Can it be possible. Can he do it? Can he make America great again? How about make science and engineering great again instead?
Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. I am just as shocked as you are.
Much has been said by citizens and political analysts about the ideals, policies, and strategies of Trump. They are anchored in different perspectives but all lead to one common thought – Trump has become the new commander-in-chief despite having no previous government experience, despite all the lies and hate he spewed during his campaign, and despite his dangerous stands in various issues. That’s the brutal price of a democratic system. But all of that we should reserve in other media outlets.
Being in the field of engineering, what concerns me the most is the new U.S. President’s views related to my profession. Our profession.
Prior to the elections, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went face to face in a debate to answer critical matters concerning the future of the U.S., and consequently, the world. Both of their positions were revealed, with differences mostly in education, energy, economy, citizenship, and security. The televised debate was finished only to miss a lot of things: their opinions about the top science, engineering, tech, health & environmental issues, which to me were also important deciding factors.
ScienceDebate.org, a body composed of America’s leading science and engineering organizations, answered the calling to take an off-camera dialogue dissecting all the presidential candidates’ say about science-based issues. They asked all four runners – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson – about the 20 pressing problems in 2016 related to science.
Now that Trump has won, the say of the rest are already irrelevant. We have to live with the Trump opinion.
For the sake of having a foresight about what science, tech and engineering will be under his administration, let’s go through what the President-elect feels, thinks, and believes about these topics. It’s up for you to say if his views are geared towards the “Make America Great Again” propaganda.
Science and engineering have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII. But some reports question America’s continued leadership in these areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation?
Donald Trump: Innovation has always been one of the great by-products of free market systems. Entrepreneurs have always found entries into markets by giving consumers more options for the products they desire. The government should do all it can to reduce barriers to entry into markets and should work at creating a business environment where fair trade is as important as free trade. Similarly, the federal government should encourage innovation in the areas of space exploration and investment in research and development across the broad landscape of academia. Though there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget, we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.
Many scientific advances require long-term investment to fund research over a period of longer than the two, four, or six year terms that govern political cycles. In the current climate of budgetary constraints, what are your science and engineering research priorities and how will you balance short-term versus long-term funding?
Donald Trump: The premise of this question is exactly correct—scientific advances do require long term investment. This is why we must have programs such as a viable space program and institutional research that serve as incubators to innovation and the advancement of science and engineering in a number of fields. We should also bring together stakeholders and examine what the priorities ought to be for the nation. Conservation of resources and finding ways to feed the world beg our strong commitment as do dedicated investment in making the world a healthier place. The nation is best served by a President and administration that have a vision for a greater, better America.
The Earth’s climate is changing and political discussion has become divided over both the science and the best response. What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?
Donald Trump: There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.” Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria. Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.
Biological diversity provides food, fiber, medicines, clean water and many other products and services on which we depend every day. Scientists are finding that the variety and variability of life is diminishing at an alarming rate as a result of human activity. What steps will you take to protect biological diversity?
Donald Trump: For too long, Presidents and the executive branch of our federal government have continued to expand their reach and impact. Today, we have agencies filled with unelected officials who have been writing rules and regulations that cater to special interests and that undermine the foundational notion of our government that should be responsive to the people. Our elected representatives have done little to uphold their oaths of office and have abrogated their responsibilities. When these circumstances occur, there is an imbalance that rewards special interests and punishes the people who should benefit the most from the protection of species and habitat in the United States. In a Trump administration, there will be shared governance of our public lands and we will empower state and local governments to protect our wildlife and fisheries. Laws that tilt the scales toward special interests must be modified to balance the needs of society with the preservation of our valuable living resources. My administration will strike that balance by bringing all stakeholders to the table to determine the best approach to seeking and setting that balance.
The Internet has become a foundation of economic, social, law enforcement, and military activity. What steps will you take to protect vulnerable infrastructure and institutions from cyber attack, and to provide for national security while protecting personal privacy on electronic devices and the internet?
Donald Trump: The United States government should not spy on its own citizens. That will not happen in a Trump administration. As for protecting the Internet, any attack on the Internet should be considered a provocative act that requires the utmost in protection and, at a minimum, a proportional response that identifies and then eliminates threats to our Internet infrastructure.
Mental illness is among the most painful and stigmatized diseases, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates it costs America more than $300 billion per year. What will you do to reduce the human and economic costs of mental illness?
Donald Trump: This is one of the great unfolding tragedies in America today. States are reducing their commitments to mental health treatment and our jails are filled with those who need mental health care. Any mental health reforms must be included in our efforts to reform healthcare in general in the country. We must make the investment in treating our fellow citizens who suffer from severe mental illness. This includes making sure that we allow family members to be more involved in the total care of those who are severely mentally ill. We must ensure that the national government provides the support to state and local governments to bring mental health care to the people at the local level. This entire field of interest must be examined and a comprehensive solution set must be developed so that we can keep people safe and productive.
Strategic management of the US energy portfolio can have powerful economic, environmental, and foreign policy impacts. How do you see the energy landscape evolving over the next 4 to 8 years, and, as President, what will your energy strategy be?
Donald Trump: It should be the goal of the American people and their government to achieve energy independence as soon as possible. Energy independence means exploring and developing every possible energy source including wind, solar, nuclear and bio-fuels. A thriving market system will allow consumers to determine the best sources of energy for future consumption. Further, with the United States, Canada and Mexico as the key energy producers in the world, we will live in a safer, more productive and more prosperous world.
American students have fallen in many international rankings of science and math performance, and the public in general is being faced with an expanding array of major policy challenges that are heavily influenced by complex science. How would your administration work to ensure all students including women and minorities are prepared to address 21st century challenges and, further, that the public has an adequate level of STEM literacy in an age dominated by complex science and technology?
Donald Trump: There are a host of STEM programs already in existence. What the federal government should do is to make sure that educational opportunities are available for everyone. This means we must allow market influences to bring better, higher quality educational circumstances to more children. Our cities are a case-study in what not to do in that we do not have choice options for those who need access to better educational situations. Our top-down-one-size-fits-all approach to education is failing and is actually damaging educational outcomes for our children. If we are serious about changing the direction of our educational standing, we must change our educational models and allow the greatest possible number of options for educating our children. The management of our public education institutions should be done at the state and local level, not at the Department of Education. Until more choices are provided in our cities, those who tout their concern about educational outcomes cannot be taken seriously.
Public health efforts like smoking cessation, drunk driving laws, vaccination, and water fluoridation have improved health and productivity and save millions of lives. How would you improve federal research and our public health system to better protect Americans from emerging diseases and other public health threats, such as antibiotic resistant superbugs?
Donald Trump: The implication of the question is that one must provide more resources to research and public health enterprises to make sure we stay ahead of potential health risks. In a time of limited resources, one must ensure that the nation is getting the greatest bang for the buck. We cannot simply throw money at these institutions and assume that the nation will be well served. What we ought to focus on is assessing where we need to be as a nation and then applying resources to those areas where we need the most work. Our efforts to support research and public health initiatives will have to be balanced with other demands for scarce resources. Working with Congress—the people’s representatives—my administration will work to establish national priorities and then we will work to make sure that adequate resources are assigned to achieve our goals.
The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a dizzying array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution, and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values. If you are elected, what steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?
Donald Trump: This may be the most important issue we face as a nation for the next generation. Therefore, we must make the investment in our fresh water infrastructure to ensure access to affordable fresh water solutions for everyone. We must explore all options to include making desalinization more affordable and working to build the distribution infrastructure to bring this scarce resource to where it is needed for our citizens and those who produce the food of the world. This must be a top priority for my administration.
Nuclear power can meet electricity demand without producing greenhouse gases, but it raises national security and environmental concerns. What is your plan for the use, expansion, or phasing out of nuclear power, and what steps will you take to monitor, manage and secure nuclear materials over their life cycle?
Donald Trump: Nuclear power is a valuable source of energy and should be part of an all-the-above program for providing power for America long into the future. We can make nuclear power safer, and its outputs are extraordinary given the investment we should make. Nuclear power must be an integral part of energy independence for America.
Agriculture involves a complex balance of land and energy use, worker health and safety, water use and quality, and access to healthy and affordable food, all of which have inputs of objective knowledge from science. How would you manage the US agricultural enterprise to our highest benefit in the most sustainable way?
Donald Trump: The implication of your question is that there should be central control of American agriculture by the federal government. That is totally inappropriate. The agriculture industry should be free to seek its best solutions through the market system. That said, the production of food is a national security issue and should receive the attention of the federal government when it comes to providing security for our farmers and ranchers against losses to nature.
We now live in a global economy with a large and growing human population. These factors create economic, public health, and environmental challenges that do not respect national borders. How would your administration balance national interests with global cooperation when tackling threats made clear by science, such as pandemic diseases and climate change, that cross national borders?
Donald Trump: Our best input to helping with global issues is to make sure that the United States is on the proper trajectory economically. For the past decade we have seen Gross Domestic Product growth that has not provided adequate resources to fix our infrastructure, recapitalize our military, invest in our education system or secure energy independence. We cannot take our place as world leader if we are not healthy enough to take care of ourselves. This means we must make sure that we achieve our goals in tax reform, trade reform, immigration reform and energy independence. A prosperous America is a much better partner in tackling global problems that affect this nation achieving its national objectives.
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Science is essential to many of the laws and policies that keep Americans safe and secure. How would science inform your administration’s decisions to add, modify, or remove federal regulations, and how would you encourage a thriving business sector while protecting Americans vulnerable to public health and environmental threats?
Donald Trump: This is about balance. We must balance a thriving economy with conserving our resources and protecting our citizens from threats. Science will inform our decisions on what regulations to keep, rescind or add. A vibrant, robust free market system will regulate the private sector.
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Public health officials warn that we need to take more steps to prevent international epidemics from viruses such as Ebola and Zika. Meanwhile, measles is resurgent due to decreasing vaccination rates. How will your administration support vaccine science?
Donald Trump: We should educate the public on the values of a comprehensive vaccination program. We have been successful with other public service programs and this seems to be of enough importance that we should put resources against this task.
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There is a political debate over America’s national approach to space exploration and use. What should America’s national goals be for space exploration and earth observation from space, and what steps would your administration take to achieve them?
Donald Trump: Space exploration has given so much to America, including tremendous pride in our scientific and engineering prowess. A strong space program will encourage our children to seek STEM educational outcomes and will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in investment to this country. The cascading effects of a vibrant space program are legion and can have a positive, constructive impact on the pride and direction of this country. Observation from space and exploring beyond our own space neighborhood should be priorities. We should also seek global partners, because space is not the sole property of America. All humankind benefits from reaching into the stars.
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There is a growing opioid problem in the United States, with tragic costs to lives, families and society. How would your administration enlist researchers, medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies in addressing this issue?
Donald Trump: We first should stop the inflow of opioids into the United States. We can do that and we will in the Trump administration. As this is a national problem that costs America billions of dollars in productivity, we should apply the resources necessary to mitigate this problem. Dollars invested in taking care of this problem will be more than paid for with recovered lives and productivity that adds to the wealth and health of the nation.
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There is growing concern over the decline of fisheries and the overall health of the ocean: scientists estimate that 90% of stocks are fished at or beyond sustainable limits, habitats like coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What efforts would your administration make to improve the health of our ocean and coastlines and increase the long-term sustainability of ocean fisheries?
Donald Trump: My administration will work with Congress to establish priorities for our government and how we will allocate our limited fiscal resources. This approach will assure that the people’s voices will be heard on this topic and others.
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There is much current political discussion about immigration policy and border controls. Would you support any changes in immigration policy regarding scientists and engineers who receive their graduate degree at an American university? Conversely, what is your opinion of recent controversy over employment and the H1-B Visa program?
Donald Trump: Immigration has been one of the cornerstones of my campaign. The issues brought up in your question are exactly what we should be addressing in immigration reform. If we allow individuals in this country legally to get their educations, we should let them stay if they want to contribute to our economy. It makes no sense to kick them out of the country right after they achieve such extraordinary goals. As for the H1-B program, we cannot allow companies to abuse this system. When we have American citizens and those living in the United States legally being pushed out of high paying jobs so that they can be replaced with “cheaper” labor, something is wrong. The H1-B system should be employed only when jobs cannot be filled with qualified Americans and legal residents.
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Evidence from science is the surest basis for fair and just public policy, but that is predicated on the integrity of that evidence and of the scientific process used to produce it, which must be both transparent and free from political bias and pressure. How will you foster a culture of scientific transparency and accountability in government, while protecting scientists and federal agencies from political interference in their work?
Donald Trump: Science is science and facts are facts. My administration will ensure that there will be total transparency and accountability without political bias. The American people deserve this and I will make sure this is the culture of my administration.
The full transcript of the candidates’ answers can be found here.