February 11, 2008
The following invitation has been sent to representatives of the viable candidates for president. "Viable candidates" is defined as candidates who have a mathematical chance of becoming president, and who show a minimum 15% support level in the most recent national poll averages as published by RealClearPolitics.com. If at the time of the debate an invited candidate has withdrawn or is no longer viable by the above definition, they will not participate. If a new viable candidate emerges before the debate, he or she will be invited. The invitation was therefore sent to the following candidates (in alphabetical order): Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Barack Obama.
Update 1: March 4, 2008: Mike Huckabee has dropped out and so his invitation is withdrawn.
A joint initiative of:
Science Debate Inc.
in partnership with
The National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Engineering
The Institute of Medicine
The American Association for the Advancement of Science
The Council on Competitiveness
The Franklin Institute
Dear Candidates for President of the United States:
We invite you to participate in Science Debate 2008, a presidential candidates debate about issues in science and technology policy that are vital to the future of America and the planet.
WHO WE ARE
We are a non-partisan organization of leading universities, industry associations and other organizations, together with thousands of concerned citizens. Our members include leaders from the American education, science, medical, engineering and business communities. Our group includes Nobel Laureates and other leading scientists and engineers, university presidents, business leaders, labor leaders, economists, Members of Congress, current and former presidential science advisory committee members and science advisers and other government leaders, as well as the heads of America's major scientific and engineering organizations, and the editors of America's major science and technology publications. We are, in short, much of the American scientific and technological community.
Together, we represent over 125 million American voters who are concerned about the future of our nation.
WHY THIS DEBATE AT THIS TIME
Science and technology are responsible for half our nation's growth in GDP over the last half century, and have changed every aspect of our lives, our economy, our health, and our environment.
The next president of the United States will face unprecedented scientific and technological policy challenges and opportunities, three classes of which poll at the top of voter concerns: the economy and economic competitiveness; healthcare; and the environment. Candidates should have ideas about what kinds of policies will best address these issues, and should inform the voters of their views.
The debate may include such policy issues as: American economic competitiveness and support for scientific research; policy approaches to climate change; clean energy; the healthcare crisis; science education and technology in schools; scientific integrity; GM agriculture; transportation infrastructure; immigration; the genome; data privacy; intellectual property; pandemic diseases; the health of the oceans; water resources; stem cells; conservation and species loss; population; the space program, and others.
This is a policy debate. It is not intended to be a science quiz. Nor are we interested in state-level battles such as the evolution versus creationism/ID debate. Our goal is to find out how aware candidates are of America's major science and technology problems and opportunities, and how they propose to offer the kind of visionary leadership and policy solutions that will tackle those challenges and ensure America's place as the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation on earth. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are such a leader.
A FAIR AND IMPARTIAL VENUE
The primary cosponsors among us are the leaders in American science, technology, health, and industry. Among the many institutions endorsing this request, the AAAS, The National Academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Medicine, The Council on Competitiveness, and our venue partner, The Franklin Institute, all have venerable traditions of non-partisan leadership at the juncture of science and policy in our nation's history:
- The AAAS was created in 1848 as the first permanent organization formed to promote the development of science and engineering in the United States, and is now the world's largest general scientific society, serving 10 million individuals.
- The NAS was chartered by Congress and signed into being by President Lincoln in 1863 to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.
- Formed in 1986 during the term of President Reagan, the Council on Competitiveness is the only group of corporate CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders committed to ensuring the future prosperity of all Americans through enhanced competitiveness in the global economy and the creation of high-value economic activity in the United States.
- The Franklin Institute was formed in 1824 and is one of the premier science centers in the United States. The Franklin Institute excels at making science accessible to the American public. Named after Benjamin Franklin and located in Philadelphia, there is perhaps no place in America that better exemplifies the juncture of science, engineering, policy and the general public.
The debate will be held at 7PM on Friday, April 18, 2008 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This
is four days prior to the Pennsylvania primary. The debate is
non-partisan. All viable candidates for President will be invited. It
will be held even if only one candidate participates.
The cosponsors have reputations for putting on fair and informative events serving the best interests of the public and the highest principles of this nation. We intend to make the debate available for broadcast on nationwide television on April 18 and re-broadcast at a later time on both television and the internet.
The cosponsors are uniquely positioned to produce the best possible debate:
- The Franklin Institute has frequently worked with the Secret Service and other local authorities to provide a safe experience, and has a successful track record of producing high profile events and programs.
- The organizations have a proven system for handling credentials for visiting journalists and providing them with work space.
- The questions are being determined by a bipartisan panel.
- The moderator will be a respected public figure in science or science journalism.
- The location is convenient, scenic, and symbolic - and immediately before the primary.
We are still putting together the format and details will be forthcoming.
We want to re-emphasize that this is a policy debate focusing on matters that are of major concern to a majority of American voters. Our aim is to elevate our national political dialogue, educate the voters, and help chart a new direction for the next period in American history.
We hope we can count on your participation.
The Science Debate 2008 Committee:
Vern Ehlers (co-chair), Republican Member of Congress
Rush Holt (co-chair), Democratic Member of Congress
Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin; former Undersecretary of the Army
Arne Carlson, past Governor of Minnesota; past chair, American Express Funds board
Matthew Chapman, writer/director, science writer; President of Science Debate Inc
Austin Dacey, contributing editor, The Skeptical Inquirer magazine
Calvin DeWitt, President, Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists
James Jensen, Director of Government Affairs, The National Academies
Sheril Kirshenbaum, marine biologist, Duke University
Lawrence Krauss, Professor of Astrophysics, Case Western Reserve University
Alan Leshner, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
James McCarthy, Professor of Oceanography, Harvard University
Chris Mooney, science writer and science blogger, The Intersection
Shawn Lawrence Otto, writer/director; political consultant; CEO of Science Debate Inc
John Rennie, Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American magazine
Deborah Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness
Signed by us on behalf of the following signatory organizations, institutions, and individuals