Many of the engineers Mr. Obama met at Google were from Asia or Eastern Europe. "As far as I could tell, not one was black or Latino," he wrote. His guide told him that finding American-born engineers of any race was getting so hard that American companies were setting up shop abroad, in part for access to talent.
America, Mr. Obama wrote, cannot compete with countries like China and India simply by cutting costs and shrinking government. "If we want an innovation economy," he added, "one that generates more Googles each year, then we have to invest in our future innovators — by doubling federal funding of basic research over the next five years, training 100,000 more engineers and scientists over the next four years, or providing new research grants to the most outstanding early-career researchers in the country."
"I am uniquely qualified to lead our nation during this technological revolution," he said in the survey response, pointing to his Navy experience with advanced technologies as well as his leadership on the Senate commerce committee. "Under my guiding hand," he added, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that prompted the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology.
The two candidates' differing approaches (and priority) to science issues:
According to the journal Science, ... Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former economic adviser and head of the Congressional Budget Office under Mr. Bush, serves as Mr. McCain's "point man" on science, having been in touch with experts on climate, space and "science in general."
On the other hand, Mr. Obama established a science advisory committee led by Dr. Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate who is president of the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Varmus said the group's leaders communicated almost daily with the campaign's policy leaders.
Indeed, McCain approaches science as just another economic issue:
Mr. McCain says easing regulatory and tax burdens will encourage private spending on research. (Experts say industry now tends to focus on near-term applications, while government finances more basic research that has greater breakthrough potential.)
The McCain campaign has said he will encourage corporate research by reducing the capital gains and corporate taxes and promoting "conditions favorable to investment." In response to a survey by Science Debate 2008, a private group that tried to arrange a debate on science issues, he cited "burdensome regulations" as inhibiting innovation in the United States and said he would work to remove them.
The choice on science issues is clear. McCain mouths platitudes but remains hampered by the anti-intellectualism and anti-government view of his base. Obama has clear goals and wants to address underlying problems with the state of science in this country.