The Top Science Questions Facing America: 2012 Edition

The suggestion portion of the process is now closed. We are now in phase two: taking your submissions under advisement and working with a panel of representatives from leading U.S. science organizations to consolidate ideas and craft the top science questions facing America in 2012.

What are the top science questions the candidates for president should answer? We’re not interested in quizzing candidates on the particulars of cell mitosis or the third digit of pi. We want to know their positions on the big science and engineering policy questions that affect all our lives. The questions we will consider most successful will probe the candidates on the broad, important issues of our day around science in an insightful and fair way.

A top science question the candidates for president should answer is:

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  1. Do you support banning the direct marketing of drugs to consumers as virtually every other country in the world has done?

    The USA is one of only two countries in the world that allows direct marketing of pharmaceuticals to consumers. Since the FDA began allowing this practice, pharmaceutical companies have decided to forgo research into new drugs and massively increased their marketing budgets. This has made US companies less competitive internationally and European drugmakers have begun to dominate.

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      0 comments  ·  Health  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
    • 1 vote
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        0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
      • Do you believe the Federal Government should invest in collecting factual information about the economy for use by citizen's and industry?

        The House of Representatives recently voted to discontinue the American Community survey, some form of which has been collected since the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, as well as the 2012 Economic Census. Do you believe it is an appropriate role for the government to collect and make available to the public basic, factual information on the state of the country and the economy as a public good so that companies and citizens can use the information to make data-based decisions?

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          0 comments  ·  Economics  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
        • Would you support legislation making it illegal for companies to sell coal/oil/nat gas extracted from new US territories to foreign buyers?

          Oil, coal and natural gas companies who advocate for increased domestic extraction of fossil fuels often use the argument that doing so will increase our energy security. But this could only be true if all of that newly extracted energy is refined and used here in the U.S. There is now nothing to keep such companies from selling this newly extracted fossil fuel on the world market to the highest bidder. But new federal laws with very stiff fines (e.g., fine equal to the fuel sale price + 10%) could dissuade such transactions, and indeed increase our energy security. If…

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            0 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
          • If we build more nuclear plants, where will we get water for both cooling and drinking?

            Nuclear power plants require lots of cooling water. Plans to build two in Georgia do not seem to account for the recent droughts. How can we justify building systems that require even more water when many parts of the country do not have enough to drink or farm?

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              0 comments  ·  Water  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
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                0 comments  ·  Environment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
              • 1 vote
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                  0 comments  ·  Agriculture  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                • 1 vote
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                    0 comments  ·  Water  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                  • 1 vote
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                      0 comments  ·  Environment  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                    • What standard must scientific consensus be held to before you believe you can reject its skeptics?

                      Often, and especially with climate change, the consensus formed by thousands of scientists is rejected by politicians who claim that the existence of a few skeptics indicates that the "jury is still out," and hence both sides can be ignored. Considering there are still skeptics of gravity, clearly this skepticism must be disregarded at some point. What should the consensus satisfy such that you will reject the claims of skeptics?

                      135 votes
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                        1 comment  ·  Scientific Integrity  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                      • What is the correct relationship between metaphysics and science from the perspective of public policy and public education?

                        Science is built on unprovable metaphysical assumptions, because of this it is sometimes used as a cover for sneaking theological ideas into science classes. In addition, good science should inform public policy decisions. How sensitive will the next president be to the metaphysics and theology that drive some ideas that are presented as science? This is important when it comes to understanding how science - particularly as it deals with the origin of nature, life and humans - is taught in public schools. It may also have an impact on how science informs public policy on issues ranging from conservation…

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                          0 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                        • What is the appropriate role of the government in ensuring the availability of critical materials for US industry and the defense sector?

                          Advancing technology creates ever great demands on materials with highly specific properties. The rare earth elements are a case in point, where China currently controls 97% of the world's production. There are clear risks from such reliance on a single source for materials that are critical to particular technologies. What can and should the US government do to address this vulnerability?

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                            0 comments  ·  Competitiveness  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                          • Some predict that private equity can not afford to fund a switch to renewables. If so, how will America come up with the money for it?

                            America is at present muddling through; and a massive replacement of our energy infrastructure is not taking place, in part because private equity can not cost justify it. Similarly the DOE is not allocating the huge funding needed to catalyze such renewal because it is not yet a front-burner priority. How much serious money (in billions) will be in your 2014 budget to launch such a renewal? Where have you made available, to both press and public, the detailed reasoning behind this estimate?

                            3 votes
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                              0 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                            • Our grandchildren risk being stuck with our nuclear waste. How should the next President decisively resolve this issue?

                              Civilian nuclear waste is piling up at a great rate. government has dawdled on its legal responsibilities at Yucca Mountain. What do you propose to do about this issue to keep the waste problem from being dumped upon our grandchildren, who have no opportunity to vote you out of office?

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                                0 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                              • Wherecan we find your estimate of the percentage of GDP needed each year to effect a switch from fossil fuels to renewables?

                                One guesstimate is that a transition to a renewable future will cost each year for the next century 3% (give or take a factor of two) of the GDP. Who gets stuck with this bill, and where do you propose that he find the money?

                                3 votes
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                                  0 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                • Would you advocate that the Congress reactivate the non-partisan Office of Technology Assessment or its equivalent?

                                  The OTA served Congress well and in recent years would have blunted the most outlandish notions that arise from the members from time to time. It could be ignored as is the CBO occasionally, but a few facts from a credible OTA might still bleed into the debates.

                                  138 votes
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                                    1 comment  ·  Scientific Integrity  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                  • How do you calculate the economic impact of research funding?

                                    There are those who say that research funding is the prime economic driver of our economy. Is it? How much? What would cuts in research do to our economy in the long and short term?

                                    2 votes
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                                      0 comments  ·  Research Funding  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                    • Has privatization helped or hindered our space program?

                                      Private contractors have taken a bigger role in our space efforts. We saw that during the shuttle program. Their primary role is to make profits. But has that caused us to lose our long-term vision for mankind's role in space?

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                                        0 comments  ·  Space  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                      • What will be your national oceans policy?

                                        During the Bush years Admiral Watkins (former chairman Joint Chiefs) led the Presidential Oceans Commission which came up with numerous policy recommendations to improve the way the government deals with all aspects of the ocean (R&D, military, fisheries, law enforcement, minerals, education, Law of the Sea, etc.) among all the government agencies and private sector groups that have a stake in the oceans. The Pew Charitable Trusts also came up with a complementary Oceans Commission. Barack Obama is trying to implement a National Oceans Policy now. Will you support the recommendations and implement them?

                                        4 votes
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                                          0 comments  ·  Oceans  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                        • If a body of knowledge is "just a theory", does that mean it is unproven or incorrect?

                                          The phrase "just a theory" gets bandied about in political discourse to discount the weight of evidence. Evolution is "just a theory", human-caused climate change is "just a theory." But so are general relativity, plate tectonics, and genetic inheritance, all of which no one denigrates as "just a theory". Do the candidates understand the difference between a theory and a hypothesis? What weight should be given to the term "theory" - is it a weak endorsement or a verified statement of the world? What are the limitations of a theory?

                                          111 votes
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                                            2 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

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