Obama as a 'Science President'
If he is to satisfy the disparate, eager hopes of Americans, Barack Obama needs to wear more hats than Queen Elizabeth II. One of them will be as a "science president," supporting basic research and science education that will benefit the public good long after he leaves office.
It's clear Mr. Obama is comfortable with technology. He made good use of the Internet to recruit and stay in touch with his followers and raise a huge pile of campaign cash. Earlier this week he confirmed his credentials on fighting climate change - a concern for most of the scientific community - saying that he'll keep it a top priority by folding it into his plan to create "green" jobs.
By now, the case for government support of science would seem easy to make. "[W]ithout scientific progress, no amount of achievement in other directions can insure our health, prosperity, and security as a nation in the modern world," wrote computer scientist Vannevar Bush to President Truman at the end of World War II, noting the scientific progress that had resulted from the war effort. Just weeks after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit Earth, President Eisenhower appointed the first official White House science adviser. He's been followed by 13 others, mostly physicists.
The problem for the next president won't be a lack of science advice. According to a count in 2003, some 8,000 scientists serve on about 400 federal advisory committees. They generate roughly six new government reports per day.
Nearly all the great issues facing Obama involve science or technology as part of the solution, including reviving the economy, reforming healthcare, and keeping the US military the best in the world. …