An organization called Science Debate 2008 has crafted 14 questions about science for the US Presidential candidates. Barack Obama has submitted his answers [Presidential answers to the top 14 science questions facing America].
1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?I'm a little confused about how the American system of government works. I think the answer means the following: "My administration will submit to Congress a proposal to increase funding ..." Is that correct? Is it just campaign rhetoric when a Presidential candidate talks like this or does the President really have more power to make laws than I imagine?
... My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs.
The second part of his answer suggests that the office of the President will somehow influence the granting agencies to direct more of their funds to early-career researchers and to "high-risk, high-payoff" grant applications. Can the White House make NIH, for example, distribute money differently or does that require legislation to enact?
I don't think anyone believes that Barack Obama wrote these answers, although I'm certain that he approved them. It would be interesting to know who did write the response and how much influence that person(s) will have if Obama wins the election in November. Does anyone know who his advisers are?
The answers don't seem to be much different than those I would have expected from most other Democratic candidates, or from John Kerry in 2004, or Al Gore in 2000. Am I missing something or is there some radical change in the way things are going to be done in Washington that escapes me?1
1. Doubling of research funding in 10 years means a yearly increase of 8%. While this is better than an increase that doesn't match inflation, it doesn't strike me as a very radical proposal to fix the funding situation.
[Hat Tip: Jim Lippard]