The Questions

2016's Top Presidential Science, Engineering, Tech, Health & Environmental Questions

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The above organizations crowdsourced and refined these questions from hundreds submitted. More than fifty of America's leading nonpartisan science & engineering organizations have signed the letter to the presidential candidates below. Together, we represent tens of millions of Americans, and the majority of the US science and engineering enterprise. 

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The Challenge to the Presidential Candidates and to the Press

Science, engineering, technology, health and environmental issues now affect voters’ lives at least as much as the foreign policy, economic policy, and faith and values views that candidates traditionally share with journalists on the campaign trail. America’s leading science and engineering organizations are urging the candidates and the press to give equal priority to discussion of these important issues in the national dialogue, so that well-informed voters may continue to guide the democratic process. We offer the following twenty questions, and ask the major political party candidates to proivide responses, as they did in 2008 and 2012.


20 Questions for the Presidential Candidates 


Circuit board

1. Innovation

Science and engineering have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII. But some reports question America’s continued leadership in these areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation? 




2. Research

Many scientific advances require long-term investment to fund research over a period of longer than the two, four, or six year terms that govern political cycles. In the current climate of budgetary constraints, what are your science and engineering research priorities and how will you balance short-term versus long-term funding?  



3. Climate Change

The Earth’s climate is changing and political discussion has become divided over both the science and the best response. What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?



Deforestation for a palm oil plantation

4. Biodiversity

Biological diversity provides food, fiber, medicines, clean water and many other products and services on which we depend every day. Scientists are finding that the variety and variability of life is diminishing at an alarming rate as a result of human activity. What steps will you take to protect biological diversity? 



Internet Connections

5. The Internet

The Internet has become a foundation of economic, social, law enforcement, and military activity. What steps will you take to protect vulnerable infrastructure and institutions from cyber attack, and to provide for national security while protecting personal privacy on electronic devices and the internet? 



Mental Health

6. Mental Health

Mental illness is among the most painful and stigmatized diseases, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates it costs America more than $300 billion per year. What will you do to reduce the human and economic costs of mental illness?



Obama speaks at a solar farm

7. Energy

Strategic management of the US energy portfolio can have powerful economic, environmental, and foreign policy impacts. How do you see the energy landscape evolving over the next 4 to 8 years, and, as President, what will your energy strategy be? 



PISA scores 

8. Education

American students have fallen in many international rankings of science and math performance, and the public in general is being faced with an expanding array of major policy challenges that are heavily influenced by complex science. How would your administration work to ensure all students including women and minorities are prepared to address 21st century challenges and, further, that the public has an adequate level of STEM literacy in an age dominated by complex science and technology?



CDC's Dr Jordan Tappero readies to don goggles and treat ebola

9. Public Health

Public health efforts like smoking cessation, drunk driving laws, vaccination, and water fluoridation have improved health and productivity and save millions of lives. How would you improve federal research and our public health system to better protect Americans from emerging diseases and other public health threats, such as antibiotic resistant superbugs?



Center pivot irrigation system

10. Water

The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a dizzying array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution, and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values.  If you are elected, what steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?



Nuclear plant on the Hudson River near NYC

11. Nuclear Power

Nuclear power can meet electricity demand without producing greenhouse gases, but it raises national security and environmental concerns. What is your plan for the use, expansion, or phasing out of nuclear power, and what steps will you take to monitor, manage and secure nuclear materials over their life cycle?



Milking cows

12. Food

Agriculture involves a complex balance of land and energy use, worker health and safety, water use and quality, and access to healthy and affordable food, all of which have inputs of objective knowledge from science. How would you manage the US agricultural enterprise to our highest benefit in the most sustainable way? 



Peoples Climate March in NYC

13. Global Challenges

We now live in a global economy with a large and growing human population. These factors create economic, public health, and environmental challenges that do not respect national borders. How would your administration balance national interests with global cooperation when tackling threats made clear by science, such as pandemic diseases and climate change, that cross national borders?



A man wears a mask to protect against air pollution

14. Regulations

Science is essential to many of the laws and policies that keep Americans safe and secure. How would science inform your administration's decisions to add, modify, or remove federal regulations, and how would you encourage a thriving business sector while protecting Americans vulnerable to public health and environmental threats?



CDC Infographic

15. Vaccination

Public health officials warn that we need to take more steps to prevent international epidemics from viruses such as Ebola and Zika. Meanwhile, measles is resurgent due to decreasing vaccination rates. How will your administration support vaccine science? 



The International Space Station

16. Space

There is a political debate over America’s national approach to space exploration and use. What should America's national goals be for space exploration and earth observation from space, and what steps would your administration take to achieve them?




17. Opioids

There is a growing opioid problem in the United States, with tragic costs to lives, families and society. How would your administration enlist researchers, medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies in addressing this issue?



Commercial fishing boats in New Bedford Harbor, MA

18. Ocean Health

There is growing concern over the decline of fisheries and the overall health of the ocean: scientists estimate that 90% of stocks are fished at or beyond sustainable limits, habitats like coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What efforts would your administration make to improve the health of our ocean and coastlines and increase the long-term sustainability of ocean fisheries?



Vinod Khosla

19. Immigration

There is much current political discussion about immigration policy and border controls. Would you support any changes in immigration policy regarding scientists and engineers who receive their graduate degree at an American university? Conversely, what is your opinion of recent controversy over employment and the H1-B Visa program? 




20. Scientific Integrity

Evidence from science is the surest basis for fair and just public policy, but that is predicated on the integrity of that evidence and of the scientific process used to produce it, which must be both transparent and free from political bias and pressure. How will you foster a culture of scientific transparency and accountability in government, while protecting scientists and federal agencies from political interference in their work? 



The Letter to the Presidential Candidates


Dear (Candidates)

Enclosed please find a presidential candidates questionnaire entitled

“2016’s Top Presidential Science, Tech, Engineering, Health and Environmental Questions.” 

These 20 questions were solicited from the public and refined by experts at America’s leading nonpartisan science and engineering organizations.

President Obama, Senator McCain, and Governor Romney answered similar questions in 2008 and 2012. Our promotion of their responses garnered more than 850 million earned media impressions each cycle.

We kindly request the following:

A) Please submit written responses to the questions by September 6 to

B) Please attend a forum, hosted by our organizations, to discuss your positions on these 20 major policy questions, broadcast by a mutually agreed upon broadcast partner.

Science, engineering, health and environmental issues affect every voter’s life as profoundly as the foreign policy, economic policy, and faith and values candidates often debate. In order to successfully manage these increasingly complex issues in the policymaking process, we need to find new ways to incorporate them into our national dialog. Your leadership will help the nation in that process, and polling shows that 87 percent of American voters want to know candidates’ views on these broad issues before they vote.

The ScienceDebate project is supported by nearly every major science organization and university in America.  Supporters are listed at

Thank you for your leadership and your attention to addressing these important policy issues with us and on the campaign trail.



*American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Association of Geographers

*American Chemical Society

American Fisheries Society

American Geophysical Union

*American Geosciences Institute

*American Institute of Biological Sciences

American Institute of Professional Geologists 

American Rock Mechanics Association

American Society for Engineering Education

American Society of Agronomy

American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

American Society of Mammalogists

American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Association for Women Geoscientists

Association of Ecosystem Research Centers

Automation Federation

*Biophysical Society

Botanical Society of America

Carnegie Institution for Science

Conservation Lands Foundation

Crop Science Society of America

Duke University

Ecological Society of America

Geological Society of America


International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Materials Research Society

NACE International, The Worldwide Corrosion Authority

*National Academy of Engineering

*National Academy of Medicine

*National Academy of Sciences

National Cave and Karst Research Institute

*National Center for Science Education

National Ground Water Association

Natural Science Collections Alliance

Northeastern University

Organization of Biological Field Stations

Paleontological Society


Scientific American magazine

Seismological Society of America

*Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Society of Fire Protection Engineers

Society of Wetland Scientists

Society of Women Engineers

Soil Science Society of America

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Tufts University

*Union of Concerned Scientists

University City Science Center

*U.S. Council on Competitiveness

The Wildlife Society

World Endometriosis Research Foundation America


*Supplied experts to the questions development process
**Lead organizer

Full list of organizational supporters of the ScienceDebate initiative