ScienceDebate2008. Will it happen?

sciencedebate2008blogger.gifThere is a new article today in Science, from some of the steering committee for the ScienceDebate2008 effort. These folks have been trying really hard to get the Presidential candidates to talk about science policy. In a short period of time they generated a lot of support among scientists and fans of science, and among Americans who understand that so much of our policy relies on high quality science and engineering information.

If you have a subscription to Science, go read the whole thing. It spells out the many reasons that this debate should occur. Another key point, though, is:

In an increasingly scientific world, science will become ever more intertwined with policy issues. Scientists must embrace every opportunity to engage in broader public discourse as ambassadors, popularizers, inspirers, educators, and, especially, policy-makers.

Scientists have been reluctant to participate in politics for many reasons, and I think we have sat this out for too long. Our voices have been marginalized and–in some cases, actively suppressed. What are we afraid of? It can’t get much worse than that.

scidebate_volunteers.jpgI really hope this succeeds. I got to know some of the team when I went to AAAS (my first science conference as an activist, not as a scientist). I’m on the right, in the brown jacket, with the team who attended AAAS to generate support for the effort and to film interviews with scientists who support this. The lead author of the Science article–Sheril Kirshenbaum–is in the center. Behind her are Matthew Chapman (great-great grandson of Charles Darwin), and the philosopher Austin Dacey, both also authors of the Science article. Supporters of this debate include presidents of science societies and the organizations they represent, prominent scientists, young scientists, business leaders, Nobel prize winners, and more. It was great to see the amount of support that the scientists demonstrated. I even got some of the security guards to wear the ScienceDebate2008 buttons because they understood the importance! This is a bi-partisan team–you can see from the list of the steering committee. Whoever wins the race will be faced with many issues that require thoughtful science policy. We deserve to hear what the candidates think about these policies, and what they think about the role of science and scientists in the future administration.

And by the way–I have a handful of buttons left still. Let me know if you want one.