Democrats Approve Party Platform

The Democratic Party reveals its positions on key policy issues, including those that affect the lives and work of scientists.

By | September 6, 2012

Rat Mice" > Flickr, Rat Mice

On the heels of last week's Republican National Convention—during which the GOP unveiled its official party platform—the Democrats approved their party's platform at their own convention, which is in full swing in Charlotte, North Carolina. And the party of President Barack Obama retains its focus on key science issues, such as climate change and alternative energy, basic research funding, and math and science education, touting its victories on the science policy front while downplaying the failures.

Our friends at ScienceInsider combed through the 70-page document and offered these science policy highlights:

Tough on climate change, not cap and trade

The Democrats appear to remain resolute on curbing climate change, but they've apparently abandoned the idea of instituting a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, likely because a bill that would have established such a scheme was killed in the Senate 2 years ago. The 2012 platform instead focuses on international treaties that might help reduce the release of greenhouse gases on a global scale. "Our goal is an effective, international effort in which all major economies commit to reduce their emissions, nations meet their commitments in a transparent manner, and the necessary financing is mobilized so that developing countries can mitigate the effects of climate change and invest in clean energy technologies," the platform reads.

Reverse brain drain

The platform also voices support for immigration policy that encourages foreign college students studying science to stay in the United States after completing their degrees to work in high-tech industries. "To make this country a destination for global talent and ingenuity, we won't deport deserving young people who are Americans in every way but on paper," the Democrats state, "and we will work to make it possible for foreign students earning advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to stay and help create jobs here at home."

Sticking with all-of-the-above energy

During his first term, Obama has employed what he calls an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy policy, focusing on developing new alternative and renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency while continuing to expand the nation's production of fossil fuels. The 2012 platform touts the progress the Obama Administration has made on the energy front, citing the growth in wind and solar power, increases in automobile fuel efficiency standards, a reduction in the country's dependence on foreign oil, and the boom in natural gas extraction. Whereas the 2008 platform envisioned getting "at least 25 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025," the 2012 platform shifts that goalpost, citing a "goal of generating 80 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources”—which can include natural gas and clean coal—"by 2035."

For an in-depth look back at Barack Obama's performance in the science policy arena during his first term as president, check back with The Scientist in October.

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Avatar of: Paul M. Stein

Paul M. Stein

Posts: 1457

September 6, 2012

Because of the shortage of jobs here in the United States, caused in part by the tremendous oversupply of students, having "foreign students earning advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to stay and help create jobs here at homeâ€쳌 is impossible looking at the raw numbers. While some could create businesses, the vast majority would simply compete against U.S. citizens for most jobs.

Avatar of: Jm Mac

Jm Mac

Posts: 1457

September 9, 2012

Interesting definition of "brain drain." I thought it meant native US citizens leaving the US.

Avatar of: Amy Greene

Amy Greene

Posts: 1457

September 10, 2012

How do we get this message to Washington DC? When there are hundreds of applicants for a single job requiring an advanced degree, I would not say that there is a shortage of U.S. citizens qualified for the job!

Avatar of: 38Murphy


Posts: 7

September 12, 2012

Again, this demonstrates an ill conceived view of how science works in America by our leadership. We are training a whole bunch of U.S. students who will be looking for jobs that don't exist. The grant money is drying up, which in the end is killing young individuals' careers. What we do well is to train the world and then they go home and compete with us. Eventually, India and China may exceed are status as the main driver of the world's science discovery and technology development. How will this change?

I suggest radically shifting how the government funds research. While many of our colleagues applauded ARRA, all this did was feed building of infrastructure, not in promoting science. We need to rebuild NIH and NSF from the ground up, not merely tinker with page limits of grants.

I agree with Paul and the other folks below.

September 12, 2012

I just make an addition in this interesting definition: "brain and soul drain".

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