Election ’08: Science Research and Biomedical Issues

October 15, 2008

images2.jpgCommentary by Andrew McKinstry MD PGY-1  

Reviewed by Albert B. Knapp MD, FACP, NYU Clinical Professor of Medicine 

Biomedical and basic science research are the undisputed driving forces that will shape the future of medicine in the United States.  Both presidential campaigns have weighed in regarding science policy and research funding.  What follows is a quick comparison of the candidates’ stated policies on science research and biomedical issues, as well as any relevant votes they may have cast in the senate.

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

Basic Research Support and Funding:

-Proposes increased funding for physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade.

-Doubling funding for key science agencies including the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)

-Tripling the number of NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Stem Cell Policies:

-Supports expanded federal funding for stem cell research, lifting current ban on funding for new stem cell lines, with development of new stem cell lines from excess embryos in storage at in-vitro fertilization clinics

-Supports stem cell research oversight as per the recommendations of the National Research Council

-Voted for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, (vetoed by President Bush) which would have allowed excess IVF clinic embryos to be used for the creation of new stem cell lines eligible for federal research dollars.

National Science Policy Advising:

-Will appoint an Assistant to the President on Sceince and Technology who will serve as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and report directly to the President

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Basic Research Support and Funding:

-Proposed a 1-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending if elected, which would include freezing the budgets of the major federal science agencies (including the NIH and NSF)

-States that “I have supported increased funding at DOE, NSF and NIH for years and will continue to do so. I will continue my commitment to ensure that the funding is properly managed and that the nation’s research needs are adequately addressed. “

Stem Cell Policies:

-Supports expanded federal funding for stem cell research, lifting current ban on funding for new stem cell lines, with development of new stem cell lines from excess embryos in storage at IVF clinics

-Voted for the Stem Cell Research Enchancement Act of 2007

-Will make the use of cells or tissues from an embryo created for research purposes a federal crime

National Science Policy Advising:

-Supports “having a science and technology advisor within the White House staff and restoring the credibility and role of OSTP as an office within the White House structure.”

Commentary: The Obama-Biden team has produced a comprehensive outline and rationale for their science & technology  policies that is not only very well thought out and crafted but significantly clearer than that of the McCain-Palin ticket.  While both candidates would support federal funding for stem cell research, an Obama administration would increase federal funding for research in comparison to a McCain administration.  The McCain campaign prefers to offer tax breaks and other incentives for private R&D.  In terms of overall science policy, the Obama campaign promises to restore the presidential science advisor to a senior-level position with direct access to the president, as it had been during the Clinton and elder Bush administrations.  The McCain camp hints that it may do the same, though does not specifically state that the science advisor would have direct access to the president.

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