Voters weigh many things when deciding who would make the best president: integrity; position on health care, economic, and security policies; and the like. But maybe this Super Tuesday they should also ask: Which candidate would be the best for science?
It’s not an idle question. Scientific discovery holds the key to solving many of the problems that face this country.
In partnership with The Science Coalition, we asked students, researchers, and faculty members on our university campuses why they believe science should matter to presidential candidates. Their answers are inspiring and, not surprisingly, reflect the challenges our next president will face: keeping our nation safe, stopping the spread of infectious disease, ensuring safe food and water, and growing the economy, to name a few.
The good news is that the groundwork for success in science has already been laid for the next president. Our nation’s long-standing commitment to investing in basic scientific research is why the United States leads the world in discovery and innovation. And, today, researchers at our universities — and universities across the nation — are conducting work that truly might change the world.
A Boston University biomedical engineer relies on funding from the National Institutes of Health in his quest to develop a wearable bionic pancreas that will automatically manage blood sugar levels and deliver both insulin and glucagon for millions of people who have type 1 diabetes — including his 16-year-old son.
At Florida State University, researchers are using some of the world’s most powerful magnets to figure out how the flu virus works and why it is so effective at making people sick. With a better understanding of how it works, researchers will be able to create more effective drugs to fight it.
With key support from the National Science Foundation, Northern Illinois University geologists led a team that peered under the Antarctic ice shelf at the place where ice, land, and sea meet — a first step to predict potential rises in sea levels and future impacts to coastal communities. And at Stony Brook University’s National Security Institute, researchers are exploring technology solutions for securing the world’s highly digital societies.
As individuals charged with helping fund and promote this research, we believe that now is not the time to take America’s leadership in science and discovery for granted. According to recent data from the National Science Board, other nations are catching up quickly. They’ve seen the United States reap the benefits of a scientific enterprise that fuels discovery, builds a highly skilled workforce, and produces knowledge and technology-intensive industries. Now they are moving rapidly to emulate us. China and other Asian nations have been investing aggressively in higher education and research and development over the past decade, while US investments have wavered.
For our presidential candidates, committing to increase federal funding for basic scientific research should be a no-brainer. The American public believes that the federal government’s investment in science pays off in the long run and that it is essential to scientific progress, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
This type of investment also yields the kind of curiosity-driven research that is essential to innovation but that industry simply doesn’t do. Look no further than the Internet; the biomedical revolution, with its continuing flow of vaccines and life-saving drugs; the advance of personalized medicine; and technologies that support and protect our men and women in uniform and help keep our homeland safe.
Beyond that, the pursuit of research trains the next generation, ensuring that others will continue our tradition of discovery and that we have a workforce skilled for the industries of the future.
So, beginning today, Super Science Tuesday, we are asking the presidential candidates to tell voters why science matters and what their plan is to ensure strong, consistent federal funding for research. Given what is at stake, the issue of science deserves due consideration and, at the very least, its own day of the week.
Gloria Waters is vice president and associate provost for research at Boston University; Gary K. Ostrander is vice president for research at Florida State University and president of the FSU Research Foundation; Gerald C. Blazey is interim vice president for research and innovation partnerships at Northern Illinois University; and David O. Conover is vice president for research at Stony Brook University.