Obama and McCain on Science Policy

Finally! Issues! The two presidential candidates responded to questions on science policy.

Obama's answers reflect a realization that competition from the rest of the world is heating up.  He believes that the U.S. needs to invest more in our soft capital in order to maintain our leadership:
Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. For example, the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export.
McCain points out the need to nurture innovation through a free market. He does not see much of a difference between a pro-business policy and a separate science policy:
To maintain American leadership, I believe we must nurture the conditions under which entrepreneurs can continue to prosper by bringing new innovators to market and the American people can reap the rewards.
Obama wants to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by broadening its scope beyond just science and engineering majors: 
All American citizens need high quality STEM education that inspires them to know more about the world around them, engages them in exploring challenging questions, and involves them in high quality intellectual work. STEM education is no longer only for those pursuing STEM careers; it should enable all citizens to solve problems, collaborate, weigh evidence, and communicate ideas. 
whereas McCain sees science as being for geeks only.  He wants more geeks, so the rest of the country don't have to bother their pretty heads while getting law and business degrees:
The diminishing number of science, technology, engineering and math graduates at the college level poses a fundamental and immediate threat to American competitiveness.  We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced engineering, math, science and technology degrees. 
Obama sees technology leadership as being essential to national security:
 It’s essential to create a coherent new defense technology strategy to meet the kinds of threats we may face—asymmetric conflicts, urban operations, peacekeeping missions, and cyber, bio, and proliferation threats, as well as new kinds of symmetric threats. 
whereas McCain sees national security as essentially just military superiority:
As President, I will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland, deterring potential military challenges, responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.
Obama thinks we are underinvesting with research:
Yet, today, we are clearly under-investing in research across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Federal support for the physical sciences and engineering has been declining as a fraction of GDP for decades, and, after a period of growth of the life sciences, the NIH budget has been steadily losing buying power for the past six years. As a result, our science agencies are often able to support no more than one in ten proposals that they receive, arresting the careers of our young scientists and blocking our ability to pursue many remarkable recent advances. Furthermore, in this environment, scientists are less likely to pursue the risky research that may lead to the most important breakthroughs. Finally, we are reducing support for science at a time when many other nations are increasing it, a situation that already threatens our leadership in many critical areas of science. 
while McCain wants to better allocate current research spending:
With spending constraints, it will be more important than ever to ensure we are maximizing our investments in basic research and minimizing the bureaucratic requirements that eat away at the money designed for funding scientists and science. 
On the other subjects, to the best I can tell,  their world-views are the same. 

If I had to summarize, I would say that Obama sees the US slipping behind and wants to broaden and deepen science.  He wants to change science policy to reflect a new set of challenges.  McCain is happy with the state of US science and promises to largely stay out of its way: neither  blocking it (as the Bush administration has done) nor attempting to set its direction (as Obama promises to do).

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