Presidential Candidates Answer Science Debate Questions

Three of the four major candidates for U.S. president have responded to 20 questions posed by the scientific community. Responses from Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump are available online at Gary Johnson is expected to respond soon.

Notably, all three candidates said that they would direct new funding to research.

“Federal funding of basic research amounts to less than one percent of annual federal spending, yet it is an investment that pays big dividends,” wrote Hillary Clinton. “I believe it is essential that we strengthen our research capacity, by funding talented young investigators, looking for ways to prioritize ‘high-risk, high-reward’ projects that have the potential to transform entire fields, and enhancing partnerships between government, universities, and the private sector.”

“[T]he federal government should encourage innovation in the areas of space exploration and investment in research and development across the broad landscape of academia,” stated Donald Trump. “Though there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget, we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.”

“Presidents are able to affect long term R&D priorities by creating institutions focused on research like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health that are to some extent insulated from short-term political cycles,” wrote Jill Stein. “We will revisit these institutions—their charge, focus, and operations—to ensure that they’re performing as expected.”

An area where there was much less agreement was climate science.

Clinton: “When it comes to climate change, the science is crystal clear. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time and its impacts are already being felt at home and around the world.

Trump: “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.’ Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water.”

Stein: “Climate change is the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced.”

When asked about how they would protect biodiversity, the candidates had different plans. Ms. Clinton proposed more resources for states and tribal governments to conserve species before they get listed as protected, as well as better international cooperation. Mr. Trump’s response focused on how his administration would reduce government bureaucracy. Ms. Stein proposed several actions, including labeling genetically modified organisms, banning certain pesticides, and protecting public lands.

Read the candidates’ entire responses at The American Institute of Biological Sciences was one of the scientific organizations that developed the questions.

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Cancer Moonshot: Advisory Panel Calls for Data Sharing, Research Priorities

The Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel is recommending ten changes for biomedical research to “expedite progress against cancer.” The initiative was launched by President Obama in January 2016 to “end cancer as we know it” and aims to make ten years worth of progress on research in just five years.

Several recommended reforms have to do with data sharing, for instance, creating a national registry for cancer patients to participate in clinical trials. Another recommendation is to create a platform for researchers, doctors, and patients to share data on cancer.

Among the areas of new research recommended are immunotherapy, drug resistance, and childhood cancer.

Read the full set of recommendations at

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Some Indications of Increased U.S. R&D Investments

Funding for research and development (R&D) is growing in the U.S., but nearly all of that growth has come from the business sector and was directed to development activities (the “D” in R&D). From 2013 to 2014, an additional $21.1 billion was directed to science across all sectors (business, government, higher education, and non-profits). A comparable increase is projected for 2015, according to new data from the National Science Foundation.

The largest performer of U.S. R&D is the business sector, which accounts for two-thirds of total R&D spending. This is also the fastest growing R&D area, with 86 percent of new funding originating from private companies. Private industry is mainly performing development activities.

The federal government is the major funder of basic research.

Growth in R&D is keeping up with growth in the U.S. gross domestic product. Between 2008 and 2014, both metrics increased by an average of 1.2 percent a year.

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Representatives Joyce and Pingree Receive USGS Coalition Leadership Award

Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) are the recipients of the 2016 USGS Coalition Leadership Award. The pair was honored at a Capitol Hill ceremony and public reception on September 13th in Washington, DC.

“The USGS Coalition is pleased to recognize Representatives Joyce and Pingree for their support of the missions of the USGS and its efforts to advance the scientific fields that further our understanding of Earth’s living and non-living systems,” said Elizabeth Duffy, Co-Chair of the USGS Coalition.

“The U.S. Geological Survey has a unique capacity to deploy truly interdisciplinary teams of scientific experts,” said Julie Palakovich Carr, Co-Chair of the USGS Coalition and Public Policy Manager for the American Institute of Biological Sciences. “USGS research impacts the lives of each American every day through reduced risks from natural and human-induced hazards, assessments of water quality and other critical natural resources, improved ecosystem management, and accurate geospatial data and maps.”

Congressman Joyce is serving his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives and represents Ohio’s 14th congressional district, which borders Lake Erie. He serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for the Department of the Interior. Joyce has been a leading voice in Congress for restoration of the Great Lakes.

“I am honored to be recognized by the USGS Coalition. As the Representative of Northeast Ohio, I have one of the country’s greatest natural resources in my back yard - Lake Erie,” said Representative Joyce. “The Great Lakes are the largest system of fresh water in the world. They need to be protected and preserved for generations to come. I applaud the USGS’ research efforts. Together, not only can we learn about the earth God gave us, but we can work to protect it.”

Representative Pingree is serving her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Maine’s 1st congressional district. She serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. Pingree has been a strong advocate for issues related to coastal communities, including ocean acidification.

“The men and women of the USGS play a critical role in helping us understand the land we live on and the resources it contains. They warn us of threats to life and property and protect the environment and ecosystems of our country,” said Representative Pingree. “I’m honored to be recognized for my support of the Survey.”

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Trump's Tax Proposal Would Cut Non-Defense Spending

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has offered a plan to cut taxes. His proposal to lower taxes, reduce government regulations, and increase federal spending for select programs will reduce the nation’s tax burden by $4.4 trillion in 10 years, according to the Trump campaign. Although Mr. Trump asserts that economic growth will cover most of the cost of the proposal, nearly $1 trillion in new spending cuts would need to occur over the next decade.

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that by the tenth year of the Trump plan, non-defense spending would be about 29 percent lower than current levels, after accounting for inflation. This would be on top of budget cuts due to sequestration and budget caps over the past six years. This would impact funding for research, environmental conservation, education, transportation infrastructure, and veterans’ medical care, among other programs.

Presently, non-defense spending is nearly at a fifty-year record low as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). “Under the Trump plan, it would reach a new record low in 2018 and keep on falling. By 2026, it would fall to about 2.0 percent of GDP—fully one-third below the previous low point,” stated Richard Kogan and David Reich, who wrote the analysis for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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Adviser to Presidential Candidate Wants Debate on Climate Change

As reported by Politico, one of Donald Trump’s economic advisers has floated an idea for a new commission to debate climate science. Kathleen Hartnett White, a member of the Trump campaign’s economic advisory council, said that she would like to see a commission to develop an “alternative scientific methodology” to replace the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. White suggested that the group would include people who are climate skeptics as well as climate scientists. She also disclosed in the interview that she has had minimal contact with the Trump campaign and that the economic advisory council had not yet formally met.

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September Episode of BioScience Talks Podcast

The latest episode of BioScience Talks podcast focuses on shoreline hardening—the installation of structures to protect against coastal threats. Many coastal cities have 50 percent or more of their shores protected against floods and erosion. Despite increasing evidence of negative ecosystem effects, shoreline hardening is expected to continue as growing coastal populations scramble to address rising seas and severe storms.

This episode of BioScience Talks interviews Dr. Rachel Gittman of Northeastern University. Gittman and her colleagues recently conducted a meta-analysis of 54 existing studies on shoreline hardening. The results, described in the journal BioScience, highlight a stark impact to biodiversity but also point to approaches that may mitigate the harm. Listen to the episode at

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Deadline Approaching: Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is sponsoring the 6th Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest to find the best photos of scientific research. The competition recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers.

The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.” Photographs entered into the competition must depict a person, such as a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The research may occur outside, in a lab, at a natural history collection, at a field station, on a computer, in a classroom, or anywhere else research is done.

The First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience. The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside the journal, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 30 September 2016. For more information or to enter the contest, visit

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

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is offering 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 that will be held in Washington, DC on 7-8 December 2016.

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.

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

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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 to get started.

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