Thomas R. O'Donnell

Posts Tagged ‘Science Debate’

We sought candidates’ science policy views. One side mostly ignored us.

In Government, Uncategorized on November 1, 2022 at 7:24 am
The Iowa Science Policy Candidate Survey website header, featuring an Iowa map.

I’ve been involved with what began as the March for Science Iowa, now Science Iowa, almost since its inception. Launched as part of the national March for Science, its greatest achievement may have been drawing around 2,500 people to the Iowa Capitol on April 22, 2017. The Des Moines event was one of thousands around the world on Earth Day.

Another top achievement is the Iowa Science Policy Candidate Survey, an attempt to get every person seeking office in Iowa, from state legislature to U.S. Senate, on the record regarding science and science-related policy. Science Iowa has led this effort since the 2018 midterm election.

In 2020, Science Iowa’s survey received logistical support from Science Debate and the National Science Policy Network (NSPN), nonprofits that sought to foster similar efforts in other states. We joined with Iowa State University’s ASPIRE, an NSPN chapter, and the University of Iowa’s Connecting Science to Society, now an NSPN chapter, to devise the survey. Our coalition worked with multiple other Iowa science, environmental, education and agriculture organizations to compose the questions.

The 2022 midterm Iowa Science Policy Candidate Survey is having its best year yet. More, and more prominent, organizations signed on with input to our questions.

The Des Moines Register and multiple other Iowa newspapers, plus the Bleeding Heartland political blog, published opinion pieces promoting the survey. (Our attempts to appear on a conservative-leaning blog failed.)

Most importantly, we’ve received 24 candidate responses. The highlight: Both U.S. Senate candidates, Democrat Michael Franken and Republican Charles Grassley, weighed in.

Yet, that’s still only around 10 percent of the possible responses – and those we did receive revealed a worrisome phenomenon.

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Poll: Iowans care about science issues. But do they care enough to push candidates?

In Government, Uncategorized on July 25, 2019 at 8:30 am

A poll shows more than half of Iowans are more likely to vote for pro-science candidates.Regular readers of this blog (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) know I’ve nagged them to push political candidates (for almost any office, dogcatcher included) on science and evidence-based policy.

March for Science Iowa is all about this and asked candidates in the 2018 elections to answer science issue questionnaires. As one of a handful of active members, I helped organize panels of science advocates and journalists to insert science into the Iowa Caucus campaign.

But there hasn’t been hard data on how Iowans feel about science policy or how presidential candidates should address it – until now.

A new poll indicates that we care about candidates’ positions on science – and care a lot.

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To get candidates to debate science, ask the right questions

In Government on May 20, 2019 at 7:19 am

David Courard-Hauri, Dierdre Egan and David Kurns at Drake University for the March for Science Iowa "Science on the Stump" panel.

David Courard-Hauri makes a point at Drake University during the March for Science Iowa “Science on the Stump” panel. Dierdre Egan and David Kurns look on. Photo by Joe Sheehan.

Hordes of candidates are cutting across Iowa, touring ethanol plants and farms and chatting up voters in coffee shops and living rooms.

It’s to up us to get these would-be presidents to take science seriously, leaders in education and agriculture told an Iowa audience at a recent discussion, hosted by March for Science Iowa. We must demand that they support their views with solid research.

The session (which I helped organize) was designed to get Iowans – and, more importantly, journalists and candidates – talking about science, research and evidence-based policy, subjects that usually get little attention on the campaign trail.

It was illuminating discussion, illustrating Iowans’ diverging views on such science-based issues as climate change and water quality. One thing most spoke to: science advocates must change how they address the issues if they’re to gain support from other voters.

The big question is how to do it.

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Putting science on the Iowa presidential caucus campaign agenda

In Government on April 24, 2019 at 11:13 am

The science commandments, from a 2017 March for Science Iowa participant: Thou shalt: Question, Research, Hypothesize, Test, Analyze, Conclude. Thou Shalt NOT: Jump to Conclusions on "Alternative Facts," Illogical arguments, Ideology instead of Reason.

The science commandments, from a 2017 March for Science Iowa participant.

For something that affects our lives in so many ways, science gets remarkably little attention when candidates at all levels – especially for president – talk to voters.

Science-based policies govern our air, water, health, food, communications – nearly everything we do, hear, see, taste and smell every day. A president’s appointees to such scientific agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy Office of Science, Agricultural Research Service and National Institutes of Health can affect our lives more deeply than Congress.

So why doesn’t science get a bigger share of a candidate’s standard campaign speech? Why don’t reporters and news anchors press them on whether they’re prepared to base energy, environmental, health and agricultural policy on scientific evidence? Why aren’t candidates announcing up front what kinds of experts they will appoint to head agencies that support research and create science-based policies?

The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Science Debate has tried to address this problem since the 2008 presidential election. It’s still working to drive discussion on these issues – including providing grants to local organizations with similar goals.

March for Science Iowa is joining in that mission with an event next month.

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