphering criminal acts, I prevented it and protected the taxpayer's money." Both of these cases indicate short-sightedness and a misunderstanding of the scientific process. Should the central government also treat investment in research as donors in universities do, who want to reap the scientific benefits (for example, a Nobel Prize for the professor whose research they finance) during their lifetime?

The journal Nature Announces in his editorial (September 25, 2008) that: "The next US presidential election will lead the country back to the world stage in several arenas, including science. Most of the leading American science institutions spent the last spring and summer trying to hold scientific confrontations between the presidential candidates. Unsurprisingly, these confrontations did not occur. Science is rarely, if ever, a major issue in presidential elections. But the supporters of science need not lament this fact. Most of the key issues in the current election system have strong scientific components."

One of the online magazines Ask both candidates a number of identical questions and apparently their campaign managers answered on their behalf. Here is one of them: science and technology are responsible for half of the growth in the American economy since World War II. However, some recent reports show that the USA's leadership in this vital field. What policies will you implement to promote America's continued leadership in innovation?

Obama: Return America to the leadership in the field of technology

Barack Obama: "Ensuring the continued leadership of the United States in the world of science and technology will be a high priority in my administration. Our talents in innovation are the envy of the world, but we face significant challenges that require a new approach. For example, the US annually imports advanced technology products for $53 billion more than we export."

"China has become the largest high-tech exporter. This competitive situation may worsen over time because the number of American students choosing technology careers is in decline. The USA ranks 17th among developed countries in terms of university graduates with degrees in science and engineering. We were in third place thirty years ago."

"My administration will increase funding in basic research in life sciences and physical science, mathematics and engineering at a rate that will double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for researchers at the beginning of their careers to ensure that young scientists enter these fields. We will increase support for high-risk but also high-reward research in our scientific agencies. We will also invest in groundbreaking research that we need to meet the energy challenges and upgrade our defense programs."

"Stable research and development programs to encourage talented people to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and give them the necessary support to reach their potential. My administration will work to ensure that students have access to strong science studies in all grades so that graduates know how science works, using advanced IT technologies."

"As president, I will establish a scholarship program that will pay undergraduate and graduate students who dedicate themselves to teaching students in schools to replace the missing teachers, and I will give first priority to math and science teachers. In addition, my proposal to establish academies for teaching mathematics and science that will train thousands of teachers. I will also reform access to higher education, work to attract more students to science and engineering, and increase National Science Foundation grants. My proposal to provide broadband Internet connectivity to all Americans will help ensure that more and more students can increase their achievement in science, technology, engineering and math."

"Advances in science and technology must be backed up by programs that will ensure that US businesses have a strong interest in turning this innovation into business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my administration will make the research and development tax breaks permanent.” Obama concludes.

John McCain: Committed to the technological revolution

McCain was also asked the same question, and here is his answer: "I have an extensive and comprehensive vision of the future of American innovation. My policies will provide a pool of capital, low taxes and incentives for research in America, a commitment to a skilled and educated workforce, and a dedication to opening markets all over the world. I pledge to ease regulations and effectively protect American intellectual property in the US and all over the world."

"Information and communication technologies have permeated every aspect of our daily lives. In the last decade, there has been an explosion in the way Americans communicate with their family members, friends and business associates; make purchases and communicate with the international markets; equip themselves; increase their political involvement; consuming and even creating entertainment. America has led the world in this technological revolution because we allow innovation to take root, grow and thrive. Cultivating technology and innovation are essential to solving essential problems facing the country: developing alternative fuel, dealing with climate change, encouraging the commercialization of new technologies, implementing technologies to manage costs and enable new jobs, stopping the spiraling costs of health care expenses, and better educating our children and the workforce. "

"I am the most suitable to lead our country during this technological revolution. Back when I served in the Navy, I depended on the technologies and information provided by the scientists and engineers during each mission. I am also former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The committee plays a central role in determining the technological development policy, in particular in the legislation affecting the hardening services, the Internet, cable television and other technologies. Under my direction, Congress will develop a policy for the wireless spectrum that will accelerate the continued growth of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technologies that will allow Americans to surf the web while sitting in coffee shops, airport waiting rooms or public parks."

"Above all, my commitment to innovation is a commitment to continuing to establish the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of the American thinker, thinking that their inventions have improved our lives and ensure our prosperity. In order to maintain the American lead, I believe that we must provide the conditions through which the entrepreneurs can continue to prosper by introducing innovation to the markets and the American public and receive the return."

As president I:

  • I will focus on the national needs to make the US a leader in the development, application and export of new technologies.
  • I will utilize the country's science and technology infrastructure to develop a framework for economic growth both locally and globally.
  • Appoint a White House Science and Technology Advisor to ensure that the commitment to policymaking in science and technology is fully recognized and leveraged, that government decisions are based on solid scientific facts, and that the scientific integrity of federal research is restored.
  • I will eliminate rigid and wasteful allocations in order to allocate funding for investments in science and technology;
  • I will fund basic and applied research in breakthrough fields such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, and bigger breakthroughs in the field of IT.
  • I will promote better fiscal responsibility by improving the management of science and technology within the branches of government.
  • I will encourage and provide an infrastructure for the commercialization of innovative technologies, especially those created in research that receives federal funding.
  • I will ensure the continuation of American leadership in space by promoting an agenda in the field of discoveries that will combine discoveries using unmanned spacecraft with new technologies that will take Americans to the moon, Mars and beyond.
  • I will promote the understanding and popularization of mathematics and science among the public by reforming the teaching of science and mathematics in schools;
  • We will leverage technologies to create jobs in rural areas and implement a remote workforce.
  • I will create better transparency in the administration and encourage dialogue between the administration and the residents using innovative technologies.
  • I will develop and implement an agenda for global competition through a series of round tables where the government representative sat together with industry and academic leaders.

Americans increasingly feel that the country is losing its competitive edge. Both candidates talk about renewed investment in basic science as a growth engine for breakthroughs and the flagship of the economy. And both candidates seem serious about trying to improve funding for basic science agencies - although it remains to be seen whether the promises will become reality, especially after McCain talked about a one-year freeze on all discretionary spending that the administration is allowed to spend, which also includes scientific projects.

7 תגובות

  1. All that remains is to pray and hope and wish that with us...
    In the new Netanyahu government that will be formed in March 2009 in cooperation with... Shas, we will not face the disastrous Minister of Education Limor Livnat again.
    On the other hand, there is the worse danger because the Minister of Education
    Shas will be the messenger of God.
    In short, two disasters are imminent...
    It's waste and it's predation... what's worse?
    May God protect and have mercy.

  2. It is good that the Americans are aware of their weakness in the world and do not live in an American bubble, while the USA is in retreat (in all aspects), other countries are rushing after it.
    In the context of the field of science, the USA does not dominate, Asian countries show much higher educational achievements than the Americans when it comes to the sciences, which denies them a good future.

    I hope that the USA will return to its strength, personally I believe that a strong USA is essential to the world, and of course to us.

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