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AAAS 2012 Elections Site

Obama, Romney Answer Top American Science Questions

CONTACT: Shawn Otto |

SEPTEMBER 4, 2012 — President Barack Obama and his challenger Governor Mitt Romney have answered the Top American Science Questions.  Their answers can be compared at

The questions focus on fourteen key policy issues that, while among the most important, usually get short shrift on the campaign trail.  They include the candidates views of climate change, vaccinations, food safety, energy, education, space, and several other politically charged science issues.

Notable highlights include a shift in Romney's policy toward climate change away from his more recent position of “My view is we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet...” back toward his view in June of 2011 when announcing his run for president.  However Romney's ideas about what to do about the problem are not clear.   They contrast with Obama's, who says he has specifics plans and is taking specific steps such as doubling fuel economy standards, but who was unable to get a cap-and-trade bill through congress.

"While the candidates answers provide important insights on a variety of key topics, they also illustrate just whay a debate on these critical policy issues is so important," said Shawn Lawrence Otto, the leader of the initiative.  "Some of the questions aren't fully answered when they become politically difficult and others could really benefit from followup discussion, for example to hear what ideas the candidates have for solving problems, like climate change, that cross national boundaries."

The discussion of science in politics is becoming more important because science now affects every aspect of life on the planet, said Otto.  "Candidates readily debate jobs and the economy even though they are not economists; they debate foreign policy and military intervention even though they are not diplomats or generals; they debate faith and values even though they are not priests or pastors. They should also be comfortable debating the Top American Science Questions that affect all voters' lives." is a grassoots nonprofit organization funded by individual small donations.  Its supporters include more than 40,000 scientists and engineers, concerned citizens, about 200 leading universities and science organizations, dozens of Nobel laureates, and notable writers and editors.

Along with its media partner Scientific American magazine, the group has also asked some three dozen members of Congress that lead key science committees to answer a subset of eight of the fourteen questions.

The Top American Science Questions were developed by asking thousands of scientists, engineers, and concerned citizens to submit the most important questions they thought the candidates should be debating but weren't. then worked with several leading US science organizations, including the National Academies, the AAAS, the Council on Competitiveness, IEEE-USA, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others listed on the site to refine those questions into the final fourteen that the group universally agreed were the most important.

Barack Obama and John McCain answered similar questions for the group in 2008. 

To date, neither candidate has accepted the group's invitation to a presidential forum on these important questions.  "They're stuck in 20th century thinking," said Otto.  "It's taking them time to realize we're in a new century - the century of science - and that 85% of likely voters want them to be debating these topics.  Every cycle we're making progress."

You can sign up to follow ScienceDebate's efforts at and the group accepts donations to support its work at