Issue Position: Science
BARACK OBAMA AND JOE BIDEN: INVESTING IN SCIENCE RESEARCH
In the past, government funding for scientific research has yielded innovations that have improved the landscape of American lifetechnologies like the Internet, digital photography, bar codes, Global Positioning System technology, laser surgery, and chemotherapy. At one time, educational competition with the Soviets fostered the creativity that put a man on the moon. Today, we face a new set of challenges, including energy security, HIV/AIDS, and climate change. Yet, the United States is losing its scientific dominance. Among industrialized nations, our country's scores on international science and math tests rank in the bottom third and bottom fifth, respectively. Over the last three decades, federal funding for the physical, mathematical and engineering sciences has declined at a time when other countries are substantially increasing their own research budgets.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe federally funded scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab. An Obama administration will make sure that the government does not distort the results of scientific research for ideological ends. Obama and Biden will also work to ensure that the nation's K-12 education system focuses sufficient emphasis on learning math and science, and that support is provided for undergraduate and graduate training. Finally, Obama and Biden will work to diversify the makeup of the scientific community and provide federal research programs a much-needed infusion of funds.
SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Enhance the Climate for Discovery and Innovation: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with scientists, innovators, business leaders and educators to renew America's commitment to scientific discovery. They will refine tax laws to better support investment, adjust patent policies to more flexibly respond to quickening cycles of technological advance, and ensure regulatory policies both protect the public and encourage risk-taking by researchers. Obama and Biden recognize the essential role of federal investment in basic research in furthering long-term innovations like renewable energy and stem cells.
Invest in the Sciences: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support doubling federal funding for basic research. As a share of the Gross Domestic Product, American federal investment in the physical sciences and engineering research has dropped by half since 1970. Yet, it often has been federally-supported basic research that has generated the innovation to create markets and drive economic growth. The internet, a medium that has spurred innovative entrepreneurship, is a result of federal research funding. BARACK OBAMA AND JOE BIDEN: SUPPORTING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH "Since Lincoln signed the Morrill Act and created the system of land grant colleges, institutions of higher learning have served as the nation's primary research and development laboratories. It's through these institutions that we've trained the innovators of the future, with the federal government providing critical support for the infrastructure everything from chemistry labs to particle acceleratorsand the dollars for research that may not have an immediate commercial application but that can ultimately lead to major scientific breakthroughs. Here, too, our policies have been moving in the wrong direction we can afford to do what needs to be done. What's missing is not money, but a national sense of urgency." [Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope]
Make the Research & Development Tax Credit Permanent: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support investing in a skilled research and development workforce and a technology infrastructure that will benefit American workers and communities. Obama and Biden support making the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can effectively plan when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes. Research is an intrinsically risky undertaking, but the R&D tax credit can make it feasible and worthwhile for even small- and medium-sized businesses. Furthermore, without a permanent credit, companies will be compelled to carry out their research overseas and create jobs outside America. Valuable advancements in communications, transportation, medicine, and national security must be generated here, by and for the American people.
Protect Intellectual Property at Home and Abroad: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote innovation and investment, while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated. They support updating our patent policies and procedures to promote enhanced research. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work to ensure intellectual property is protected in foreign markets, fostering greater cooperation on international standards that allow our technologies to compete globally.
Advance the Field: As a result of biomedical research, the prevention, early detection, and treatment of diseases such as cancer and heart disease is better today than any other time in history. Barack Obama has consistently supported funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Obama and Biden strongly support investments in biomedical research, as well as medical education and training in health-related fields, because it provides the foundation for new therapies and diagnostics. Obama has been a champion of research in cancer, mental health, health disparities, global health, women and children's health, and veterans' health. As president, Obama will strengthen funding for biomedical research, and better improve the efficiency of that research by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships. An Obama administration will ensure that we translate scientific progress into improved approaches to disease prevention, early detection and therapy that is available for all Americans.
Advance Stem Cell Research: Despite recent advances pointing to alternatives like adult stem cell and cord blood, embryonic stem cells remain unmatched in their potential for treatment of a wide variety of diseases and health conditions. Barack Obama has been a long-term supporter of increased stem cell research. He introduced legislation while a member of the Illinois Senate that would allow embryonic stem cell research in Illinois. Obama has cosponsored legislation to allow greater federal government funding on a wider array of stem cell lines. Obama and Biden believe we need high ethical standards that allow for research on stem cells derived from embryos produced for in vitro fertilization, embryos that would otherwise be needlessly destroyed.
Fight Health Disparities: Research has shown that American minority groups suffer disproportionately from diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Barack Obama helped write and is an original cosponsor of the Minority Health Improvement and Health Disparity Elimination Act, which seeks to understand the root causes of health disparities and to start addressing them. The bill puts new emphasis on disparity research by reporting health care data by race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic status and level of health literacy. The legislation outlines mechanisms to conduct educational outreach to minorities, increase diversity among health care professionals, and improve the delivery of health care to minorities.
SUPPORT FOR EDUCATION
Recruit High-Quality Math and Science Teachers: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will make math and science education a national priority, and provide our schools with the tools to educate 21st-Century learners. Barack Obama's Teaching Service Scholarship program will prioritize recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates. Additionally, Obama's Teacher Residency Program can also supply teachers in these highneeds subject areas. Obama's plan to stimulate Professional Development Schools can help new science and math teachers, or veteran teacher needing to hone their skills, learn from professionals in the field. Programs such as New York City's "Math for America" help build a community of excellent teachers to serve in these high-needs areas.
Enhanced Science Instruction: Science is often a low priority in the school program, particularly at the elementary level. A number of recent reports indicate that the strictures of NCLB are correlated with a further reduction in the amount of time spent on science and other subjects in many schools. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with governors to create flexible and workable systems for the states to achieve the goal of ensuring all children have access to strong science curriculum at all grade levels. Obama and Biden will also support state efforts to make science education a priority at the pre-K level. The Science in Elementary program in Pennsylvania is an example of a state taking steps to encourage inquiry based science state-wide, and has offered materials and professional development to one to three elementary schools from every district in the state.
Improve and Prioritize Science Assessments: Assessments should reflect the range of knowledge and skills students should acquire. Science assessments need to do more than test facts and concepts. They need to use a range of measures to test inquiry and higher order thinking skills including inference, logic, data analysis and interpretation, forming questions, and communication. High-performing states like Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, use an assessment that calls for students to design and conduct investigations, analyze and present data, write up and defend results. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with governors and educators to ensure that state assessments measure these skills.
Invest in University-Based Research: Barack Obama and Joe Biden strongly support expanding research initiatives at American colleges and universities. University-based research is a critical component of creating new jobs in the 21st century. To support these initiatives, Obama and Biden will double federal funding for basic research and provide new research grants to the most outstanding early-career researchers in the country.
DIVERSITY FOR INNOVATION
Increase Participation: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that if we do not fully tap the diversity of our nation as a competitive strength, we will diminish our capacity to innovate. Yet, despite progress in other sectors, minorities and women are greatly underrepresented in the sciences. Full participation by all segments of our populace in science and technology would do more than just provide needed increases in our skilled workforce, it would bring a wider range of perspectives, fostering creative and inventive solutions. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work to ensure that women and minorities are well-represented in the ranks of America's scientists.
Support the America COMPETES Act: In the U.S. Senate, Obama passed three amendments to the America COMPETES Act to increase participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the professions of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; offer competitive state grants to support summer term education programs to help students develop skills in math and problem solving; and establish a mentoring program for women and minorities as they advance in those fields.
Improve Minority Scholarships: In the Illinois legislature, Obama voted to create the minority environmental scholarship program to increase the number of minority students enrolled in engineering, environmental science, chemistry, or law enforcement programs at qualified institutions of higher learning.