Policy Analysis

APS Questions for the Presidential Candidates

APS works on behalf of its members, and the physics community at large, to inform policy leaders about the importance of physics and research funding — highlighting the effect both have on our nation's security, competitiveness, and economy. Facilitating communication between physicists and government on scientific issues of concern to our members, and to the nation as a whole, is an APS responsibility.

In an effort to continue this interchange during the election season, and to pave the way for future dialogue post-inauguration, APS reached out to both the democratic and republican presidential campaigns at the end of September. Both candidates were sent five questions on topics of interest to the physics community. To date, APS has received a response from the Clinton Campaign. The answers, shared below, are provided in an effort to better inform our membership as America heads to the voting booth this November.

Presidential Candidates 2016

Economists estimate that public and private investments in science and technology have accounted for more than 50 percent of America’s GDP growth since World War II. Recognizing that nexus, nations in Europe and Asia have been ramping up their public investments in research substantially for more than two decades. By contrast, public U.S. funding of science has stagnated. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the United States ranks just 10th overall in innovation, “largely because its innovation-supporting policies (such as funding for scientific research) are lower than those of the leaders.” What steps would you take to reverse the stagnation in American support of science?

Candidate Clinton's Response:

Not only are our nation’s investments in science and technology leading to private sector innovation, GDP growth, and job creation, but federally funded research is a vital front-end driver of the innovation process. Federally funded research also contributes significantly to the security of our nation, to the health and safety of all who live here, to our efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect the environment, and to our progress in achieving environmental and social justice for all.

Progress in science, and the productivity of our scientists and engineers who perform this research, depends on consistent levels of funding for government-sponsored research. It is also imperative that our government avoid damaging actions like the sequester. As president, I will work with Congress to support our nation’s goals in science and will push for steady, sustainable growth in funding for scientific research. Robust investments across the board in science and technology are critical to our future, and stepping up those investments will be a priority of my administration.

Good jobs increasingly require workers to have some science, math and technology proficiency, but U.S. students score poorly on science and math tests compared to students from other industrialized nations. Studies suggest a correlation between poor performance and poverty. What do you see as the respective roles of federal, state and local governments in ensuring that all Americans — including those below the poverty line — have the minimum skills required for the jobs of the future?

Candidate Clinton's Response:

As president, one of my highest priorities will be creating good-paying jobs, and ensuring that all Americans can develop the skills not only to get hired but to grow in their careers. In this campaign, I have set out a plan to make what will be the biggest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II, and I believe that a bold federal investment, in conjunction with innovative programs on the state and local level, will make a key difference in expanding opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds.

I share the American Physical Society's view that it is vital to improve the STEM capabilities of the future U.S. workforce. Throughout this campaign, I have heard from talented students who are pursuing careers in STEM, including visiting Carnegie Mellon during National Robotics Week. We have to confront some stark facts: Today, less than 40 percent of high school graduates have taken a course in physics, and the lack of STEM programming is most pronounced in schools with high concentrations of students of color. As president, I will commit to expanding access to computer science education: building upon President Obama's "Computer Science Education for All" program so that all public schools in America have the resources they need to offer computer science education. And to expand the pool of STEM teachers, I will work with nonprofits and the private sector to train up to 50,000 computer science teachers in the next ten years.

Investing in K-12 STEM programming is just the start. We also need to invest in our colleges and universities, and provide a lifelong learning system that is better tailored to the 21st century economy. Under my "New College Compact" students from working families will have the opportunity to attend an in-state, four-year public institution tuition free, and we will create a $25 billion fund to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other Minority Serving Institutions.

I'm particularly focused on offering young people from disadvantaged communities opportunities to enter STEM professions. That’s why I will invest $20 billion in youth jobs and pathways for individuals from disadvantaged communities — through support for models like linked learning, P-Tech, apprenticeships, and Career Academies.

But STEM improvement alone is not sufficient and must be part of a comprehensive plan to improve student learning. Fundamental to that plan is achieving an economy that works for everyone so that our children do not suffer the negative learning effects of poverty. At the same time, our nation must expand early childhood education so that all children, regardless of family income, have a strong start in life. And we must ensure every child has good teachers in good schools by modernizing and elevating the profession of teaching, as well as modernizing the schools in which they teach.

U. S. colleges and universities are among the world leaders in identifying and developing talent in science and math, and the high-quality education they provide is often subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Most students with this training pursue careers in industry, where they help drive the U.S. economy. Today, too few Americans are entering university science, math and engineering programs, while highly qualified students from other countries come to the U.S. to study these fields. However, those international students often return to their home countries once they graduate instead of entering the American workforce. What would you do to encourage more top American students to enter science and enable more foreign-born students who receive high-quality STEM educations at U.S. institutions to stay and use their skills to contribute to the U.S. economy?

Candidate Clinton's Response:

Too many of America"s young people face barriers to obtaining their college degree because of the cost. My "New College Compact" will work to remove that barrier by ensuring that students from working families can attend public, in-state four-year institutions tuition-free. In addition to helping young people get access to higher education, we need to improve graduation rates and renew our national commitment to encourage women, people of color, and people with disabilities to consider degrees and careers in STEM fields and expand opportunities for them.

As part of our efforts to reform our immigration system, I want to ensure we are encouraging talented students who study here to stay here and use their newfound education to contribute to our economy. I support "stapling" a green card to STEM master"s degrees and Ph.D. degrees at accredited schools, and I support "start-up" visas to encourage entrepreneurs to build companies and create jobs in the U.S.

By law, every administration is required to maintain an Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The director of OSTP serves as an assistant to the president, customarily known as the "president"s science advisor." What qualities would you seek in such a person, and would you accord that individual Cabinet-level status?

Candidate Clinton's Response:

As OSTP director and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, a title conferred by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the "President"s Science Advisor" has three fundamental responsibilities. First, they advise the President on policies that are, or should be, influenced by science and technology. Second, they advise the President on policies that affect the federal government"s role in advancing science and technology (e.g. research funding and regulation). Lastly, they represent the President at international Ministerial-level meetings that relate to science and technology.

To meet these responsibilities effectively, the individual in this role must share the fundamental values and goals of the President and be a trusted member of the President"s senior advisory team. He or she must be a respected voice in the scientific community with full knowledge of the range of policy issues at hand and the ability to assemble a top-notch team. Finally, he or she must be able to work cooperatively with the President, the Cabinet and other members of the President"s staff.

If elected, I will ensure whoever fills this important role will have the access they need to function effectively, and the ability to participate in all key meetings where science and technology issues are in play. My science advisor will play a key role in my administration.

Climate change poses significant risks to society, including the global economy, the environment and human health. What is the federal government"s role in preparing society for adaptation to Earth"s changing climate? Multiple lines of evidence — and assessments by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on global warming observed since the mid-twentieth century. What is the role of the federal government in addressing mankind"s influence on Earth"s changing climate?

Candidate Clinton's Response:

Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. It threatens our economy, our national security, and our children"s health and future, and its impacts are being felt at home and around the world. The federal government has a clear responsibility to mitigate the effects of climate change by creating and defending smart pollution and efficiency standards; stimulating innovation through research and other incentives; expanding and investing in clean energy infrastructure, innovation and manufacturing; and ensuring safe and responsible energy production.

At the same time, the federal government must also prepare society for the impacts of climate change. As President, I will work both domestically and internationally to ensure that we not only deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference but go further. I will also work so that we continue to slash greenhouse gas emissions over the coming years as the science tells us we must, and develop strategies for adaptation.

My climate plan lays out bold goals that we will achieve within ten years:

  • Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term.
  • Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.
  • Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

To get there, my administration will implement and build on the range of pollution and efficiency standards that are helping to clean our air, save families money, and fight climate change. I will also launch a Clean Energy Challenge, providing $60 billion in competitive grants to states, cities, and rural communities across the country that are ready to lead on clean energy.

While we must do all that we can to mitigate the impacts of climate change, we must at the same time develop strategies to address the effects of climate change that are already coming to pass. I am committed to building more resilient infrastructure, including a 21st century electric grid that can better withstand extreme weather events. As part of my plan to build a new, innovative and sustainable "blue economy," I will support investments that help coastal communities adapt to the realities of climate change. And I believe that we need to do more to make communities resilient to the health impacts of climate change, including increasing support for the Centers for Disease Control"s Climate-Ready Cities and States Initiative, which helps local health departments plan for climate-related health impacts, and supporting improved climate resilience planning and adaptation at hospitals and health care facilities.