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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 5 February 2008

AAAS joins Science Debate 2008, calling for national candidates' debate

Interview opportunities available

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the worlds largest general science society, recently joined Science Debate 2008 (, a coalition of some 12,000 leading individual scientists, business leaders, and others who are urging major presidential candidates to debate science, technology, and the economy in a national forum.

AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science, and other leaders of the Science Debate 2008 effort are available for interviews before, during, and after the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting, 14-18 February, in Boston, Mass. Reporters on-site at the conference or elsewhere are invited to contact the sources below, or stop by the AAAS newsroom in room 102 of the Hynes Convention Center

The following Science Debate 2008 sources are available for interviews:

--Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer, AAAS, and Executive Publisher, Science
Contact: Ginger Pinholster, 202-326-6421 (office), 202-320-1859 (cell), or

--Lawrence M. Krauss, Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics, Case Western Reserve University
Contact: 216-368-4070, or

--Sheril Kirshenbaum, Marine Biologist, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University; Co-host, The Intersection on ScienceBlogs with Chris Mooney; Writer, Wired Science
Contact: 919-613-8733, or

--Matthew Chapman, Screenwriter
Contact: 212-534-8683, or

--Shawn Lawrence Otto, Screenwriter

Leshner said: Science and engineering have driven half the nation's growth in gross domestic product over the last half-century, and lie at the center of many of the major policy and economic challenges the next president will face. We feel that a presidential debate on science would be helpful to America's national political dialogue.

Leshner has joined the Science Debate 2008 groups steering committee.

The effort is being co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.), and is also being supported by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chair of the House Science & Technology Committee. It includes several former presidential science advisers from both major political parties. We have to recognize there are roughly 7 billion people in the world, half of whom make less than $2 a day. We cannot and would not want to compete with that, said Gordon. We have to compete at a higher level with a better equipped and skilled workforce than that of our global counterparts -- and we do that by focusing on science, education and innovation.

The endorsers of the initiative include economists; several Nobel laureates and other leading scientists and engineers; executives from Apple Computer, Google, Merck, Hyatt, and other leading companies; two dozen presidents of major American colleges and research universities; and the editors of major science publications and journals.

Among those supporters are AAAS President David Baltimore, a 1975 Nobel laureate and past president of Caltech who now is the Robert A. Millikan Professor of Biology at the school; and AAAS President-elect Peter Agre, a 2003 Nobel laureate and vice chancellor for science and technology at Duke University Medical Center.

There have been several recent reports warning of potential erosion of the American economy and recommending changes in science and technology policies, said Shawn Lawrence Otto, one of the group's organizers. A recent Business Roundtable report shows that if current trends continue, in another two years over 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will live in Asia, Otto said. The groups web site also points to similar findings from a 2005 National Academies of Science report on science and the economy and a National Science Board report released just last week.

Its a new, global knowledge economy. Dealing with that is going to be a pretty major policy question for the next president -- one that affects the pocketbook of every American. When you add global warming, the healthcare crisis, biotechnology, and transportation, it starts looking like many of the major issues the next president will face are not being seriously debated, said Otto. Thats why a leading organization like the AAAS, the worlds largest general scientific society, is signing onto our citizen initiative.

Otto said the group has set a date for mid-April and will be formally inviting the candidates in the coming several weeks.


Launched in December 2007, Science Debate 2008 is a citizen initiative led by a group comprised mostly by non-scientists. Through word of mouth and news coverage, the group has rapidly grown to include over 10,000 scientists, engineers, and concerned citizens.

Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The AAAS journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million.