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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Clinton, Obama advisers tout science policies”

    BOSTON – Representatives for Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took the stage at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference held at the Hynes Convention Center on Saturday.

    The forum was an effort to publicize the importance of science and technology in national and international discourse, and give attendees perspective on where the presidential candidates stand on issues such as funding for science, energy policy, stem-cell research and technological advancement.

    Representatives for Republican frontrunner John McCain and competitor Mike Huckabee were unable to attend, said Albert Teich, director of science and policy programs for AAAS.

    Claudia Dreifus, a science writer for The New York Times, moderated the debate between Alec Ross, Obama’s science adviser and senior vice president of the non-profit One Economy Corporation, and Thomas Kalil, Clinton’s adviser and special assistant to the chancellor for science and technology at the University of California at Berkeley.

    Throughout the debate, the two advisers tried to convince the audience – consisting mostly of science writers – that the Democratic candidates are serious about changing the current administration’s stalling of science by doubling the federal budget for scientific research and investing heavily in green technology like biofuels.

    Both candidates, they said, also want to remove what they called the Bush administration’s “”ideological approach”” to science policy and increase protection for whistle-blowers.

    “”Obama wants to restore science policy to the scientists,”” Ross said. “”He wants to depoliticize it and take it away from the right-wing ideologues.””

    Ross said Obama took AAAS’s invitation seriously and was committed to investing in science and technology, as stated on his official Web site.

    The Illinois senator proposes investing $50 billion in computerizing all medical records and creating an electronic-based health care system that could save the nation $77 billion a year, according to the site.

    Clinton wants to increase funding for NASA and aeronautics and is committed to signing an executive order that would protect scientists by keeping the government away from important research on issues like global warming, Kalil said.

    After a question was raised about Clinton’s investment in science education, Kalil said the New York senator would improve the quality and quantity of America’s math and science teachers, and increase access to science and technology careers by tripling the number of National Science Foundation
    research fellowships.

    Both advisers acknowledged that the two candidates had similar science policies, but different methods of implementation.

    Ross said the main difference between Obama and Clinton was Obama’s view of immigrants and immigration.

    “”Obama is very much a citizen of the world and has a very different approach on how we should welcome people to America,”” Ross said. “”He will encourage immigrants and low-income Americans to enter the science fields and research careers.””

    Dreifus instructed each adviser to give his closing remarks and asked them how those in attendance can “”bring their concerns about science into the public sphere and to the attention of your candidates.””

    Kalil said scientists should speak out on their issues and recruit high-quality members of their community to enter government service jobs.

    “”Congress will invest more in (scientific) research when eloquent scientists are willing to serve at the highest level of governments,”” he said.

    Ross had some simple advice.

    “”Don’t be so polite,”” he said. “”Be aggressive about your issues and pound on candidates. Organize yourselves in a manner that gets the candidates’ attention.””

    AAAS is one of the sponsors of Science Debate 2008, an effort aimed to inform voters on the candidates’ policy issues on science and technology.

    Last week, Science Debate organizers invited all the presidential candidates to attend the April 18 debate at the Franklin Institute Conference in Philadelphia, four days before Pennsylvania’s primary elections, said Lawrence Krauss, head of the AAAS physics division and a member of the Debate steering committee.

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