Leaders in health and research shared their views on science during an election year in a ‘A More Scientific Union’ panel discussion on October 14, hosted by ScienceDebate.org, Research!America and other leading scientific organizations that aired on the Young Turks YouTube Network. Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America, underscored the need for voters to query candidates about their plans, if elected, to support medical progress. When patients demand action, as evidenced by the polio and HIV/AIDS movements, she said, change happens. Harold Varmus, M.D., Nobel Laureate and Lewis Thomas University professor, Weill Cornell Medicine, said that strengthening investments for research will not only be beneficial for basic science but it will also help ensure progress on the cancer moonshot initiative. Understanding how future policymakers will support the scientific enterprise in the future, he said, is essential. Connecting scientific advancements to job creation could be part of the message to help drum up public support, noted Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx.
Research!America board member Rush Holt, Ph.D., CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) emphasized the need for Congress to move past political ideologies and make decisions on issues such as public health based on scientific evidence. Divisive issues in science tend to dominate the public discourse, noted Andrew Revkin, New York Times environmental writer. Global warming, for example, fundamentally divides people but there is consensus among the general public on the importance of energy innovation and investments in renewables, said Revkin. The panelists agreed that more engagement between researchers and non-scientific audiences is critical. Scientists can also have a more active role in the political process by volunteering to be a scientific advisor for a campaign, said Woolley.