The Top American Science Questions in 2012

Future Positive — Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

Science now affects every aspect of life and is an increasingly important topic in national policymaking. invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail.

ScienceDebate then worked with a number of  the leading US science and engineering organizations to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012. Here is their answer:

1. Innovation and the Economy.  Science and technology have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII, when the federal government first prioritized peacetime science mobilization. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains a world leader in innovation?

2. Climate Change.  The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

3. Research and the Future.  Federally funded research has helped to produce America’s major postwar economies and to ensure our national security, but today the UK, Singapore, China, and Korea are making competitive investments in research.  Given that the next Congress will face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in research in your upcoming budgets?

4. Pandemics and Biosecurity.  Recent experiments show how Avian flu may become transmissible among mammals. In an era of constant and rapid international travel, what steps should the United States take to protect our population from emerging diseases, global pandemics and/or deliberate biological attacks?

5. Education.  Increasingly, the global economy is driven by science, technology, engineering and math, but a recent comparison of 15-year-olds in 65 countries found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 23rd, while average U.S. math scores ranked 31st.  In your view, why have American students fallen behind over the last three decades, and what role should the federal government play to better prepare students of all ages for the science and technology-driven global economy? (07/23/12)