Debates may not be the only way Presidential candidates express their views or present policy positions. Leading scientific organizations such as AAAS, IEEE, National Academy of Sciences and several others jointly developed a set of science questions and asked both Presidential candidates to respond. Head over to ScienceDebate to see a side-by-side comparison of the candidates’ answers. Here is their (partial) response on the topic of fresh water:
8. Fresh Water. Less than one percent of the world’s water is liquid fresh water, and scientific studies suggest that a majority of U.S. and global fresh water is now at risk because of increasing consumption, evaporation and pollution. What steps, if any, should the federal government take to secure clean, abundant fresh water for all Americans?
One might argue that the President is not the only one shaping science/environmental policies at the national level. Lawrence Goldstein writes in Nature that researchers must talk to lawmakers about science.
Some of my colleagues prefer not to interact with members of Congress — they think that one scientist’s voice doesn’t carry much weight amid the cacophony that assails most officials. Yes, the executive branch of the US government receives considerable formal advice on science policy1. But the president can get very little done without the support of Congress.
Members of Congress determine the amount of money available for science, and they often pass major laws affecting science policy. Many of them have never met a working scientist. It is here that individual scientists can have great personal and scientific impact.
This is true at the state level as well.
It’s hard not to agree with the author on this issue. WRI has been engaging with lawmakers in Congress, their staffers and state representatives to emphasize the importance of policies related to water infrastructure and their funding. Golstein ends by saying,
As scientists, it is a mistake for us to say we are too busy to reach out to lawmakers. If we do not try, science funding will continue to decrease in the coming years; lawmakers will enact restrictive policies that are not informed by the best scientific information available; and society will be poorer for our absence.