Reviving science in the U.S.

Candidates need to start discussing the integrity of science in this country.

In a speech last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a commitment to improved science policies, if elected. Denouncing President George W. Bush’s attack on scientific integrity, Clinton emphasized the need for America to embrace science in order to stay competitive globally. Clinton’s speech marks the first time the issue of science policy has made headlines during the 2008 presidential race, but in the wake of the Bush administration, it is an issue that must be addressed by every candidate.

In the past six years, science has been pushed aside by the Bush administration in favor of politics and religious values. Most notably, the continued denial of support for stem cell research and accusations of suppressing information about global warming have defined this president’s science policies. Even more disturbing are the accusations that the administration censored and edited scientific reports.

Just last summer, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified on Capitol Hill about the political pressure he faced in his position. He claimed the Bush administration blocked him from issuing reports about specific subjects such as stem cells, contraception, and sex education. He also claimed a report condemning secondhand smoke was delayed and edited before being released. This behavior is despicable considering the surgeon general is supposed to work for the benefit of U.S. health.

Clinton’s emphasis on science will hopefully inspire discussion among the candidates; this should be an important issue for Americans to consider. Our country has traditionally been a leader in science and technology, but we have seen that edge erode with questionable policies as of late. Our science education is lagging, and our country is still debating the teaching of religious theology (in the form of intelligent design) in science classrooms. We need renewed interest and investments in rapidly growing fields such as stem cell research and alternative energy. We must make presidential candidates address this issue, and make sure that we don’t endure another term of politically driven and credibility-diminishing scientific policies.