APS News

APS Joins Call for Science Debate in 2008

Will they or won’t they? As APS News goes to press, the three major remaining candidates for US President are weighing an invitation to participate in a “Science Debate”, slated for April 18 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The debate will take place if at least one of them accepts.

The invitation reads “Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public debate in which the US presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.” Hundreds of organizations have signed on to this call, as have tens of thousands of individuals, including a large number of Nobel Prize winners, university presidents, and leaders of the scientific community. APS joined the call when the Executive Board voted to endorse the debate at its February meeting.

“This debate is important for two reasons,” says astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University, a member of the steering committee that is organizing the event. “First, issues of science and technology will be at the heart of almost every important challenge that the next president will face, from the environment, to energy, national security, health, and economic competitiveness. Second, these issues have not really been the focus of much discussion between the candidates or on the media, and the public has a right to know the candidates’ thoughts on these public policy issues.”  

Krauss stresses that the debate will not be a science quiz, but will explore important policy issues and allow voters a better chance to make an informed decision about the candidates. “The interest in this debate has exploded in the period since I wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal in December,” Krauss maintains. Over 100 major organizations, from the National Academy of Sciences, to the AAAS, the APS, and the Council on Competitiveness have signed on. Presidents of universities from Harvard to Stanford have joined the call, as have business people and legislators.

The debate is strategically positioned to occur only four days before the Pennsylvania primary, which has emerged as the next crucial test between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Krauss is cautiously optimistic, saying “I now give the likelihood of such a debate in Philadelphia a fighting chance.”

More information about the debate, and a complete list of the signers, can be found on the debate website.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff