Candidates Answer ScienceDebate 2016 Questions

Science Debate 2016 Presidential Candidates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Tuesday, September 20, 2016

U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer ScienceDebate 2016 Questions

Responses from Gary Johnson complete perspective on all four candidates' views

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20, 2016 —All four major candidates for United States president have now responded to's Top 20 Presidential Science, Engineering, Technology, Health and Environmental  Questions. Governor Gary Johnson provided late responses which the group has posted with those of Clinton, Trump, and Stein at (Individual answers can be jumped to by appending "#1" through "#20" to the link.) 

"It is a truism that to be fair and just, policy decisions should be based on evidence," said Shawn Otto, chair of the grassroots initiative and author of The War on Science. "This is a notion that America's founders held dear. The candidates' responses provide a window into the role evidence from science plays in their decisionmaking."

But, Otto said, the responses also beg further questions. "Now we need journalists and the public to press these candidates for more specifics. How reasonable are their proposals, given the known evidence? What relative roles do ideology and evidence seem to play in their thinking? These are important considerations in electing an executive who will have the power to set policy, guide and enforce regulations, influence research investments, sign treaties, inspire students, encourage innovation, approve laws, manage immigration, and commit soldiers to battle."

A 2015 national poll commissioned by and Research!America revealed that a large majority of Americans (87%) agree, saying that it is important that candidates for President and Congress have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues. 

On August 10, a blue-ribbon coalition of fifty-six leading U.S. nonpartisan organizations, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, in called on U.S. Presidential candidates to address the questions, and encouraged journalists and voters to press the candidates on them during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election season. 

The consortium crowd-sourced and refined hundreds of suggestions, then submitted “the 20 most important, most immediate questions” to the Presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein, "along with an invitation to the candidates to answer them in writing and to discuss them on television," said Otto. 

In both 2008 and 2012, Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney participated. 

The list of organizations supporting the issue discussion is a who’s who of the American science enterprise.

But at its core, ScienceDebate is an individual grassroots initiative.

Full list of organizational supporters of the ScienceDebate initiative


*American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Association of Geographers

*American Chemical Society

American Fisheries Society

American Geophysical Union

*American Geosciences Institute

*American Institute of Biological Sciences

American Institute of Professional Geologists 

American Rock Mechanics Association

American Society for Engineering Education

American Society of Agronomy

American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

American Society of Mammalogists

American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Association for Women Geoscientists

Association of Ecosystem Research Centers

Automation Federation

*Biophysical Society

Botanical Society of America

Carnegie Institution for Science

Conservation Lands Foundation

Crop Science Society of America

Duke University

Ecological Society of America

Geological Society of America


International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Materials Research Society

NACE International, The Worldwide Corrosion Authority

*National Academy of Engineering

*National Academy of Medicine

*National Academy of Sciences

National Cave and Karst Research Institute

*National Center for Science Education

National Ground Water Association

Natural Science Collections Alliance

Northeastern University

Organization of Biological Field Stations

Paleontological Society


Scientific American magazine

Seismological Society of America

*Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Society for Science & the Public

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Society of Fire Protection Engineers

Society of Wetland Scientists

Society of Women Engineers

Soil Science Society of America

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Tufts University

*Union of Concerned Scientists

University City Science Center

*U.S. Council on Competitiveness

The Wildlife Society

World Endometriosis Research Foundation America


*Supplied experts to the questions development process
**Lead organizer


The consortium’s list of 20 questions are available online at




The consortium’s list of 20 questions most important science, engineering, health and environmental questions facing the next President are available at



Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of the Science family of journals:

“Sometimes politicians think science issues are limited to simply things like the budget for NASA or NIH, and they fail to realize that a President’s attitude toward and decisions about science and research affect the public wellbeing, from the growth of our economy, to education, to public health. Voters should have a chance to know where the Presidential candidates stand,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We want journalists and voters to ask these questions insistently of the candidates and their campaign staff.”


Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences:

“In hearing the candidates speak about the issues important to the American people. I am struck by the fact that there is hardly a topic that would not benefit from being informed by the best scientific evidence to guide sound policy. By engaging the candidates in a debate focusing on topics in science, engineering, technology, and innovation, it would be an opportunity for all voters to gauge how the candidates would use sound technical information in their future decision making."


C. D. Mote, Jr., President of the National Academy of Engineering:

"U.S. science and engineering have transformed our lives. In just the last century, U.S. advancements have brought electrification, the automobile, airplane, television, space travel, antibiotics, refrigeration, the Internet, and cell phones, just to name a few. But ahead lie many Grand Challenges for Engineering whose solution in this century have been posited as necessary for simply maintaining our quality of life. Unfortunately, these challenges stand unrecognized in the US Presidential debates."


Victor J. Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine:

“Informing citizens about the health of the nation and discussing pivotal science and policy issues such as mental health, chronic and emerging diseases and other public health threats, and vaccine research are important to not only advance the national dialogue but also improve the country’s overall well-being.”


Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists

"Science is central to policies that protect public health, safety and the environment, from climate change to diet related diseases. Reporters as well as voters should use these statements on science to push the candidates for more details on how they intend on addressing these many societal challenges.”


Norm Augustine, U.S. aerospace industry CEO and former Under Secretary of the Army:

“The solution to many of the greatest challenges faced by our nation will depend to a large degree upon advancements in the fields of science and engineering.  Such challenges include conquering diseases, creating jobs, developing clean energy, providing adequate water supplies, and defending our nation from terrorists and foreign aggressor nations.  It is difficult to imagine how any citizen can intelligently cast their ballot without knowing where each candidate stands on the policy issues that will define whether America remains a leader or becomes a follower in the critical fields of science and engineering.”


Edward Egelman, public affairs chairman and past president of the Biophysical Society:

“Most Americans recognize that science and technology play an increasingly important role in many aspects of our lives. It is also science and technology that will drive the U.S. economy this century. It is imperative, therefore, that people who would like to lead our country provide us with their thoughts on issues involving science and technology.”


Robert Gropp, interim co-executive director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences:

“Science saves lives and improves our quality of life. The federal government provides almost half of the funding for basic research in the United States. This research is the foundation upon which society – from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies – develops new products that improve human health, secures our food supplies, and solves complex environmental problems. Just think of the benefits we have derived from the government’s support of the Human Genome Project. Scientists now have a base of knowledge they can use to more strategically and precisely study diseases and explore new treatments. The public deserves to know the candidates’ positions on science.”


Thomas M. Connelly, Jr., executive director and chief executive officer of the American Chemical Society
“Science is essential for the economic prosperity of our country. It creates jobs, improves our lives and makes our world healthier, safer, and more sustainable. The broader chemistry enterprise directly employs well over 800,000 people in the United States and serves as an important component of our nation’s innovation engine, helping drive job creation and economic growth.  So it’s vital that candidates acknowledge and address the important role science plays in our economy, now and in the future.”



The group created a public service announcement featuring children asking the candidates to debate the big science issues facing the country, at



Broadcast-quality audio clips of chair Shawn Otto can be downloaded from:


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