Democratic and Republican Party Platforms Divided on Science Matters

The Democratic and Republican parties released their platforms just ahead of their respective conventions in July. The platforms articulate different priorities. The Democrats favor increased federal investments in scientific research and incentives for clean energy, and the Republicans prefer minimal involvement from the government in science and environmental matters.

The Democratic Party platform emphasizes that innovation is important for future economic growth and job creation. The party supports public and private investments in science, research and technology in order to create employment across America. According to the platform, “New technologies are already transforming our economy, and they have the power to generate trillions in economic output. We must harness these forces so that they create higher-paying jobs across the country, bring more people into the workforce, and reduce inequality.”

In order to achieve this, the Democratic platform stresses the need to train the workforce and the next generation of scientists, invest in research and development, support high-quality STEM education, promote entrepreneurship, and attract and retain talent from all over the world. The platform emphasizes the importance of teaching computer science in high school as a key step in driving technical innovation.

There is significant emphasis on climate change in the Democratic Party platform. Democrats consider climate change to be an immediate threat to the economy, national security, and health of Americans. They argue that switching to clean energy sources could create millions of jobs and drive economic growth, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The party remains committed to meeting the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius with a plan to obtain 50 percent of electricity from solar energy over the next ten years, improve energy efficiency, modernize the electric grid, and transform transportation through vehicle electrification and reduced oil consumption.

The Democrats pledge to eliminate tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies, provide tax incentives for renewable energy in order to expedite the transition to clean energy systems and expand clean energy research and development. The party is also against drilling in the Arctic Ocean, and plans to use science-based approaches to protect the Arctic region, which is currently facing rapid environmental changes due to climate change.

The Democratic platform also recognizes the importance of fully funding cutting edge research at the National Institutes of Health to enable medical progress against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, HIV, and cancer. Democrats indicate further support for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space exploration missions. They also assert the importance of conservation of natural resources, including public lands and water bodies and oppose any efforts to undermine the Endangered Species Act.

The Republican Party platform does not consider climate change to be a pressing national security issue and does not support tax incentives for renewable energy. Republicans oppose international accords like the Paris climate agreement, as well as the Clean Power Plan, which would cut emissions by shifting away from coal-powered power plants. They describe coal as an “abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.”

The Republican platform asserts that private landowners, and not the government, will drive conscientious stewardship of the environment. Their platform states, “Environmental problems are best solved by giving incentives for human ingenuity and the development of new technologies, not through top-down, command-and-control regulations that stifle economic growth and cost thousands of jobs.” They propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal government to the states and to transform the Environmental Protection Agency into an independent bipartisan commission.

The platform criticizes the Endangered Species Act for stunting economic development, halting construction projects, and burdening landowners. Republicans believe that the listing of endangered species should be based on “sound science” and the protection of species should be balanced with the costs of compliance and the rights of property owners.

The Republic platform also proposes reforming the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and states that the FDA needs leadership that can “fix the lack of predictability, consistency, transparency and efficiency at the agency.” According to the platform, the FDA needs to emphasize hard science and approving new breakthrough medicines, rather than overregulating electronic health records. Republicans also express an interest in allowing terminally ill patients to try investigational medicines not currently approved by the FDA.

The Republican platform proposes to simplify the tax code, reduce corporate rates, and create incentives for technological innovation. They believe that public-private partnerships with little interference from the government will foster technological innovation.

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Soil Science Focus of New OSTP Initiative

Erosion, climate change, and contamination are threatening America’s soil. In response to these threats, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is establishing a new Soil Science Interagency Working Group to coordinate technical input from 15 federal agencies. In addition, the White House is seeking information on new ways to monitor soil moisture and chemistry on a large-scale, efforts that advance interdisciplinary research on the role of soil in resilience of food systems and water quality, and scalable solutions to improve soil health. Learn more and share your organization’s efforts at https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/08/01/call-action-save-one-americas-most-important-natural-resources.

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UK Attempts to Bolster Confidence in Scientific Community Amidst Continued Brexit Worries

Five days after becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May sought to reassure the scientific community by reaffirming her government’s dedication to maintaining scientific partnerships with the rest of Europe. In a letter written to a leading UK scientist, Professor Sir Paul Nurse, the director of the Francis Crick Institute in London, Prime Minister May said that the government’s “commitment to science and research remains steadfast” and they would seek to ensure “a positive outcome for UK science” as they exit the European Union.

Sir Paul and Professor Venki Ramkrishanan, the President of the Royal Society, both expressed encouragement about the Prime Minister’s outreach. However, Sir Paul has stated that “for science to thrive it must have access to the single market, and we do need free movement;” neither topic is mentioned in Prime Minister May’s letter.

In the wake of the Brexit, other UK officials have also sought to reassure the scientific community that the impacts will be kept to a minimum. Days after the Brexit vote, Science Minister Jo Johnson addressed concerns about UK participation in the Horizon 2020 research program, reassuring researchers that for now, “the referendum result has no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020.” Horizon 2020 is the largest European Union research program to date. This sentiment has been echoed by a senior official from the European Commission research department, stating that “until the end of negotiations, the rules of Horizon 2020 will apply” and that if changes in the UK’s status were necessary, there would likely be a plan for multi-year phasing to minimize disruption and give time for adjustment.

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New Funding Opportunity on Gulf of Mexico Resilience

The National Academies of Sciences and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are jointly funding a new program that aims to improve people’s lives and the environments where they live in the Gulf of Mexico region. A total of $10 million is available for 3-6 projects of up to 36 months in duration. Grants will support research and practices that focus on the human dynamics of resilience. A webinar will be held on 11 August on the program. Learn more at http://www.nas.edu/gulf/grants/rwjf/index.htm.

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NAS Committee Issues Report on Effective Restoration Guidelines

The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Effective Approaches for Monitoring and Assessing Gulf of Mexico Restoration Activities has issued a report that lays out a comprehensive framework for Gulf restoration activities in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The restoration process, guided by three major programs, is a $16 billion undertaking. The report focuses on best practices in monitoring, evaluation, and management of the restoration process. The recommendations are centered around promoting unified action among the various restoration programs and projects, standardizing metrics and goals for progression assessment, utilizing existing programs and networks, promoting open and long-term data access, and implementing adaptive management strategies.

The full text of the report can be found here.

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Expand your Broader Impact Skills: AIBS Communications Boot Camp for Scientists

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has launched a new professional development program designed to enhance the communication skills of scientists, particularly those interested in communicating with decision-makers and the news media. The program is an excellent way to develop new communication skills and identify effective methods for broadening the impact of research and education programs.

The AIBS Communications Training Boot Camp for Scientists expands on AIBS’ highly successful media and science policy training workshops. The Boot Camp meets the needs of everyone from graduate students to senior researchers and program administrators to newly elected professional society leaders.

The Boot Camp is an intensive, two-day, hands-on training program in Washington, DC.

Participants will learn:

  • How to translate scientific findings for non-technical audiences
  • How to tell a resonant story that informs decision-makers
  • How to prepare for and participate in a news interview, including broadcast interviews
  • How to prepare for and engage in a meeting with a decision-maker
  • How to protect your scientific reputation
  • How to identify and define the audience you need to reach
  • What policymakers want and need to know from a scientist
  • What reporters are looking for in an interview
  • How the nation’s science policy is developed and implemented

Participants will also have the opportunity for formal and informal discussions with science policy and communications experts working in Washington, DC. A course outline is available here.

The workshop will be held in Washington, DC on 7-8 December 2016.

AIBS Individual Members and individuals nominated to participate by an AIBS Member Society/Organization receive a $75 discount on registration.

Learn more about the program and register now at https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/communicationsbootcamp.html.

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AIBS to Host Webinar on Conservation Careers

Join AIBS for a webinar on careers in conservation and environmental biology on 31 August at 1:00 pm (EST). Panelists will include individuals who have built successful careers in non-profit, federal agency, and university settings. Participants will have an opportunity to engage the panelists in discussion. Registration for this event is free due to the sponsorship of Burk, Inc. for this free event at https://www.aibs.org/events/webinar/careers-in-conservation-environmental-biology.html.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers.

The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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