Web Date: September 26, 2008
Nobel Laureates Support Obama
IN AN OPEN LETTER to the American people, 62 Nobel Prize winners announced their support for the Democratic candidate for U.S. president, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Of the signers, 14 are Chemistry Nobel Laureates.
"We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness," the Sept. 25 letter said. The signers state that they support Obama's plans for new initiatives in education and training, expanding research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining science advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research.
The letter was announced in a conference call led by three Nobel Prize winners: Harold E. Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Peter C. Agre, director of the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and H. Robert Horvitz, a professor of biology at MIT. Varmus is chairman of the Obama science advisory committee.
The letter criticized the current Administration for engendering a science advisory process "distorted by political considerations."
"We wanted the public to be aware of the strong support Sen. Obama enjoys among the nation's leading scientists and of our conviction that he understands the connection between a vibrant research effort and the country's economic competitiveness," Varmus said.
In an interview with C&EN, Agre said the letter shows how scientists are coming together in terms of their views on the candidates. "Obama clearly has a much more friendly platform toward science and science education," he said.
Agre also disclosed that he has been an informal adviser to the Obama campaign, but, "for the record," he added, if Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had "asked for my advice, I would have done it for him also."
The same day the letter was released, the Obama campaign announced its plan for U.S. science and innovation. The plan's five main points are to restore integrity in U.S. science policy, double the federal investment in basic research, commit to science education, encourage U.S. innovation, and address the "grand challenges" of the 21st century, such as affordable clean energy, healthier lives, and strengthened homeland security.
The McCain campaign did not respond to requests for comments regarding the scientists' letter as C&EN went to press. C&EN covers Obama's and McCain's answers to science policy questions on page 27.
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