about us

Science Debate strives to get science and technology the attention they deserve in politics by engaging elected officials, the public and the media on these issues of vital importance to modern life. We are now working year round on these efforts - building on our work on one of the most successful science policy initiatives in history - getting the U.S. presidential candidates in the last three elections to answer key questions on these topics.

We are a registered 501(c)(3). We are strictly nonpartisan – we simply want people from all walks of life to discuss these issues for the well-being of our nation and society. All donations are tax-deductible.

Mission Statement

To ensure that the key science and technology issues that affect our lives get the attention they deserve though political discourse and public dialogue. Furthermore, to incentivize political candidates and elected officials specifically to make decisions based on evidence instead of ideology wherever possible.

History

Science Debate was founded in the run-up to the 2008 U.S. presidential election as an effort to address the lack of discourse on science and technology by the then presidential candidates. Within weeks of its founding, people and organizations from across the political spectrum signed on the following petition: "Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for public debates in which the U.S. presidential and congressional candidates share their views on science and technology, health and medicine, and the environment."

The supporters included prominent institutions such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the U.S. National Academies, as well as political movers ranging from John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, on the left to Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker, on the right.

In 2008, then nominees Senator Barak Obama and Senator John McCain agreed to participate in an online “debate.” The candidates’ answers to “The Fourteen Top Science Questions Facing America” were published in Nature. In 2012, a similar endeavor was undertaken with President Obama and then Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney. Scientific American, our media partner in 2012, published the answers to the fourteen questions and rated them based on current scientific understanding at that time. In both years, the candidates' responses made nearly 850 million media impressions.

In 2016, all four major candidates: Donald Trump, Senator Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein responded in writing to twenty key science questions facing America. Despite continued sustained efforts in 2008, 2012 and 2016 for a live, televised debate, the candidates would not commit to this format. From our experiences, we believe additional public pressure is necessary for ultimately achieving such an outcome. As a result, we are now undertaking a suite of new programs to try to enhance public engagement on these issue as we build our efforts for the 2020 elections and beyond.

Who We Are

Matthew Chapman

PRESIDENT

Matthew is an accomplished filmmaker, author, and journalist. He has written and directed five independent movies, most recently The Ledge starring Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Terrence Howard, and Patrick Wilson. His books include Trials of The Monkey - An Accidental Memoir and 40 Days and 40 Nights Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities On Trial in Pennsylvania. He has also written for Harper’s Magazine, the Huffington Post, and National Geographic, among others. He is a noted speaker on the importance of science and science education, a passion that arose partly from his ancestry as a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

Sheril Kirshenbaum

VICE PRESIDENT

Sheril works to enhance public understanding of science and improve communication between scientists, policymakers and the public. She has authored two books, including Unscientific America with Chris Mooney and blogs at Scientific American. Sheril has been a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar; a Marshall Memorial Fellow, a legislative NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in the U.S. Senate and a Next Generation Fellow through the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. She holds graduate degrees in marine biology and policy and previously worked with the Webber Energy Group at UT Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy and Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. She has also been a visiting scholar with The Pimm Group, a fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and a Howard Hughes Research Fellow.

Nancy Holt

PRESIDENT

Nancy became involved in science policy through an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship where she spent two years working on international climate change-related issues for the U.S. Department of State. She then spent six years as a Senor Climate Change Specialist working on a variety of environmental and energy-related projects for public and private sector clients at Leidos (previously SAIC). She made short stop in philanthropy and management consulting in NY before meeting the Science Debate team and deciding that she needed to head back to working on science policy issues. Nancy holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.

Michael Halpern

VICE PRESIDENT

Michael Halpern is deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In his role, he works to promote solutions that ensure government decisions are fully informed by scientific information, and that the public understands the scientific basis for those decisions. He also oversees efforts to enable scientists to more effectively engage the public. Michael has extensive expertise in defending scientists from harassment and creating conditions that make science and scientists more resilient to political, industry, and ideological influence. He speaks regularly on the use and misuse of science in decision making, and the forces that drive attacks on science  He blogs regularly in The Guardian and has appeared in scores of national and international media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Boston Globe, CNN, National Public Radio, NBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Michael holds a B.A. in sociology and communication studies from Macalester College.

Lawrence Krauss

VICE PRESIDENT

Lawrence M. Krauss is an internationally known theoretical physicist with wide research interests, including the interface between elementary particle physics and cosmology. Krauss is the author of over 300 scientific publications, as well as numerous popular articles on physics and astronomy. He is the author of 10 popular books, including the international bestseller The Physics of Star Trek (1995) and most recently A Universe from Nothing (2012), which immediately became New York Times Bestseller. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his research and writing and is the only physicist to have received the major awards from all three U.S Physics Societies. Hailed, by Scientific American as a rare scientific Public Intellectual, he frequently contributes to newspapers, including the New York Times and Wall St. Journal, and appears on television and radio. He is currently Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, and Inaugural Director of the Origins Project. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jayde Lovell

VICE PRESIDENT

Jayde is the Founder and Executive Director of ReAgency, a science PR company specializing in science storytelling whose clients include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, NASA, Academic Ventures Exchange, and the American Institute of Physics.  She has a dual background in public relations and science and is currently host of ‘ScIQ’, the science show on The Young Turks Network, based at YouTube Studios in New York City. Jayde directs video news production at the New York Hall of Sciences, and in 2015 was a winner of “The Next MacGyver” television production competition by the National Academy of Engineering.  Jayde was named in Anthill’s ’30 Under 30″, has appeared with President Obama at SxSW in Austin, Texas, presented on science marketing at NYU & Yale, has given speeches to Google and YouTube, and hosted live TV at Harvard University. She is also the founding co-partner of Story Circles Narrative Training along with Dr. Randy Olson, author of three books on science communication. Their clients include USDA, the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Genentech and Roche Pharmaceuticals.

Why Science Debate?

Science and engineering have driven half the nation’s growth in GDP over the last half-century, and lie at the center of many of the major policy and economic challenges the next president will face. We feel that a presidential debate on science would be helpful to America’s national political dialogue.

I support Science Debate because I do not believe that the overwhelming evidence on climate change should be a political tool. An informed populace is our greatest hope.

Kathleen Turner
Actor and Activist

I support Science Debate because scientific issues inform almost all important public policy, from energy, to the environment, and from health to national security.  Moreover, the economic engine driving modern civilization derives from technology based on fundamental curiosity driven research a generation earlier.   Anyone running for high political office should care about these vital issues and should therefore have informed views about either how their public policy proposals derive from empirical knowledge, or who they can turn to for sound advice on these subjects.  And the public needs to know if they are going to make an informed decision on who to vote for.  This is central to the functioning of a healthy democracy.

Lawrence M. Krauss
Chair of the Science Advisory Committee

"The future economic success of the United States depends on out-performing the competition with smart people and smart ideas. Without the best education system and investments in basic research and development we will become a second rate economic power."

Alan Leshner
Former CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

"The future economic success of the United States depends on out-performing the competition with smart people and smart ideas. Without the best education system and investments in basic research and development we will become a second rate economic power."

Craig Barrett
Former Chairman, Intel

"As I’ve said time and again, we have to recognize there are roughly seven billion people in the world, half of whom make less than $2 a day. We cannot and would not want to compete with that. We have to compete at a higher level with a better equipped and skilled workforce than that of our global counterparts – and we do that by focusing on science, education and innovation. I’m confident that the same enthusiasm and coordinated effort that led to the passage of the America COMPETES Act will bring this debate to fruition. As Former Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and the father of a 10-year old daughter, I understand we cannot allow our children to become the first American generation to inherit a lower standard of living than their parents. Ensuring our kids have the best education and jobs available to them is a challenge all of us must undertake."

Bart Gordon
Former Congressman (D-TN- 6) and Former Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology

"If we are going to successfully tackle the problem of energy - broadly defined as providing sufficient energy to support higher standards of living for a growing fraction of the world's population without creating intractable conflict over resources or irreparable harm to our environment, then substantial advances in the state of the art in energy generation, distribution, and end use are required. It seems clear that the linked problems of energy, environment, prosperity, and national security are part of the political debate. It is less clear whether there is an understanding that while it is desirable to make full use of the best available technologies this by itself falls far short of what is needed. Without a significant and sustained effort in longer term research and development we will not have solutions that lead us to a desirable future. We need to hear the extent to which the candidates understand that solving the energy problem is a science problem of the first order."

Thomas Mason
Director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

"The United States has long been the driving force behind many of today’s greatest scientific and technological discoveries and innovations. Our advances in medicine and engineering have ensured that we have one of the highest standards of living across the globe. But, more and more, our dominance in the marketplace has been undermined by our inability and unwillingness to fund education, research and development at competitive levels with other countries. America’s leaders already have the authority and the resources needed to stimulate and sustain a fertile scientific environment. Now they must demonstrate the willpower to lead, the open mindedness to inspire, and the generous spirit to support the advancement of cutting- edge knowledge for future generations of Americans and the world."

Donna Shalala
President, Clinton Foundation, Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

"We are selecting a leader for a society dependent on science and technology and we have yet to show the slightest bit of curiosity regarding their views on any matters in either field. We have seen what seven years of negligence and disdain for science has done to American pre-eminence. This debate is not a science test meant to trip up the candidates—but a means for the electorate to make an informed decision regarding the candidate’s judgement and capacity to lead us in the 21st century."

Ann Druyan
Emmy Award-winning American writer and Peabody Award-winning producer; CEO, Cosmos Studios

"It is astounding that for all the talk of the future and the bromides about “change” the presidential election has not so far focused on the agents of technological change on which America’s economic future depends."

Harold Evans
British-born journalist and writer, Editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981

Some of the Organizations Who Support Us

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
American Chemical Society (ACS)
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
Aspen Institute
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Council on Competiveness
IEEE-USA
Moms Clean Air Force
National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
National Academy of Medicine (NAM)
National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
NOVA Television Series
Research!America
Science Friday, Inc
Scientific American Magazine
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
The Nature Conservancy
The Scientist Magazine
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Wired.com

Some of the Individuals Who Support Us

Norm Augustine
Former CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation
Stephen Berger
Chairman and Founder, Odyssey Investment Partners
Adam Bly
CEO and Editor-in- Chief, Seed Media Group
Arne Carlson 
Former Republican Governor of Minnesota
Vinton G. Cerf
Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google
Johnny Depp
Actor & Producer
Vern Ehlers
Former Congressman, (R-MI- 3)
Sir Harold Evans
Author, BBC Columnist, editor at large, The Week Magazine, former editor, The Sunday Times
Joel Fields
Executive Producer and Writer, The Americans
Ira Flatow
Executive Producer and Host, NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday
Bill Foster
Former Congressman, (D-IL- 14)
Newt Gingrich
Former U.S. Speaker of the House (R-GA- 6)
Charlie Hunnam
Actor, Screenwriter and Producer
John Holdren
Science Advisor to President Obama Rush Holt
Rush Holt
CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Former Congressman, (D-NJ- 12)
Jay Inslee
Governor, State of Washington
Mae Jemison
President & CEO, Biosentient Corporation; NASA Astronaut 1987-93
Bill McKibben
American environmentalist, journalist and author - Senior Advisor and Co-Founder, 350.org
Marcia McNutt
President, National Academy of Sciences
Elon Musk
CEO & CTO, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), CEO & Product Architect, Tesla Motors; Chairman, SolarCity
Peter Norvig
Director of Research, Google Inc; Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence; Former head of Computational Sciences Division at NASA Ames Research Center; Awarded NASA Exceptional Achievement Award in 2001
Bill Nye
The Science Guy and CEO, The Planetary Society
Randy Olson
Marine Ecologist, Filmmaker, Flock of Dodos
John Podesta
Former White House Chief of Staff, President Clinton; CEO, the Center for American Progress
Nicholas Pritzker
Chairman and CEO, Hyatt Development Corporation
R.T. Rybak
Former Mayor, Minneapolis
David Schwimmer
Actor & Director
Kathleen Turner
Actor/Activist
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Director, Hayden Planetarium
Harold Varmus
Former Director, National Cancer Institute and Former Director of the National Institutes of Health
Cynthia Wainwright
Former Corporate Philanthropist for J.P. Morgan Chase
Tim Walz
Congressman, (D-MN- 1)
Daniel Weiss
President and COO, Metropolitan Museum of Art