What happens to science if Romney wins

How will the sharply contrasting visions of the U.S. presidential candidates affect issues like basic and biomedical research?
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

In the U.S. presidential campaign, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have sharply contrasting visions of the role of government leading to profound implications for science, Nature News reports.

"We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best science and research in the world,” Obama said during the second debate. Romney, who emphasizes scaling back government, responded with a refrain, now the centerpiece of his campaign: “Government does not create jobs.”

The differences captured from this exchange could directly affect science-related issues ranging from research funding to energy development, environmental regulation to public health. Some highlights:


  • Science has been near the center of Obama's economic plan, and he’s defended investment in education and in basic and applied research as essential.
  • Romney’s campaign affirms the federal government’s importance in funding basic research, but he asserts that commercial innovation belongs in the private sector.


  • Obama allocated $10.4 billion in economic stimulus funds to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2009, but the agency’s funding in his latest budget request has flatlined.
  • Romney’s pledge to tighten government purse strings while boosting defense spending could force cuts to the NIH and agencies like the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Under Obama, the number of human embryonic cell lines available to federally funded researchers has soared from around 20 to 182.
  • Romney has said: “I have a deep concern about curing disease… but I will not create new embryos through cloning or through embryo farming, because that would be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.”


  • Romney has frequently pointed out that ‘global warming’ is not ‘America warming’, meaning that the U.S. shouldn’t take action -- and increase costs on U.S. manufacturers and businesses -- while carbon emissions are accelerating in China and India.
  • He's also said he would work to reverse greenhouse-gas regulations instituted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


  • Obama has focused on increasing fossil-fuel energy production as well as boosting renewables -- supporting shale-gas development and opening up new territory in the Arctic to drilling.
  • Romney has said that he would reverse a century of public policy and turn the management of federal lands over to individual states to hasten energy production.

Nature’s color-coded “In their own words” has some more choice quotes from the candidates.

[Via Nature News]

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

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