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. How would you stimulate enthusiasm for STEM fields among students and domestic innovation among graduates?

    How would you foster a national perspective in which STEM achievements are as desirable as sports or pop music to American students? How would you help new STEM graduates find rewarding jobs or start new businesses?

    126 votes
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      2 comments  ·  Education  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
    • Would you support a Department of Education initiative to encourage "science civics" classes?

      Many young people today don't understand the relevance of science to civics, governance or the economy. "Science civics" is a team-taught curriculum that introduces students to the philosophy of science as it relates to citizenship, and the important relationship between democracy and evidence, and between science and freedom, that led to the founding of the United States and to its eventual world leadership.

      131 votes
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        1 comment  ·  Education  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
      • 3 votes
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          0 comments  ·  Nanotechnology  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
        • Why do we make it so hard for foreign students to remain in the US after they have earned an advanced degree from an American university?

          American universities attract the best students from around the world, but immigration policy forces them to leave upon graduation. How can keep these people here where they can do the most good for the US?

          1 vote
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            0 comments  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
          • Can the federal government justify prohibition of research into therapeutic applications of Schedule 1 controlled drugs including cannabis?

            For decades many who advocate drug prohibition, particularly cannabis prohibition, have trotted out the cliche', "More research is needed!" as an excuse to continue current drug policies. Yet prohibition of clinical research into therapeutic applications of cannabis remains enshrined in law and policy. The NIDA is the gate keeper for all such research, but they openly state that they will not permit such research. Why can't we at least allow or even encourage bona fide scientific research into this topic?

            1 vote
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              0 comments  ·  Health  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
            • 124 votes
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                1 comment  ·  Scientific Integrity  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
              • 3 votes
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                  0 comments  ·  Information Technology  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                • 3 votes
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                    0 comments  ·  Intellectual Property  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                  • How can policy help science and technology save us from our own use of science and technology?

                    When a voter asks you what is the benefit of
                    billions of dollars being spent to find the Higgs boson,
                    what would you say?
                    What can we do about islands of plastic in three oceans?
                    What about national leaders and business executives
                    who can not be convinced that global warming is as important as the
                    profit bottom line?
                    Something is very wrong when supersonic airplanes are less
                    important that cruise missiles.
                    When it takes more 40 years for archaeologists to admit that
                    men have been in the new world since before the last ice age era
                    was over while persecuting…

                    1 vote
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                      0 comments  ·  Research Funding  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                    • How old is the Earth?

                      If they can't correctly answer this then they are incapable of accepting basic realities or are unable to accept that better information leads to better decisions. After all if you tell a creationist that the oceans are acidifying faster than they have in the last 300 my why do they care? They think the Earth is only 6,000 years old so to them it's just more "wrong" science.

                      245 votes
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                        6 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                      • Gas from fracking promises energy independence & low CO2 (vs. coal). How will you protect ground water near these wells from contamination?

                        Coal produces more than half of the electrical power in US. Simply replacing coal with natural gas cuts power plant CO2 emissions in half and eliminates other pollutants (mercury, SO2, particulates, ash). Most to the world's known gas lies in formations under the US. Recovering this gas requires fracking. Fracking has reportedly contaminated some local water supplies. The petroleum industry denies responsibility. However, it keeps details of this process secret, so the public cannot determine the environmental risk, or to what extent, regulation of this technology is appropriate.

                        111 votes
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                          1 comment  ·  Water  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                        • How do you plan to deal with the increasing scarcity of clean water - for irrigation, drinking, washing, waste, etc.?

                          Educate people about where their water comes from and how is it used. Work toward guaranteeing a safe supply of drinking water for all people. Enforce existing regulations about water usage; reevaluate current legislation regarding water usage in communities & craft updated legislation if necessary. Encourage drinking of tap water; set up a regular, consistent test for tap-water potability. Encourage rain water collection for garden use. Encourage grey water systems for residential & commercial spaces. Enforce proper treatment of effluent and proper containment of dangerous/unusable fluids (e.g., nuclear reactor cooling water) that could contaminate groundwater/water bodies. Encourage methods and technologies…

                          110 votes
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                            0 comments  ·  Water  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                          • Which would need more immediate exec action: establish consensus on assessment of risk, or act w/maximun confidence but on incomplete data?

                            This question is intended to judge candidates' process/criteria in decision(s) to take action. I phrased it without any obviously 'scientific' terms or concepts, I hope. I am certain this could be dramatically improved w a bit of group crit/design activity...

                            1 vote
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                              0 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                            • Is there an optimum income distribution resulting in a maximum GDP growth?

                              Is more people with a little more money better than one person with all the money? In the latter case would there be any GDP growth at all?.

                              1 vote
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                                0 comments  ·  Economics  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                              • 436 votes
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                                  13 comments  ·  Scientific Integrity  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                • Name two currently active basic scientists you think exemplify what American science does best, and explain their value to the nation.

                                  Do any of the candidates know who does this work, or how it impacts the long term health of the nation?

                                  97 votes
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                                    0 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                  • 95 votes
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                                      5 comments  ·  Space  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                    • Should we use more resources to analyze old data?

                                      Many scientific programs collect tons of data and samples, then the scientists write their preliminary reports, publish their reports in some journals, and then move onto the next project because they don't have the funding to store and analyze all that data. Archiving collections for future research doesn't have the glamour of collecting new data but it is important for analyzing changes over time. This is true for sediment and ice cores, moon rocks, animal and plant collections, etc. It would be much cheaper to analyze the rest of the moon rocks than going to get more. The archives would…

                                      1 vote
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                                        0 comments  ·  Research Funding  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                      • Should federal research money allow for open access of published research

                                        Federal supported research should allow for open access of its content in scientific journals

                                        87 votes
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                                          0 comments  ·  Research Funding  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                        • How do you view state legislation to redefine natural science with relativistic standards, particularly in light of evolutionary theory?

                                          There are multiple postings regarding the importance of defining scientific theory, the scientific method, as well as directly questioning a candidate's stance on whether they believe in evolution, global warming, etc. I would like to know if a candidate has a stance, or even an awareness, of the effects of anti-science PR campaigns such as that sponsored by the Discovery Institute in regards to public education.

                                          82 votes
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                                            0 comments  ·  Education  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

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