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 reform graduate-level STEM training so that this taxpayer investment continues to foster US preeminence in STEM fields?

    Recent commentary from scientific thought leaders suggests that in many STEM fields we are producing far too many PhD-trained professionals for the available jobs with a publicly-funded graduate education system that has not shifted focus from training researchers for the professoriate since its establishment in the 1950s. How do you propose to modernize the American system of graduate science education to meet the demand for STEM expertise in today's society and maintain US competitiveness?

    12 votes
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      0 comments  ·  Competitiveness  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
    • What would you do to address the impending problem of peak oil?

      According to leading experts, because of the increase in demand by developing nations (China, India, etc), and our own large consumption, world oil production will reach a plateau around 2030. What do you propose to solve this problem before it becomes catastrophic?

      22 votes
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        0 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
      • What is the best way for the government to finance research: grants, loans, prizes, etc...?

        Grant system is currently competitive and how the vast majority of academic research is financed. The loan program to private companies has recently come under fire in recent instances of company bankruptcy and political cronyism. The prize system, while relatively new, has show some success when properly implemented. All three methods have pros/cons. Any other ideas? Do the candidates even think it is appropriate to spend federal money on science and technology?

        16 votes
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          0 comments  ·  Research Funding  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
        • 82 votes
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            0 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
          • 22 votes
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              0 comments  ·  Economics  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
            • What actions will you take to promote the development and deployment of American-made, sustainable fuels?

              For example, oil companies are more than 100 years old, and very profitable. They don't need subsidies and tax breaks any longer, and this corporate welfare keeps the price of gas artificially low. Will you give subsidies and tax breaks to green energy companies instead, and stop them for oil companies?

              10 votes
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                0 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
              • What would you do to make NASA and space exploration a priority?

                Neil deGrasse Tyson, a renowned physicist for NASA, recently said that the fact America no longer prioritizes space exploration is a "tragic misstep," and the shuttle program, "boldly went where hundreds had gone before." With the recent budget cuts to NASA and the decline of American supremacy in space, what would you do to restart our space exploration programs to the Moon and Mars?

                141 votes
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                  0 comments  ·  Space  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                • Do you support the idea that every dollar spent on advertising prescription medicine be matched in price reductions of that patent medicine?

                  Prescription medicines are very expensive, and advertising on TV and radio increases that cost. Most people are not knowledgeable about the biochemical effects and results from those medicines, yet the pharmaceutical industry is targeting the patient as a consumer, not the doctor as a specifically educated dispenser of medicine. The advertising dollars are huge, but they add to the consumer cost, encouraging people to ask for patent medicines that may not help them, and indeed, may harm them. Remember the phen-phen debacle, and the ongoing Amadourin, Vioxx, Trasylol, Amiodarone, Plavex, Celebrex lawsuits, and the increasing numbers joining the lawsuits against…

                  65 votes
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                    0 comments  ·  Health  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                  • Education

                    What are your plans for the ascendance of nanotechnology in the United States? Do you have a comprehensive plan similar to the concentration of American education vis-à-vis the post-“Sputnik moment” of the 1960s – 70s?

                    7 votes
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                      0 comments  ·  Education  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                    • What role should the government have in promoting healthy lifestyles?

                      Healthy lifestyles are the key to lower healthcare costs.

                      19 votes
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                        0 comments  ·  Health  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                      • What should we do to ensure that powerful new technologies don't fall into the wrong hands or otherwise get out of control?

                        Many emerging and future technologies posses the potential to do great harm to humanity if not used properly. For example, the coming decade will see increased use of UAVs by commercial organizations, and possibly private citizens. These drones will be incredibly useful to our society, but would also be powerful weapons in the hands of terrorists. How do we maintain control of the things we create?

                        12 votes
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                          0 comments  ·  National Security  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                        • Do you think it is important to foster worldwide cooperation in protecting marine resources that do not belong to a single country?

                          It's difficult to rally support for protecting migratory species, reducing the giant Pacific Ocean waste bin, etc. when no one country owns the problem. What do we do to protect international waters and resources?

                          10 votes
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                            0 comments  ·  Oceans  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                          • Do you believe that the current USDA low-fat, high-carb recommendations are scientifically reliable?

                            There are a growing number of voices (the most vocal of whom is perhaps Gary Taubes) who argue that the high-carb, low-fat diet promoted by the USDA has helped bring about the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US. The White House should at least entertain the possibility that current nuritional dogma is not only flawed (if not altogether wrong), but based on poor science.

                            25 votes
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                              0 comments  ·  Agriculture  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                            • 52 votes
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                                2 comments  ·  Health  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                              • Which popular scientific theories do you disagree with that lack a general appearence of political expediency?

                                Controversy seems relegated to two classes of theories: 1. Those considered incompatible with one's faith, and 2. Those which, if accepted, lead to considerable financial costs and potentially undercut one's political ideology. Ironically, arguments for (1) inevitably seek to control liberties - in direct contradition to arguments for (2). And yet the same groups frequently fall into both categories.

                                14 votes
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                                  0 comments  ·  Scientific Integrity  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                • What are intellectual standards, how are they used and can you name them?

                                  http://criticalthinking.org

                                  contains intellectual standards that act as a checklist for decision making.

                                  16 votes
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                                    0 comments  ·  Education  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                  • How would you prioritize the development and commercialization of LFTR reactors?

                                    This is the most important topic in the world today involving politics, science and energy. For some reason no one in US government seems to be aware of it. Who is currently working on a thorium reactor? China, France, Czechs, Russia, India. The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor‎ LFTR was an incredible design devised by Alvin Weinberg and his team over 40 years ago. A design that safely turns off in an emergency, does not use high pressure cooling water that can blow off and does not create large amounts of radioactive waste. It ran at Oak Ridge National Lab for…

                                    113 votes
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                                      2 comments  ·  Energy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                    • What distinctions would you draw between the principles behind free market economics and Darwinian evolution?

                                      How can one party expound the virtues of market competition without accepting biological evolution? Conversely, are there reasons to intercede in markets to ensure survival of some industries vital to national interest? To ensure meaningful employment and adequate safety net for citizens?

                                      27 votes
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                                        0 comments  ·  Science Literacy  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                      • Why do you oppose drug decriminalization when science and practical experience in Portugal support it?

                                        "Illegal drugs should be decriminalized and a policy similar to the one in Portugal should be enacted.

                                        95 votes
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                                          2 comments  ·  Health  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
                                        • Competition between scientists is increasingly fierce as discretionary funds shrink. How will you make science competitive in a healthy way?

                                          In other words, there is a balance between cooperation and competition among professional scientists. On the one hand, competition drives innovation and continual improvement. On the other, too much competition means reluctance to share data or methods necessary to reproduce results, or even outright fraud. How do you aim to encourage a healthy balance between competition and collaboration?

                                          7 votes
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                                            0 comments  ·  Research Funding  ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

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