Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Policy Types Assured Obama’s ‘a Science Guy’

• April 30, 2009 • 9:16 PM

Tom Price is blogging live from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s public policy conference for Miller-McCune.com.

This is the first of two postings from the AAAS conference today. To see the second post, click here.

Participants in the American Association for the Advancement of Science‘s annual public policy conference are a lot more upbeat about government support for science now that Barack Obama lives in the White House and Democrats enjoy large majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Meeting today in Washington, D.C., AAAS members heard representatives of the Obama administration and Congress declare the president’s and the legislature’s belief in the importance of science and technology. Outside analysts testified that those declarations are real.

“Our biggest asset in going forward and getting this right is the president’s engagement and enthusiasm with science and technology,” said John Holdren, the president’s science adviser. “This is a president who just lights up when the subject is science and technology, and lights up with increased wattage when the subject is teaching kids and engaging kids in science and technology.

House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., confirmed Holdren’s description of the president.

Before Obama moved into the White House, Gordon said, “he gave me a call and he said ‘I’m a science guy.'” As a result, Gordon said, “we’re going to see some changes that we need.”

Albert Teich, director of AAAS’s Science and Policy Programs, said record attendance at this year’s policy conference reflects scientists’ enthusiasm for the new climate in Washington. About 600 registered for the sessions today and tomorrow, more than ever before, he said.

Teich used such words as “huge,” “massive” and “unprecedented” to describe the increases in federal science spending that are being approved for this year and next.

“We’re going to look back at this in future years with our mouths open,” he said. “Future generations are going to look at this as something special.”

Regular appropriations bills and the economic stimulus legislation raised total federal research-and-development spending for 2009 to $172 billion, up from a bit more than $140 billion in 2008, Teich said. Even without the stimulus bill’s impact, he added, every major federal R&D agency received an increase above inflation. Most of those increases exceeded what former President George W. Bush requested.

Final action on the regular 2009 appropriations bills, which normally would have occurred in 2008, was postponed until Congress convened with larger Democratic majorities this year.

Because the stimulus bill supplemented regular appropriations, Teich said, the levels of science spending approved for this year, and expected for 2010, would be difficult to sustain. But, he added, Obama “has really shown that science, technology and innovation are central to the way he wants the country to go.”

Holdren said Obama sees science and technology as essential for economic recovery and growth. The president’s priorities — improving health care, moving toward energy independence, protecting the environment and securing national and homeland security — all have science components, Holdren said.

Obama also is committed to improving science education from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate, he said.

Beyond funding, Obama is moving on other issues important to scientists, Holdren said: assuring scientific integrity in federal activities and fostering international scientific collaborations. In addition to raising government R&D investments, the president is calling on businesses to boost total U.S. R&D spending to at least 3 percent of the gross domestic product. It’s currently about 2.66 percent, Teich said, more than two-thirds financed by the private sector.

Gordon told the scientists they have to help secure public support for science spending.

“You have to help us make the public understand that science is about jobs and the quality of life.”

Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Are you on Facebook? Become our fan.

Follow us on Twitter.

Add our news to your site.

Tom Price
Tom Price is a Washington-based freelance writer who focuses on public affairs, business, technology and education. Previously he was a correspondent in the Cox Newspapers Washington bureau and chief politics writer for the Cox papers in Dayton. He is author or co-author of five books, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Rolling Stone, CQ Researcher and other publications.

More From Tom Price

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 21 • 4:00 PM

Why Are America’s Poorest Toddlers Being Over-Prescribed ADHD Drugs?

Against all medical guidelines, children who are two and three years old are getting diagnosed with ADHD and treated with Adderall and other stimulants. It may be shocking, but it’s perfectly legal.



November 21 • 2:00 PM

The Best Moms Let Mess Happen

That’s the message of a Bounty commercial that reminds this sociologist of Sharon Hays’ work on “the ideology of intensive motherhood.”


November 21 • 12:00 PM

Eating Disorders Are Not Just for Women

Men, like women, are affected by our cultural preoccupation with thinness. And refusing to recognize that only makes things worse.


November 21 • 10:00 AM

Queens of the South

Inside Asheville, North Carolina’s 7th annual Miss Gay Latina pageant.


November 21 • 9:12 AM

‘Shirtstorm’ and Sexism in Science

Following the recent T-shirt controversy, it’s clear that sexism in science persists. But the forces driving the gender gap are still being debated.


November 21 • 8:00 AM

What Makes a Film Successful in 2014?

Domestic box office earnings are no longer a reliable metric.



November 21 • 6:00 AM

What Makes a City Unhappy?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Dana McMahan splits time between two of the country’s unhappiest cities. She set out to explore the causes of the happiness deficits.


November 21 • 5:04 AM

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends’ perceptions suggest they know something’s off with their pals but like them just the same.


November 21 • 4:00 AM

In 2001 Study, Black Celebrities Judged Harshly in Rape Cases

When accused of rape, black celebrities were viewed more negatively than non-celebrities. The opposite was true of whites.


November 20 • 4:00 PM

Women, Kink, and Sex Addiction: It’s Not Like the Movies

The popular view is that if a woman is into BDSM she’s probably a sex addict, and vice versa. In fact, most kinky women are perfectly happy—and possibly healthier than their vanilla counterparts.


November 20 • 2:00 PM

A Majority of Middle-Class Black Children Will Be Poorer as Adults

The disturbing findings of a new study.


November 20 • 12:00 PM

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.


November 20 • 10:00 AM

For Juvenile Records, It’s ‘Justice by Geography’

A new study finds an inconsistent patchwork of policies across states for how juvenile records are sealed and expunged.


November 20 • 8:00 AM

Surviving the Secret Childhood Trauma of a Parent’s Drug Addiction

As a young girl, Alana Levinson struggled with the shame of her father’s substance abuse. But when she looked more deeply into the research on children of drug-addicted parents, she realized society’s “conspiracy of silence” was keeping her—and possibly millions of others—from adequately dealing with the experience.



November 20 • 6:00 AM

Extreme Weather, Caused by Climate Change, Is Here. Can Nike Prepare You?

Following the approach we often see from companies marketing products before big storms, Nike focuses on climate change science in the promotion of its latest line of base-layer apparel. Is it a sign that more Americans are taking climate change seriously? Don’t get your hopes up.


November 20 • 5:00 AM

How Old Brains Learn New Tricks

A new study shows that the neural plasticity needed for learning doesn’t vanish as we age—it just moves.


November 20 • 4:00 AM

The FBI’s Dangerous Misrepresentation of Encryption Law

The FBI no more deserves a direct line to your data than it deserves to intercept your mail at the post office. But it doesn’t want you to know that.


November 20 • 2:00 AM

Brain Drain Is Economic Development

It may be hard to see unless you shift your focus from places to people, but both destination and source can benefit from “brain drain.”


November 19 • 9:00 PM

Gays Rights Are Great, but Ixnay on the PDAs

New research suggests both heterosexuals and gay men are uncomfortable with public same-sex kissing.


November 19 • 4:00 PM

The Red Cross’ Own Employees Doubt the Charity’s Ethics

Survey results obtained by ProPublica also show a crisis of trust in the charity’s senior leadership.



November 19 • 2:00 PM

Egg Freezing Isn’t the Feminist Issue You Think It Is

New benefits being offered by Apple and Facebook probably aren’t about discouraging women from becoming mothers at a “natural” age.


Follow us


Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

How Old Brains Learn New Tricks

A new study shows that the neural plasticity needed for learning doesn't vanish as we age—it just moves.

Ethnic Diversity Deflates Market Bubbles

But it's not in the rainbow and sing-along way you'd hope for. We just don't trust outsiders' judgments.

Online Brain Exercises Are Probably Useless

Even under the guidance of a specialist trainer, computer-based brain exercises have only modest benefits, a new analysis shows.

The Big One

One company, Comcast, will control up to 40 percent of Internet service coverage in the U.S., and 19 of the top 20 cable markets, if a proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is approved by regulators. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.