Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science

Two weeks ago, Scientific American asked for your help in grading the presidential candidates on their answers to 20 questions about various aspects of scientific endeavor. The questions were refined by a group of scientific institutions representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, with nonprofit organization ScienceDebate.org as the facilitator. 

We received nearly two dozen responses from readers, most of whom not only evaluated the candidates’ responses but provided detailed explanations for their ratings. Overall, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton scored highest in our readers’ estimation, as well as our own, followed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Republican Party candidate Donald Trump came in last on all counts. One Ph.D. in biology wrote, “Trump’s answers demonstrate an almost complete ignorance of science or the importance of these imposing problems facing us in maintaining a livable world for everyone.” A clinical microbiologist with 25 years of experience added, “[Trump’s] answers show how uninformed he is on the issues.”  Although Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson’s responses arrived too late for reader evaluations, we have included our assessment of his responses below. 

One researcher performed a “qualitative analysis” of the answers, saying that Clinton always starts “with a synthetic review of present data” and builds from there—whereas “Trump never does.” A food policy analyst failed Clinton on the food question for being too narrow in her responses, failed Trump for “partisan rhetoric,” and gave Stein a grade “between pass and fail” for being “clearer on issues pertaining to negative externalities of food production,” but failing “to mention issues of food equity and proper resource management.” A few readers found some of the questions too vague (particularly number 1 on innovation and number 13 on the global economy), and thus too easy to answer with generalities.

What follows are all 20 questions, followed by evaluations of the candidates’ responses (along with some of the more salient points from our readers), and the candidates’ answers in full. We used the same 0-5 point scale (with 5 being the best score possible) that we developed in evaluating candidate responses in 2012.

1. Innovation

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? 

Clinton says she would “ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation” with “universal preschool,” “debt-free college and support for high-quality apprenticeships and training programs.” She promises to “ensure that government funding of research is sufficient to allow for multiyear planning” and “exploration of emerging research areas.” One Iowa reader says of Clinton’s answer that it “sounded positive but I got bored” and “stopped reading.” Clinton loses a point for failing to indicate how much these initiatives would cost or how to pay for them, giving her the same score as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on this question four years ago. Grade: 4/5

Trump states that “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.” He highlights “space exploration” and acknowledges the importance of investing in “science, engineering, health care and other areas” that would “make Americans safer and more prosperous.” His answer to this question contradicts responses to three other questions in the survey, however, in which he references “limited” financial resources, which would presumably prevent following through on any of these ideas. Grade: 1/5

Johnson argues that “the most important policies for science and engineering are those that reduce the burdens on the economy of deficit spending and debt.” His limited, utilitarian view of science would raise concerns that global leadership in innovation will pass to other countries. Grade: 2/5

Stein offers a “climate action plan,” “free public education and cancellation of student debt proposals,” and “Medicare for All,” which she expects to pay with “reduced Pentagon spending.” One reader thought Stein’s response was “almost as good as Clinton’s.” Stein loses points on feasibility for failing to acknowledge the political headwinds likely to oppose such efforts. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 1

Hillary Clinton (D)

Since World War II, America’s leadership in science- and engineering-based innovation has provided economic benefits along with major advances in health, safety, security, and quality of life. Education, research, and commercialization are all key to America’s success.  As President, I will work to strengthen each of these core elements of the ecosystem and facilitate public-private partnerships between them to ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation.

Advances in science and engineering start with education. We need universal preschool, to get our kids off to a good start; good K-12 schools and teachers in every ZIP code; and to put higher education in reach for everyone with debt-free college and support for high-quality apprenticeships and training programs. We need strong STEM programming in every school, and we need to provide every public school student with access to education in computer science.

Both basic and applied research are major drivers of innovation. As President, I will work with Congress to ensure that government funding of research is sufficient to allow for multi-year planning, exploration of emerging research areas, and inflation-adjusted costs. Funding is needed not only for the basic science research agencies and the large science and engineering mission agencies but also for the broader universe of agencies that are increasingly dependent on STEM for their missions.

The innovation payoff comes from the commercialization of research results. The first step is what universities call “technology transfer” and the medical community calls “translation”—demonstrating the use of research results in practice and sharing the knowledge with the business community. The government has a critical role to play at this stage by opening access to and sharing government-funded research results. I will support the development of collaborative consortia that accelerate the creation of new industries while providing valuable feedback to researchers. As part of my plan to create more good-paying jobs, I will also invest in “Make it in America” partnerships that will make America the first choice for manufacturing by harnessing regional strengths, supporting manufacturers up and down the supply chain, and ensuring international competitiveness by improving industrial energy efficiency by one-third within a decade. 

Donald Trump (R)

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. 

Gary Johnson (L)

First, true leadership in science and engineering cannot happen without a robust economy that allows the private sector to invest and innovate. Conversely, in times of slow or nonexistent growth and economic uncertainty, basic research and higher-risk development are among the first items to be cut. Thus, the most important policies for science and engineering are those that reduce the burdens on the economy of deficit spending and debt, and which reduce a tax burden that siphons dollars away from investment and into government coffers.

Likewise, government has an important role to play in creating a level playing field. Innovation works best when government doesn’t pick winners and losers. Manufacturers and consumers best understand the necessary applications required, not government funding offices. Innovation happens when the prevailing narratives and paradigms are questioned—not when government imposes political priorities on the scientific, engineering, business, and hobbyist communities.

Our administration will also seek real reforms in the granting process. First, we will work to reform granting agencies so that more initiative comes from ground level scientists, not the technocracy. Requests for Application, or RFAs, drive research towards wherever the money is. If alcohol addiction studies are fashionable in a given year, and the flu isn’t, tough luck for epidemiologists—no matter the relative risk of each malady, and no matter how well designed the studies. RFAs skew science away from groundbreaking work and towards that which attracts the most funding. Science and academic achievement shouldn’t be measured in terms of how many government dollars it secures.

We also expect to reform the relationship between hiring and granting systems. Currently we incentivize universities to hire scientists and researchers who are funded via grants, because they don’t actually pay the investigator salaries. Universities have little skin in the game, and too often end up misusing resources by overhiring and collecting the overhead from taxpayers and private grants.

Jill Stein (G)

Virtually every component of our 2016 Platform contains elements likely to have positive effects on innovation. These include our climate action plan, our free public education and cancellation of student debt proposals, and our Medicare for All plank. Vast resources will be freed for investment in public RD by reduced Pentagon spending. Millions of people currently hobbled by poverty and underperforming schools will be able for the first time in American history to bring their talents to bear on the problems of the 21st century. A just economy, with living wages and paid sick leave, can be far more innovative than one where innovation is determined by a relative handful of corporate executives and Pentagon planners.

2. Research

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?

Clinton acknowledges that federally funded research, often “without a particular application in mind,” has yielded “breakthrough discoveries.” She thinks the U.S. should “strengthen our research capacity” by “funding talented young investigators,” prioritizing “‘high-risk, high-reward’ projects” and “enhancing partnerships between government, universities, and the private sector.” She loses points for not explaining how she would balance long- and short-term funding, and where she outlines specific priorities. Grade: 2/5

Trump’s answers contradict some of his previous statements. He prioritizes “programs such as a viable space program and institutional research that serve as incubators to innovation,” and says that conserving “resources and finding ways to feed the world beg our strong commitment.” An earlier remark that potholes are more important than space and that privatizing space is “great” stand in contrast with some of his statements here. Grade: 1/5

Johnson says he hopes to reduce federal spending and will “plan to subject every program to close and fresh scrutiny.” He will prioritize “basic science” over “applied science” and believes that “science is best regulated by scientists, not regulators.” He thinks that private companies should be “encouraged” to invest in science. Any government funding should have “as few strings as possible,” or “have the costs as transparent as possible.” Johnson’s statements disregard some of the major issues associated with private companies investing in science, such as a recent study showing that private companies had funded research that suppressed results linking sugar to coronary heart disease. His party’s proposal to require a balanced federal budget would likely decimate science funding. Grade: 2/5

Stein says that the “greatest challenge currently before us is climate change,” and that innovation in this field would be “at the very top of our research priorities.” She adds that she hopes to put mechanisms in place that are “more responsive” to the “preferences and needs of average citizens,” which raises some concern because it could be a recipe for allowing anti-scientific beliefs to influence science policy. Grade: 2/5

Full Answers to Question 2

Hillary Clinton (D)

Science and engineering not only provide the devices and services we enjoy and use on a daily basis—they also help defend against disease, security threats, unmet energy needs, the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, and many other challenging issues with national and global reach. Advancing science and technology will be among my highest priorities as President.

Historically, federally funded basic research–often done without a particular application in mind and intrinsically long term–has yielded breakthrough discoveries of new knowledge and technologies. This knowledge and these technologies have, through the power of innovation, transformed entire sectors of industry, fueled economic growth, and created high-paying jobs.

I share the concerns of the science and technology community, including many in the industry, that the United States is underinvesting in research. Federal funding of basic research amounts to less than one percent of annual federal spending, yet it is an investment that pays big dividends. I believe it is essential that we strengthen our research capacity, by funding talented young investigators, looking for ways to prioritize “high-risk, high-reward” projects that have the potential to transform entire fields, and enhancing partnerships between government, universities, and the private sector. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.  

Gary Johnson (L)

We have made clear our commitment to reducing federal spending significantly. To do so, we plan to subject every program to close and fresh scrutiny. Our basic priorities will bend towards funding for basic science and limiting funding for applied science to that which has clear public benefit, but isn’t feasible in the private sector. The Johnson-Weld administration defines basic science as research that works towards understanding of fundamental issues at the core of scientific disciplines. We believe that in the case where applied science can produce a profit, the best thing that government can do is get out of the way, while providing safety regulations that cannot be covered by the investigating organizations’ Institutional Review Boards, Ethical Review Boards, or Research Ethics Boards. We believe that science is best regulated by scientists, not regulators.

With regard to basic science, private companies are often willing to invest funds, and that should be encouraged—not discouraged. And when the government gets involved, the scientific discourse can be squelched. Frequently, public scientific funding has the effect of quashing private investment in certain research. Why would a private company invest in research, either basic or applied, if the government will do that for them?

A Johnson-Weld administration will try to ensure that generosity does not work against innovation, but it will also actively encourage private investment in science. We do not view profit and patents as social evils. Rather, we view intellectual property and profit as valuable incentives for private innovation, research and development.

Private companies also see significant costs of dealing with the government itself, costing a substantial portion of the profit incentive to produce many promising drugs and applications. That needs to change, without abandoning fundamental obligations to protect the public. The federal government needs to remain focused on its role to prevent harm, and not be in the business of deciding efficacy. The marketplace will do that much more effectively.

A Johnson-Weld administration would also investigate ways to lower the overhead costs collected by universities (and in some cases, researchers).

And to the extent funding is provided, it should come with as few strings as possible, or at least have the costs as transparent as possible, so agencies can trace where waste is occurring.

Jill Stein (G)

The greatest challenge currently before us is climate change. We will place innovative breakthroughs in the science and technology associated with mitigation of greenhouse gases and the building of a resilient society that can withstand current and future climate change at the very top of our research priorities. 

Presidents are able to affect long term RD priorities by creating institutions focused on research like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health that are to some extent insulated from short-term political cycles. We will revisit these institutions—their charge, focus, and operations—to ensure that they’re performing as expected. We will look for opportunities and mechanisms whereby science policy can be made more democratic, and more responsive to the preferences and needs of average citizens.

3. Climate Change

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?

Clinton acknowledges that “climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.” She outlines a plan “to generate half of our electricity from clean sources,” to cut “energy waste” by a third and to “reduce American oil consumption by a third” over the next 10 years. To achieve these goals she plans to “implement and build on” current “pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives.” Clinton loses a point for not saying where she will find the money to pay for such initiatives. Grade: 4/5

Trump refers to “climate change” in quotation marks, apparently to signal that he still believes—as he has asserted in the past—that human-caused global warming is a hoax. Then he suggests that “our limited financial resources” are best spent on things such as clean water and anti-malaria efforts, without acknowledging the argument that the success of such efforts could be largely influenced by how climate change is addressed. Grade: 0/5

Johnson accepts that “climate change is occurring, and that human activity is contributing to it, including through greenhouse gases.” But he plans to rely on the “marketplace” to “facilitate the free exchange of new, efficient, carbon-friendly processes and technologies.” However, as Naomi Oreskes wrote in Scientific American in 2015, the marketplace alone cannot solve the climate change problem because the marketplace will not put a tangible cost on carbon without government intervention. Grade: 2/5

Stein hopes to “create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030” through her “Green New Deal.” The plan includes providing incomes to transitioning workers “displaced by the shift away from fossil fuels,” “redirecting research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation” and phasing out “all fossil fuel power plants” and nuclear power plants. Realistically speaking, however, nuclear power will remain for some time the most common carbon-free energy source. Stein loses points for her inflexible anti-nuclear stance and for not detailing the cost of her proposals. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 3

Hillary Clinton (D)

When it comes to climate change, the science is crystal clear. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time and its impacts are already being felt at home and around the world. That’s why as President, I will work both domestically and internationally to ensure that we build on recent progress and continue to slash greenhouse gas pollution over the coming years as the science clearly tells us we must.

I will set three goals that we will achieve within ten years of taking office and which will make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century:

  • Generate half of our electricity from clean sources, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term.
  • Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.
  • Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

To get there, my administration will implement and build on the range of pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives that have made the United States a global leader in the battle against climate change. These standards are also essential for protecting the health of our children, saving American households and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs, and creating thousands of good paying jobs. 

These standards set the floor, not the ceiling. As President, I will launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with those states, cities, and rural communities across the country that are ready to take the lead on clean energy and energy efficiency, giving them the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We accept that climate change is occurring, and that human activity is contributing to it, including through greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately for policymakers—the very activities that appear to contribute to climate change also contribute to mankind’s health and prosperity, so we view with a skeptical eye any attempts to curtail economic activity. We believe that a motivated and informed market will demand efficiency and reduced greenhouse gases, mitigating at least some of mankind’s effects. It is a virtual certainty that consumer demands and the marketplace will produce tangible benefits. It is not, however, certain that unilateral regulatory approaches by the U.S. will, in fact, produce benefits that are proportionate to costs. Nor is it certain that international treaties will produce benefits as developing nations have the most at stake to continue industrialization.

As other countries industrialize, as they have the right to do, we recognize that environmental trade-offs are inevitable.. As extreme poverty wanes in places like India and China, the poor will stop burning excrement or wood. And that will reduce certain types of pollution, while certain greenhouse gases may temporarily increase. But as countries become more developed, industrialized and automated, we believe the marketplace will facilitate the free exchange of new, efficient, carbon-friendly processes and technologies. And a Johnson-Weld administration will facilitate as much knowledge sharing as possible to speed and spread sustainable, cleaner technology as nations develop.

Jill Stein (G)

Climate change is the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced. Here is how we will act to address it:

Enact an emergency Green New Deal to turn the tide on climate change, revive the economy and make wars for oil obsolete. Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change, the greatest threat to humanity in our history. Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, including ecosystems.

• Implement a Just Transition that empowers those communities and workers most impacted by climate change and the transition to a green economy. Ensure that any worker displaced by the shift away from fossil fuels will receive full income and benefits as they transition to alternative work.

• Enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right.

Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, energy.

• End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies. End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee / tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.

• Support a strong enforceable global climate treaty that limits global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and provides just financial compensation to developing countries.

• Support organic and regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.

• Enact stronger environmental justice laws and measures to ensure that low-income and communities of color are not disproportionately impacted.

4. Biodiversity

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? 

Clinton says “climate change, pollution, habitat destruction,” and other forces “pose serious threats to biodiversity and our way of life.” She mentions plans “to double the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants” to help communities and tribal nations conserve various types of wildlife “before they become threatened or endangered.” She also wants to “establish an American Parks Trust Fund” to “modernize how we protect and enhance our natural treasures.” Clinton loses points for not discussing the funding or execution of these plans. Grade: 3/5

Trump blames “agencies filled with unelected officials” for “writing rules and regulations” that “cater to special interests.” He says there should be a “shared governance of our public lands” and that “state and local governments” should be empowered to protect “wildlife and fisheries.” A healthy ecosystem—crucial to the survival of humans and other species—is not a “special interest.” Grade: 0/5

Johnson says he believes that “human innovation” and “the ecosystem’s natural adaptation” will “slow the destruction of biodiversity.” He contends that the government’s role is to “protect against those who damage and over-consume resources to the harm of others.” He hopes increasing private land ownership and “breaking down economic and cultural barriers” that block the “spread of best practices and healthy development” will reduce biodiversity loss. However, he does not put forth any solutions for protecting biological diversity aside from deregulation.  Grade: 2/5

Stein plans to “ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of” bees and other pollinators, to “label GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and put a moratorium on new GMOs,” and to “support conversion to sustainable, nontoxic materials.” Stein loses points because her stance on GMOs flies in the face of numerous studies that have found they are safe to consume. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 4

Hillary Clinton (D)

Conserving biodiversity is essential to maintaining our quality of life. Healthy soils provide the foundation for agricultural productivity and help absorb carbon; wetlands soak up floodwaters and pollutants and protect our communities; forests filter our water and keep it clean; bees and other pollinators are essential to our food supply; and coral reefs and coastal marshes are nurseries for our fisheries.  Although we have made considerable progress protecting our environment and conserving our natural resources, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, unsustainable management practices, introduction of invasive species and other forces pose serious threats to biodiversity and our way of life.

We need to collaborate across all sectors and at all levels to conserve our natural resources and maintain the viability of our ecosystems.  I believe, for example, that we should be doing more to slow and reverse the decline of at-risk wildlife species before they reach the brink of extinction. That is why I will work to double the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program to help states, tribal nations, and local communities act earlier to conserve wildlife before they become threatened or endangered.

The 100th anniversary of our national park system is also an opportunity to re-energize America’s proud land and wildlife conservation traditions. I will establish an American Parks Trust Fund to scale up and modernize how we protect and enhance our natural treasures, and to better protect wildlife habitat across the country.

Internationally, we need greater cooperation to address declining biodiversity.  My Administration will work collaboratively with other nations to advance biodiversity science, further our understanding of the causes of biodiversity loss, and take action to diminish them.  We will share information about our conservation successes, including our national parks, fish and wildlife refuge systems, and marine reserves to aid other nations working to protect their natural resources and conserve biodiversity.  And we will work collaboratively to end trafficking in wildlife and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing that threatens our oceans.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We believe that two factors will slow destruction of biodiversity: human innovation and the ecosystem’s natural adaptation. Throughout history, Mankind has destroyed habitats—cutting down cloud forests, rain forests, dry forests, and other fragile ecosystems. We depend upon their resources—food, fiber, energy, minerals,—for our own existence, including habitat. Fortunately, ongoing changes in food technology have allowed us to curtail our use of farmland, even as yields have skyrocketed. Likewise, Human habitats will continue to become more efficient and less intrusive, especially in developing nations.

Government’s role is to allow innovation and the efficiencies the marketplace will demand, and, fundamentally, to protect against those who damage and over-consume resources to the harm of others.

Private land ownership can improve good stewardship of the land. When the “public” protects natural resources, the economic “Tragedy of the Commons” can come into play—where individuals using common property compete to take the most resources from that property. In the end, people care for their own property more than they do those owned by “the government”.

The less developed world still continues to use slash-and-burn farming and ranching techniques, another reason the Johnson Weld administration views industrial and economic development as a positive step—better farming and production means more wealth, and more wealth means populations who have both the resources and freedom to improve their own environments.

Finally, to reduce man’s effect on biodiversity, we need to break down economic and cultural barriers that impede the spread of best practices and healthy development. Totalitarian governments frequently do the most damage to their land—while starving their people. Free trade, information and a robust marketplace of ideas will allow people around the globe to achieve better standards of living and the environmental protections they want, but cannot currently afford in their daily struggles to survive.

Jill Stein (G)

Protecting biodiversity is an extremely important and often overlooked priority. Here is how we will act to protect biodiversity:

• Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

• Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on new GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.

• Support organic and regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.

• Protect the rights of future generations. Adopt the Precautionary Principle. When an activity poses threats of harm to human health or the environment, in the absence of objective scientific consensus that it is safe, precautionary measures should be taken. The proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

• Invest in clean air, water, food and soil for everyone. 

• Enact stronger environmental justice laws and measures to ensure that low-income and communities of color are not disproportionately impacted by harmful pollution and other negative environmental and health effects.

• Support conversion to sustainable, nontoxic materials and the use of closed-loop, zero waste processes.

5. The Internet

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? 

Clinton says she will fight to keep the Internet “a space for free exchange,” and that she supports efforts to create a “national commission on digital security.” She says she “will build on the Obama Administration’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan” to modernize the government’s information technology infrastructure and “empower a Chief Information Security Officer.” She proclaims the U.S. “will treat cyber attacks just like any other attack.” Clinton loses points for not listing how she would modernize IT infrastructure or what a Chief Information Security Officer would do. Grade: 3/5

Trump says he will not let the U.S. government “spy on its citizens.” He argues that “any attack on the Internet” “requires the utmost in protection and, at a minimum, a proportional response” that “identifies” and “eliminates threats.” However, his response stands in direct contrast to prior statements in which he mentioned hopes to reinstate surveillance programs such as the Patriot Act; he loses points for this discrepancy. Grade: 1/5

Johnson feels that Internet users “have the right to expect communication free of government spying,” unless there’s “a court-ordered search warrant.” He proposes returning the National Security Agency’s Cybercommand “to its original purpose”—”cyber defenses”—as opposed to offensive strategy. He plans to “educate the most likely security hole in any technology—the people sitting at the keyboards.” He loses points for not delineating how “spying” is different from the routine gathering of information such as addresses and telephone numbers. Grade: 3/5

Stein says she plans to “oppose the online piracy act” or anything that would “undermine freedom and equality on the Internet,” and she vows to “defend net neutrality,” “support public broadband” and “negotiate international treaty banning cyberwarfare.” Stein loses points for not giving more details or funding sources. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 5

Hillary Clinton (D)

As President, I will fight to ensure that the Internet remains a space for free exchange, providing all people equal access to knowledge and ideas. While we must protect this exchange and the privacy of individuals, we must also invest in cybersecurity, which is not only essential to our national and economic security, but will become increasingly important as devices across sectors are networked.

Since my time in the Senate, I have worked across the aisle to improve our nation’s cybersecurity. Internet freedom and security were at the forefront of my work as Secretary of State, and we must ensure this effort continues into the next administration. I supported the USA Freedom Act enacted in 2015. I also support the bipartisan effort led by Sen. Warner and Rep. McCaul, to create a national commission on digital security and encryption to help show the way forward.

This is an issue that spans both the public and private sector. I will build on the Obama Administration’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, modernizing our government-wide cybersecurity and federal IT and empowering a federal Chief Information Security Officer. I also support public-private collaboration on cybersecurity innovation, along with implementing the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework. The next President will be confronted with these challenges, and will need common sense approaches to balance cybersecurity with personal privacy. The next president must be able to thoughtfully address these nuanced issues.

As president I will make it clear that the United States will treat cyberattacks just like any other attack. We will be ready with serious political, economic and military responses and we will invest in protecting our governmental networks and national infrastructure. I believe the United States should lead the world in setting the rules of cyberspace. If America doesn’t, others will. 

Donald Trump (R)

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. 

Gary Johnson (L)

Fortunately for the privacy of users, technology moves faster for them than for the government, but the Johnson-Weld administration still worries about their rights. We maintain that users have the right to expect communication free of government spying, except as authorized by a court-ordered search warrant. Further, we maintain that users can request and demand end-to-end encryption to protect their private information without government interference.

Currently, cybersecurity is handled mostly agency-by-agency, with certain government departments and agencies being specifically tasked with overlapping mandates for cybersecurity. Homeland Security has its cybersecurity agency, the NSA has its Cybercommand. Unfortunately the latter has become more and more an offensive tool rather than a defensive tool, often used against citizens of the United States. We propose returning Cybercommand to its original purpose of remaining on the forefront of American cyber defenses.

One of the challenges of an effective cybersecurity program is what’s often referred to as the Red Queen problem. In evolution, organisms evolve to outrace parasites and predators, but parasites and predators similarly evolve to become more dangerous or to outwit defenses. What this means for cybersecurity is that the more the NSA innovates either offensive or defensive capabilities, the more bad actors among foreign powers or cyber criminals will innovate to get around such new technology.

The best way to improve cybersecurity is to educate the most likely security hole in any technology—the people sitting at the keyboards.

Jill Stein (G)

The Internet and the access to information it provides is an extremely important resource for the entire world. Here is how we will protect and improve the Internet:

• Protect the free Internet. Oppose the Online Piracy Act and all other legislation that would undermine freedom and equality on the Internet.

• Vigorously defend net neutrality.

• Support public broadband Internet.

• Negotiate international treaty banning cyberwarfare; create a new UN agency tasked with identifying the sources of cyber attacks.

6. Mental Health

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?

Clinton begins by asserting that nearly a fifth of adults are “coping with a mental health issue” such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, while others deal with addictions or homelessness. She highlights the needs of veterans and children in particular, and says she plans to promote a “national initiative for suicide prevention” and “treatment over jail for low-level, non-violent offenders,” among other things. Clinton offers many “whats” but fewer “hows,” including funding or which agencies she will call upon. Grade: 3/5

Trump acknowledges that “jails are filled with those who need mental health care” and says the U.S. must invest in “treating those with mental illness.” But he offers no specifics, saying “this entire field of interest must be examined and a comprehensive solution must be developed.” His complete lack of specifics shows indicates that he has not given the subject much thought.  Grade: 1/5

Johnson lists “the greatest challenge in mental health treatment” as “getting treatment to those affected.” He proposes a “block grant approach” to funding mental health, giving states money to do what they wish. He argues that “decriminalization and legalization can remove enormous barriers to mental health treatment,” keeping drug abusers out of jail. He does not discuss how best practices can be shared in a block-grant system such as this—particularly as costs of care can vary widely between states (according to Kaiser Family Foundation data) and grants that do not account for these variables can leave some states foundering as others benefit Grade: 2/5

Stein says her “Medicare for All” system would offer “full funding for mental health care,” making it “easier” for “chronically mentally ill” patients to receive “Supplemental Security income.” She also highlights veterans and PTSD-related mental illness, and prisoners with mental disorders. The answer does not indicate how a “Medicare for All” program would be funded or how the U.S. would make the radical transition to such a program. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 6

Hillary Clinton (D)

Nearly a fifth of all adults in the United States, more than 40 million people, are coping with a mental health issue. Close to 14 million people live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Moreover, many of these individuals have additional complicating life circumstances, such as drug or alcohol addiction, homelessness, or involvement with the criminal justice system. Veterans are in acute need of mental health care, with close to 20 percent of those returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experiencing post-traumatic stress or depression. And the problem is not limited to adults: an estimated 17 million children in the United States experience mental health issues, as do one in four college students. Too many Americans are being left to face mental health issues on their own, and too many individuals are dying prematurely from associated health conditions. We must do better. 

That’s why I recently released a comprehensive and detailed plan to address this important issue that impacts so many American families. Under my plan, we’ll promote early diagnosis and intervention, including launching a national initiative for suicide prevention. We’ll integrate our nation’s mental and physical health care systems so that health care delivery focuses on the “whole person,” and significantly enhance community-based treatment opportunities. We’ll improve criminal justice outcomes by training law enforcement officers in crisis intervention, and prioritizing treatment over jail for low-level, non-violent offenders. We’ll enforce mental health parity to the full extent of the law. We’ll improve access to housing and job opportunities. And we’ll invest in brain and behavioral research and developing safe and effective treatments.

I’m proud of my record of advocating for greater protections and expanded access to treatment for people with mental health conditions, including co-sponsoring the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. My goal is that within my time in office as president, Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health when it comes to access to care or quality of treatment. The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma, or barriers to seeking out care.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

The greatest challenge in mental health treatment is actually getting treatment to those affected. We believe that federal, one-size-fits-all solutions are doomed to failure, or at best, inefficiency. As former Governors, both Bill Weld and I have seen first-hand that states are better-equipped to fashion programs that will help connect those who need help with those who can provide it. That is why we favor a block grant approach to federal funding for health care, including mental health treatment. Let the states innovate, and the result will be best practices.

Mental illness is often related to drug abuse—both temporary and permanent. We have made the drug abuse problem worse through the drug war. By treating users as criminals instead of patients, we have driven a new population of vulnerable individuals underground. By instilling fear, the drug war prevents treatment—and decriminalization and legalization can remove enormous barriers to mental health treatment.

Jill Stein (G)

As part of a Medicare for All universal health care system we need a mental health care system that safeguards human dignity, respects individual autonomy, and protects informed consent. In addition to full funding for mental health care, this means making it easier for the chronically mentally ill to apply for and receive Supplemental Security Income, and funding programs to increase public awareness of and sensitivity to the needs of the mentally ill and differently abled.

We must ensure that the government takes all steps necessary to fully diagnose and treat the mental health conditions resulting from service in combat zones, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

We will also release prisoners with diagnosed mental disorders to secure mental health treatment centers, and ensure psychological and medical care and rehabilitation services for mentally ill prisoners.

7. Energy

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? 

Clinton “rejects the notion that we as a country are forced to choose between our economy, our environment, and our security.” She hopes to “generate half of our electricity from clean sources” and install “half a billion solar panels” by the end of her first term. In addition, she plans to “cut energy waste” in homes, hospitals and schools, and “reduce American oil consumption by a third.” She plans to “launch a $60 billion clean energy challenge,” “invest in clean energy infrastructure” and “cut methane emissions.” Her detailed plan includes specific funds required and how she will work alongside climate change deniers. Grade: 5/5

Trump says Americans should “achieve energy independence as soon as possible,” and that “a thriving market system” will allow for a consumers to pick “the best sources of energy for future consumption.” Scientific American has previously reported on why the free market alone cannot stop climate change and has characterized the goal of “energy independence” as a bipartisan pipe dream. Trump fails to provide any details for his energy policy. Grade: 0/5

Johnson thinks “no source of energy is categorically wrong or right.” He calls for “reasonable regulation” of hydraulic fracturing or fracking after “appropriate research,” and says that “nuclear power generation has been underused.” He thinks that the market should “dictate” which sources—including nuclear, wind or solar—are used and in what amounts. Scientific American has previously reported on why reliance on the market alone for adopting renewables will not do enough to stop climate change in time to avoid planetary catastrophe. Johnson’s answer does not address how the U.S. will phase out fossil fuels. He loses points for feasibility, sustainability and effect on the environment. Grade: 2/5

Stein hopes to quickly transition to “100 percent clean renewable energy” with her “Green New Deal.” She wants to “treat energy as a human right,” build a “nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power,” dismantle natural gas and fossil fuel infrastructure and phase out nuclear power. However, the scientific consensus is that nuclear power is a proven method to produce electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. She loses points on feasibility as well as her anti-nuclear stance.  Grade: 2/5

Full Answers to Question 7

Hillary Clinton (D)

The next decade is not only critical to meeting the climate challenge, but offers a tremendous opportunity to ensure America becomes a 21st century clean energy superpower. I reject the notion that we as a country are forced to choose between our economy, our environment, and our security. The truth is that with a smart energy policy we can advance all three simultaneously. I will set the following bold, national goals—and get to work on Day 1, implementing my plan to achieve them within ten years of taking office: 

  • Generate half of our electricity from clean sources, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term.
  • Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.
  • Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

My plan will deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference—without relying on climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation. This includes:

  • Defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan and standards for cars, trucks, and appliances that are already helping clean our air, save families money, and fight climate change.
  • Launching a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families. 
  • Investing in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers. 
  • Ensuring the fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible and that areas too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table. 
  • Reforming leasing and expand clean energy production on public lands and waters tenfold within a decade.
  • Cutting the billions of wasteful tax subsidies oil and gas companies have enjoyed for too long and invest in clean energy.
  • Cutting methane emissions across the economy and put in place strong standards for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources.
  • Revitalizing coal communities by supporting locally driven priorities and make them an engine of U.S. economic growth in the 21st century, as they have been for generations. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

The Johnson Weld administration takes a holistic, market-based approach to energy policy. We believe that no source of energy is categorically wrong or right, but some sources of energy may be procured or used incorrectly or used in the wrong applications, too often as a consequence of government interference and manipulation. Fracking is literally rearranging the global energy marketplace, and should be accompanied by appropriate research into its impacts and the reasonable regulation thereof.

We believe that nuclear power generation has been underused and that unnecessary, outdated government obstacles to its development should be reassessed—without compromising safety. We believe wind and solar are valuable parts of a larger energy portfolio, but should be deployed as the market dictates, not politicians. Carbon capture technology and geothermal generation are only a couple of many other promising energy sources, but again, the market will ultimately dictate their maturation.

Jill Stein (G)

Our Green New Deal plan prioritizes a rapid transition to 100% clean renewable energy. Our energy strategy will also include:

• Enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right.

• Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled energy.

• End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies. End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee / tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.

8. Education

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?

Clinton lists statistics including that “less than one in five high school students has ever taken a computer science course.” She supports President Barack Obama’s existing “Computer Science for All” initiative, and hopes to “train an additional 50,000 [computer science] teachers in the next decade.” She mentions plans to support states that develop “innovative schools” and to support diverse institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. More than one reader wrote to Scientific American criticizing her response for focusing too much on “computer science.” Grade: 3/5

Trump says “there are a host of STEM programs already in existence,” and wants to focus on “market influences to bring better, higher quality educational circumstances to more children.” Yet recent investigations of private education companies such as ITT—not to mention Trump University—for deceptive advertising practices, among other things, makes clear that the for-profit education industry is no panacea. Grade: 0/5

Johnson blames the U.S. Department of Education for “stagnating our children’s education.” He feels education policy should be returned to the states, and that states have “every incentive” to achieve “high levels of educational performance.” But states clearly differ in their approaches and ability to ensure students graduate. Additionally, the answer does not address how to approach increasing the number of women or minorities in STEM fields. Grade: 1/5

Stein says she plans to “guarantee tuition-free world class public education,” “abolish student debt,” “replace common core” with a curriculum “developed by educators” and ensure “racially inclusive, sensitive and relevant curriculums.” Her answer does not address STEM or computer science, including issues such as the $15,000 salary gap between men and women in STEM careers or the 84 percent of STEM professionals who are white or Asian males, according to the Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation, respectively. She does not address how her proposed changes will take place, where the funding will come from, or how the changes will be implemented. Grade: 2/5

Full Answers to Question 8

Hillary Clinton (D)

In 2020, estimates show there will be 1.4 million computer-science related jobs in the United States, but current projections show we only have 400,000 computer science graduates to fill them. Less than one in five high school students has ever taken a computer science course; only seven percent of our country’s high schools offer Advanced Placement courses in computer science; and less than 40 percent of high school graduates have taken a physics course. We must do more to provide our students and workforce with the skills they need to get hired and advance in their careers.

Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science by the time they graduate high school. I support the Obama Administration’s “Computer Science for All” initiative. And I will take steps to increase investment and scale instruction and lesson programs that help improve student achievement or increase college enrollment and completion in computer science fields. These steps will help prepare the diverse tech workforce of tomorrow. At the same time, we need to expand the pool of computer science teachers so that we train an additional 50,000 CS teachers in the next decade.

Strong STEM programming in every public school is critical to our nation’s success and to reducing economic and social inequality. But today, less than 40 percent of high school graduates have taken a physics course, and the lack of STEM programming is even more pronounced in schools with high concentrations of students of color. We will support states, cities, and charters in developing innovative schools, like Denver’s School of Science and Technology and the Science Leadership Academy of Philadelphia, which have demonstrated success at engaging underrepresented populations in science and technology.

Beyond high school, we need to do more support the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions that train a large share of scientists and engineers of color. In addition to making it possible for every student to attend a four-year public college or university debt-free, we will create a special fund to support low-cost, modest-endowment HBCUs, HSIs, and MSIs. And we need to make sure that a four-year degree is not the only pathway to a middle-class life, including in technology and engineering careers, by supporting high-quality apprenticeship programs and training.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

By nationalizing education ever more, and increasing the test burden on our students, the Department of Education has aided in stagnating our children’s’ education. We propose to return education policy to the states. When every state has the benefit of 50 (not counting DC and territories) laboratories for best practices, we can liberate all education, not just STEM to produce newer and better techniques.

In today’s global and increasingly competitive economy, every state has every incentive to achieve high levels of educational performance. The imposition of federal standards is not only unnecessary, but counter-productive—as valuable resources are diverted to redundant testing and red tape.

Jill Stein (G)

Education is critically important to the future of our world. Here is how we will ensure that our students receive the best education possible:

• Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university.

• Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude and eliminate economic barriers to higher education.

• Protect our public school systems from privatization. 

• Replace Common Core with curriculum developed by educators, not corporations, with input from parents and communities.

• Restore arts, music and recreation to school curriculums.

• Ensure racially inclusive, sensitive and relevant curriculums.

• Recognize poverty as the key obstacle to learning. Ensure that kids come to school ready to learn: healthy, nourished, secure and free from violence.

• Increase federal funding of public schools to equalize public school funding.

9. Public Health

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?

Clinton argues that “we are not investing in public health preparedness and emergency response the way we should,” and backs up her claim with evidence showing that “spending on public health had fallen more than 9 percent since 2008.” She says she plans to address the problem in part by creating a “Public Health Rapid Response Fund” that offers “consistent, year-to-year budgets, to better enable” public health officials “to quickly and aggressively respond to major public health crises and pandemics.” Clinton loses a point for not detailing how much money she thinks the rapid response budget should contain or how it will be funded. Grade: 4/5

Trump suggests that “in a time of limited resources,” public health spending may not provide “the greatest bang for the buck.” In fact, studies show that public health efforts typically offer returns on investment of between 125 percent and 3,900 percent, depending on the program. Trump offers no indication that he has grappled with the issue in any detail. He also states that he will work with Congress to make sure that “adequate resources are assigned to achieve our goals”—not noting that Congress has still declined, as of press time, to approve money to deal with the Zika threat that has emerged in the southern U.S. Grade: 0/5

Johnson appreciates that “most public health laws are appropriately under the jurisdiction of the state and local governments.” He agrees that when a health threat “spreads beyond state lines,” the federal government must “step in.” But he offers no specifics on how to approach the issues of “superbugs” or possible epidemics, just that he will approach the issue, thus earning one point. Grade: 1/5

Stein’s “Medicare for All” system would supposedly “allow health data to be aggregated on a population-wide scale,” enable “assessment of the health needs of the entire population” and “remove barriers to care.” Two readers pointed out that she seems to be conflating the public health and medical care systems. Stein also loses points for not discussing feasibility or funding for her approaches. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 9

Hillary Clinton (D)

America has witnessed enormous successes with some of its major public health initiatives, such as smoking cessation and water fluoridation. Yet, we have a long way to go to strengthen the public health system to provide adequate protection for our communities. Recent events like lead contamination in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, development of antibiotic resistant microbes, uncontrolled spread of Aedes mosquitos that spread tropical diseases like Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya, the growth of opiate addiction, and the continuing need to address HIV make clear the shortcomings of our public health system and the urgent need for improvements.

But despite these threats, we are not investing in public health preparedness and emergency response the way we should to keep our families and communities safe. A 2015 study found that spending on public health had fallen more than nine percent since 2008. And uncertain long-term budgets leave our public health agencies dependent on emergency appropriations—meaning that when Congress fails to step up, communities are left without the resources they need, vaccines languish in development, and more people get sick.

That is why as President, I will create a Public Health Rapid Response Fund, with consistent, year-to-year budgets, to better enable the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local public health departments, hospital systems, and other federal agencies to quickly and aggressively respond to major public health crises and pandemics. I will also ensure that our government has strong leadership and is organized to better support and work with people on the ground facing public health challenges.

In addition, we need to do more to boost our preparedness for biological threats and bioweapons; to support research for new diagnostic tests, therapeutic treatments, and vaccines for emerging diseases; to build capacity in public health departments; to train the next cadre of public health professionals and ensure that public health and environmental health practices are standard to the educations of medical students; and to provide resources for states and local governments to plan for complex, multi-faceted public health threats, like the impacts of climate change, and build more resilient communities.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

Most public health laws and programs are appropriately under the jurisdiction of the states, given that state and local governments are closer to the specific needs and challenges of their populations and regions. However, we have made clear our belief that, when a public health threat spreads beyond state lines or is clearly beyond the capacity of individual states to handle, there is a role for the federal government to step in, consistent with the federal responsibility to protect citizens from harm.

That same guiding principle will dictate our response to such challenges as “superbugs”, possible epidemics, and other threats that extend across the entire nation.

10. Water

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?

Clinton says she worries about our country’s “chronic underinvestment” in drinking and wastewater systems, and is concerned with risks to humans, wildlife and ecosystems. She hopes to “invest in infrastructure” to modernize water resources and that the federal government will be a “better partner” to “improve water security” on the local level. She adds that she would like to create a “Western Water Partnership” to handle these issues in the west and to establish a “Water Innovation Lab” to bring farmers, engineers, entrepreneurs and others together to deal with water issues. She does not outline a time schedule or monetary assessment of these plans. Grade: 4/5

Trump says water “may be the most important issue we face as a nation for the next generation,” but offers no solutions other than “making desalinization more affordable.” But as one reader noted, “We cannot desalinate our way out of the problem.” Increasing supply without boosting conservation and reuse is not sustainable. Meanwhile, Trump told a crowd at a rally in Fresno that “there is no drought” in California. His inconsistencies earn him zero points. Grade: 0/5

Johnson accepts that “environmental protection is a legitimate federal function.” He thinks the “mechanisms for appropriate protection” are already in place, and he argues that failures are “almost always” due to “individual wrongdoing and lack of transparency.” He blames “local and state officials” for failing to carry out their responsibilities, citing the lead problems in Flint, Mich. He does not detail what the federal government should do in these cases, however. Nor does he indicate what should be done to address larger problems of scarcity that have nothing to do with malfeasance. Grade: 2/5

Stein says that we “need a national comprehensive water plan,” and that her “Green New Deal’s focus on infrastructure will help prevent future poisoned drinking water crises like that in Flint.” She does not detail how a Green New Deal would handle improving water resources and building infrastructure. Although a better Superfund program might help clean pollution, it won’t handle issues related to access and aquifer depletion. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 10

Hillary Clinton (D)

Chronic underinvestment in our nation’s drinking and wastewater systems has sickened and endangered Americans from Flint, Michigan, to Ohio and West Virginia. Outdated and inadequate wastewater systems discharge more than 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage a year, posing health risks to humans and wildlife life, disrupting ecosystems, and disproportionately impacting communities of color. In addition, many struggling communities around the United States have limited or no access to clean, safe water.

We will invest in infrastructure and work with states, municipalities, and the private sector to bring our water systems into the 21st century and provide all Americans access to clean, safe drinking water.

Climate change is also triggering changes in weather patterns, including the increased prevalence of long, hard droughts that pose a dire risk to the health and prosperity of American communities, particularly in the West. The federal government must become a better partner in supporting state and locally-led efforts to improve water security. To that end, we will create a coordinated, multi-agency Western Water Partnership to help fund water efficiency, consideration, and infrastructure modernization projects across the region, including significant new investments in water reuse and reclamation. 

We will also work to bring cutting edge efficiency, treatment and reuse solutions to our nation’s water challenges by establishing a new Water Innovation Lab. The Lab will bring urban water managers, farmers and tribes together with engineers, entrepreneurs, conservationists and other stakeholders to develop practical and usable technologies and strategies that can be deployed by local water utilities, agricultural and industrial water users, and environmental restoration projects across the country.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We have consistently stated that environmental protection is a legitimate federal function. While water supply is traditionally a matter of state law, the protection of water supplies from those who do harm to those supplies and the populations who depend upon them is, at times, unavoidably a federal function. As Governors, we oversaw and participated in the regulatory relationship between state agencies and, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency. The mechanisms for appropriate protection are there; the failures we have seen, such as in Flint, Michigan, almost always result from individual wrongdoing and a lack of transparency. The idea that an entire population can, for years, be subjected to dangerous water supplies is, in our opinion, criminal—and if local and state officials fail to carry out their responsibilities, there are times when the federal government may have no option but to step in.

Jill Stein (G)

We need a national comprehensive water plan. 

Clean water is a human right. The Green New Deal’s focus on infrastructure will help prevent future poisoned drinking water crises like that in Flint, Michigan.

Rejuvenating the federal Superfund program will help clean up the polluted drinking water of millions of Americans.

11. Nuclear Power

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?

Clinton correctly notes that nuclear power is responsible for “more than 60 percent of our zero carbon power generation today,” and says she hopes to increase investment in advanced nuclear power generation while working with other countries to “minimize the use of weapons-grade material for civil nuclear programs.” Her response is short on details about how to safely dispose of nuclear waste or change current opposition to expanding nuclear power in the U.S. Grade: 3/5

Trump is in favor of continued nuclear power production and “energy independence” but does not indicate how he will balance nuclear energy with nuclear security. As Scientific American noted in 2012, “energy independence” is likely to be a “bipartisan pipe dream” that would, as a practical matter, require the U.S. to withdraw from all international energy markets. Grade: 1/5

Johnson‘s response indicates that he is a strong supporter of nuclear power. He plans to maintain “strict nuclear safety standards” while at the same time investigating such technologies as “breeder reactors or thorium reactors,” which (depending on design) produce less radioactive waste and are less likely to be used for making bombs. Grade: 5/5

Stein hopes to “phase out nuclear power over a 10-year timeline.” She does not favor transporting nuclear waste from reactor sites but instead thinks existing waste should be “handled with onsite dry cask storage of high-level waste into perpetuity.” If adopted, her plan would almost certainly make preventing catastrophic climate change more difficult, unless fossil fuel consumption drops with unrealistic speed. One Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering wrote to Scientific American that Stein “has little understanding of how renewables can cover the fluctuating demands and supplies of an energy system.” Grade: 2/5

Full Answers to Question 11

Hillary Clinton (D)

Meeting the climate challenge is too important to limit the tools available in this fight. Nuclear power—which accounts for more than 60 percent of our zero carbon power generation today—is one of those tools. I will work to ensure that the climate benefits of our existing nuclear power plants that are safe to operate are appropriately valued and increase investment in the research, development and deployment of advanced nuclear power. At the same time, we must continue to invest in the security of our nuclear materials at home, and improve coordination between federal, state, and local authorities. We must also seek to reduce the amount of nuclear material worldwide—working with other countries so minimize the use of weapons-grade material for civil nuclear programs.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

The Johnson Weld administration supports nuclear power precisely because it produces energy without greenhouse gases. Other nations have used nuclear power safely for generations. However, we recognize that a failure or security breach at a nuclear facility can have catastrophic results.

The Johnson Weld administration would maintain strict nuclear safety standards, but also investigate newer and safer lower yield reactors like breeder reactors or thorium reactors, which produce less or even reduce nuclear waste. The challenge of nuclear waste storage is, of course, a serious one. However, we believe solutions exist, and can be implemented, if decisions can be based on science and honest risk assessment, rather than the politics of pitting one state or community against another.

Jill Stein (G)

Nuclear fission technology is unsafe, expensive, and dirty from the mining of uranium to the disposal of spent fuel. As such we will end subsidies to the nuclear industry immediately and phase out nuclear power over a 10 year timeline. Existing nuclear waste will be handled with onsite dry cask storage of high-level waste into perpetuity. No transport of nuclear waste.

12. Food

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? 

Clinton proposes to do more to “support family farms,” which made up 97 percent of farm operations in the U.S. in 2011. She also plans to expand investment in the rural economy and health care. Most of her answer is based on economic arguments and does not address using “objective knowledge from science,” as described in the question.  Grade: 2/5

Trump thinks that “the agriculture industry should be free to seek its best solutions through the market system,” but offers no guidance on how to unravel the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the industry via federal subsidies, government-funded agricultural research and government-led international market development. Grade: 0/5

Johnson “would eliminate agricultural subsidies, focusing instead on opening markets to U.S. goods.” He offers no evidence that such a policy would help address any of the issues raised by the question. Grade: 1/5

Stein mixes credible science with points that are not supported by evidence. Her concern about the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees and other pollinating insects is supported by recent scientific studies, but her proposal to “label GMOs” and put them under moratorium until they are “proven safe” subjects them to a standard that is impossible for any product to meet. The vast majority of current research on GMOs in both Europe and the U.S. finds no evidence of harm. Grade: 2/5

Full Answers to Question 12

Hillary Clinton (D)

America’s rural communities lie at the heart of what makes this country great. The affordability of our food, the independence and sophistication of our energy supply, and the strength of our small communities all depend on a vibrant rural America.

As president, my administration will do more to support family farms by doubling funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program; building strong and sustainable local food systems; and providing a focused safety net by continuing to make progress in targeting federal resources in commodity payment, crop insurance, and disaster assistance programs to support family operations. 

And we will spur investment to help power the rural economy, including by expanding access to equity capital for rural businesses by increasing the number of Rural Business Investment Companies, which make equity investments in small rural businesses—driving growth and creating jobs in rural areas, and supporting investments in clean energy. 

We must also acknowledge the other issues facing our rural communities. We need to expand health care access to all areas of our country, which includes broadening telemedicine. As president, I will explore ways in which we can expand tele-health reimbursement under Medicare and other programs, including federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We wouldn’t manage the US agricultural enterprise. Many, if not most, of the artificial distortions and imbalances that today exist in agriculture are the result of the fact that the federal government has been “managing” agricultural production since the 1940’s. We would eliminate agricultural subsidies, focusing instead on opening markets to U.S. goods so that farmers can produce—or not—for consumers, not the government.

In terms of water quality and other environmental impacts of farming, our approach would be the same as with all facets of the economy: Protecting life and property from harm inflicted by the actions and practices of others.

Jill Stein (G)

We need a food system that is healthy and sustainable. To this end, we will:

• Invest in clean air, water, food and soil for everyone. 

• Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

• Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.

• Support organic and regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.

• Protect the rights of future generations. Adopt the Precautionary Principle. When an activity poses threats of harm to human health or the environment, in the absence of objective scientific consensus that it is safe, precautionary measures should be taken. The proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

• Redirect the Dept of Agriculture to meet the needs of small farmers to realize these goals.

13. Global Challenges

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?

Clinton says she would like to “appoint our country’s first Special Envoy for Climate Change” and make climate policy “a key part of our broader relationship with China” and others. She plans to cut emissions by “at least 80 percent of 2005 levels by mid century” through “more clean energy investment in emerging economies” and other methods. She would like to create a “dedicated Rapid Response Fund” and “comprehensive global health strategy” to help “shore up our defenses” against epidemics and pandemics. Clinton loses points for offering plenty of facts but few specifics as to what multilateral partnerships or a comprehensive global health strategy will look like. Grade: 3/5

Trump believes that “a prosperous America is a much better partner in tackling global problems.” And yet, there is little evidence that wealth automatically translates into better decisions on a variety of issues. The gross domestic product of the U.S. is one of the highest of any country in the world according to the CIA World Factbook, but it is also one of the top greenhouse gas emitters and ranks 31st in life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Trump’s answer is built on an incorrect premise. Grade: 0/5

Johnson views these global challenges more as “political problems” than “scientific ones.” He feels the U.S. needs to “engage the world in the most non-threatening way possible.” It is unclear from Johnson’s answer how he plans on handling health or environmental issues on a global scale, so he earns zero points for the response. Grade: 0/5

Stein says we need “foreign policy based on diplomacy” and international law. She says she would like to strengthen “international institutions” but doesn’t say which institutions, or how. Grade: 0/5

Full Answers to Question 13

Hillary Clinton (D)

Many of the greatest—and hardest—challenges facing our country extend beyond our borders and can only be ultimately addressed through global solutions. Climate change is a case in point. And that is why as Secretary of State I elevated the role of climate policy in our diplomacy, appointing our country’s first Special Envoy for Climate Change, making climate policy a key part of our broader relationship with China and other key countries, and helping to create and launch the global Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce potent non-carbon climate pollution.

As the world’s biggest and most powerful economy—and as the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and the biggest historical emitter—the United States has a responsibility to lead the global response to the climate challenge. By making strong progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, President Obama was able to persuade and pressure other major emitters, including China and India, to step up. This dual process, where domestic policy changes helped spur international action, led tot the historic 195-nation Paris climate agreement, the first in our history where every country agreed to be part of the solution to climate change. 

The Paris agreement is critical, but it is not sufficient on its own. To keep global warming below the two degrees Celsius threshold and avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to cut emissions by at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by mid-century. To get there, we will need to continually work to improve upon the goals set in Paris, both in the United States and around the world. That’s why we must work to support more clean energy investment in emerging economies, help developing nations build resilience to the climate impacts that can’t be avoided, and continue to drive clean energy innovation here at home. And we will continue to work on a bilateral and multilateral basis with our partners, with key countries like China, and with the UNFCCC to protect our nation, our planet, and our children’s future. 

When dealing with the outbreak of diseases, we must be sure to act with caution, and rely on science to inform our decisions around trade, travel, and treatment. We are privileged to live in a country that individuals around the world aspire to visit and even immigrate to. It is within our national interest to think beyond our borders, and through our leadership, do everything we can to foster peace, health, and security around the world. In the United States, we need to break the cycle in which our own public health system is beholden to emergency appropriations for specific epidemics. We can do this by creating a dedicated Rapid Response Fund to help shore up our defenses, accelerate development of vaccines and new treatments, and respond more effectively to crises. We will also create a comprehensive global health strategy that moves beyond the disease-by-disease emergency model and seeks to build a robust, resilient global health system capable of quickly responding to and ending pandemics. 

Donald Trump (R)

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. 

Gary Johnson (L)

We view these cross border issues as political problems, not just scientific problems. Nature will always present problems and opportunities that affect more than just one nation—which is why we need to engage with the world in the most non threatening way possible. Diplomacy and trade remain the best tools to tackle global and transnational issues.

Jill Stein (G)

We need a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law and respect for human rights. By strengthening international institutions, we lay the groundwork for greater cooperation on critical challenges such as climate change and pandemic diseases.

14. Regulations

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?

Clinton says “it is essential that environmental, health, and energy regulations, among other areas, use the best available science to guide decision-making.” She does not, however, address how to maintain a thriving business sector without compromising American health and the environment. Grade: 3/5

Trump says we must balance a “thriving economy” with resources and “protecting citizens from threats,” and that “science will inform our decisions.” These assertions are inconsistent with previous false statements on climate change and vaccine safety rendered throughout his campaign. Grade: 0/5

Johnson believes in “reducing federal regulations wherever possible” and thinks the Food and Drug Administration should turn “more toward informing the public of possible effects and away from regulation.” There is little evidence, however, to support his idea that less oversight leads to better safety or less fraud in the pharmaceutical industry. Grade: 0/5

Stein says her campaign will “rely on evidence-based approaches to regulation” including use of the “Precautionary Principle,” which states that “when an activity poses threats of harm to human health or the environment, in the absence of objective scientific consensus that it is safe, precautionary measures should be taken.”  But she does not discuss what constitutes a threat, who will decide or how to involve the business sector. Additionally, the precautionary principle is frequently invoked against things already proven safe, such as vaccines and GMOs. Grade: 1/5

Full Answers to Question 14

Hillary Clinton (D)

It is essential that environmental, health, and energy regulations, among other areas, use the best available science to guide decision-making, and I am committed to making sure that continues. For instance, we will have science guide us as we make important investments around health care. We will continue to invest in research to further our understanding of disease, including ramping up our investment in Alzheimer’s and related dementias to $2 billion per year, continuing Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, and scaling up our broader investment in the National Institutes of Health’s budget to combat all of the diseases of our day. 

My opponent in this race has consistently discounted scientific findings, from his comments about vaccines to his claim that climate change is a hoax. These dangerous positions not only put Americans at risk, but can have long term impacts on our country’s growth and productivity. Science will ensure our country continues to progress, and will help our government use its resources to provide the best possible life for all Americans.  

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We believe in reducing federal regulations where possible. One way we would reduce regulation is to investigate and execute a national Right to Try for medicines and procedures aimed at chronic and terminal patients. Right to use experimental medicine when hope is deemed lost—in a purely voluntary basis should be allowed with proper oversight.

The FDA has also overstepped when it has taken away therapies already proven valuable in certain patients. Granted, the FDA has a mandate to improve safety, but sudden changes of regulation also produce sudden changes in medication which create very risky situations in a clinical environment. We would prefer the FDA take a more holistic approach to relative risk. We would turn the FDA more towards informing the public of possible effects and away from regulation whereby important therapies are kept from or removed from the market. Patients and doctors must be kept informed of the relative risks involved, but patients and doctors are more aware of the stakes than regulators in Washington DC.

Jill Stein (G)

We will rely on evidence-based approaches to regulation. Science advisors will play a central role in our administration. We will appoint scientific review panels and committees.

Some guiding principles for our approach to regulation:

• Protect the rights of future generations. Adopt the Precautionary Principle. When an activity poses threats of harm to human health or the environment, in the absence of objective scientific consensus that it is safe, precautionary measures should be taken. The proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

• Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation, as well as other technologies that promote the transition to a sustainable civilization.

• Enact stronger environmental justice laws and measures to ensure that low-income and communities of color are not disproportionately impacted by harmful pollution and other negative environmental and health effects.

15. Vaccination

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?

Clinton says that with the support of various international organizations, she will work to “press for the elimination” of diseases such as whooping cough and diphtheria. She also says she will work with physicians at the U.S. Public Health Service to “educate parents about vaccines” and “point out the dangers of not vaccinating children.” Grade: 4/5

Trump offers little beyond his desire to “educate the public,” which the government is already trying to do. See also his history of anti-vaccine statements, described in question 14. Grade: 1/5

Johnson thinks “the current legal infrastructure regarding vaccination is basically sound,” but if a “national or regional” outbreak occurs, then the federal government “has the obligation to assist.” His “hands-off” philosophy ignores the extent to which state, local and federal authorities already work together on a variety of issues, as well as how quickly a seemingly local outbreak can became national or even global in scope. Grade: 2/5

Stein notes vaccines are a “critical part of our public health system” and “prevent serious epidemics,” but worries that “corporate influence” has lessened some parents’ trust of science and authorities. More generally, as one of our readers notes, she seems to be answering a question about how to pay for health care rather than how to improve public health: “As a doctor, she should know the difference.” Stein has also not addressed the anti-vaccine stance of many of her supporters, which lacks scientific credibility. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 15

Hillary Clinton (D)

Through vaccinations and vaccine science, I am committed to protecting our nation’s children, as well as populations worldwide, from infectious disease threats. 

Over the last two decades, we have made extraordinary global gains in reducing childhood illness and deaths through expanded use of vaccines and immunization. The number of childhood deaths from infections such as measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, and other diseases has dramatically declined in recent years, in large measure due to vaccination. We still have a long way to go, but globally—with the support of Gavi, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other international organizations—I will work hard to press for the elimination of these deadly diseases.

At the same time, the recent measles outbreaks in California’s Marin and Orange counties remind us that we cannot be complacent with our own nation’s vaccine policies.  Measles, for example, remains a serious matter, killing almost 100,000 children annually around the world. As president, I will work closely with the talented physicians, nurses, and scientists in our US Public Health Service to speak out and educate parents about vaccines, focusing on their extraordinary track record in saving lives and pointing out the dangers of not vaccinating our children.  

Additionally, the recent outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, and MERS are a wake-up call that we must continue to innovate and develop disease countermeasures.  Our scientists have made great progress. Yet there remains a troubling “innovation gap” between early phase vaccine discovery and industrial-scale production and vaccine delivery. We need to engage stakeholders across industry, non-profits, foundations, and government to bridge this gap and spur the development of a new generation of vaccines.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We believe the current legal infrastructure regarding vaccination is basically sound. There are currently no federal vaccination requirements, leaving those requirements largely to the states and school districts, consistent with the legal requirement that children attend school. However, if a national or regional outbreak of disease presents a threat to the general population, the Federal Government has the obligation to assist, and if necessary, impose science and medically—based requirements.

We also need better and greater international engagement in dealing with international outbreaks. Viruses don’t yield to customs officials, and as we’ve seen with the recent Ebola crisis, a dangerous pandemic is often one international flight ticket away from our country.

Jill Stein (G)

Vaccines are a critical part of our public health system. Vaccines prevent serious epidemics that would cause harm to many people and that is why they are a foundation to a strong public health system. Polio is an important example. So is H Flu—a bacteria that caused serious illness, including meningitis, in 20,000 children a year in the US, before development of the H flu vaccine. We need universal health care as a right to ensure that everyone has access to critical vaccines.

Experts like Douglas Diekema, MD MPH say that the best way to overcome resistance to vaccination is to acknowledge and address concerns and build trust with hesitant parents. To reverse the problem of declining vaccination rates, we need to increase trust in our public health authorities and all scientific agencies. We can do that by removing corporate influence from our regulatory agencies to eliminate apparent conflicts of interest and show skeptics, in this case vaccine-resistant parents, that the motive behind vaccination is protecting their children’s health, not increasing profits for pharmaceutical companies.

16. Space

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?

Clinton lists many of NASA’s accomplishments and says we must “maintain our nation’s leadership in space.” She has a clear understanding of recent accomplishments in space, but does not discuss the private sector’s role in any detail or how to prioritize among projects. Grade: 2/5

Trump says he supports a “strong space program,” which can have “a positive constructive impact” on the United States. However, he does not offer any specific goals or mention any past or future NASA objectives. Additionally, he has in the past said that “space is terrific,” but not as important as potholes. Grade: 1/5

Johnson welcomes “private participation and even dominance in space exploration.” However, he does not put forth any ideas for handling NASA or any national goals for space exploration. Grade: 1/5

Stein supports “peaceful exploration of space,” “space-based systems” for monitoring the environment, and “measures to ensure that space technology benefits all the people on Earth.” She favors “focusing U.S. space efforts away from corporate and military interests,” but does not explain how to reach that goal or how to fund her proposals.  Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 16

Hillary Clinton (D)

President Kennedy’s challenge in 1962 to go to the Moon within a decade electrified the nation, prompted a long period of American leadership in science and technology, and spurred a generation of innovators. 

In the decades since, we have explored the sun and every planet in our solar system; mapped the surface and studied the atmosphere of Mars and confirmed the presence of water on the Red Planet; discovered new solar systems with Earth-like planets; mapped the distribution of galaxies in the universe; observed black holes, dark matter, and dark energy; built programs to monitor our ozone layer and the catastrophic impact of global climate change; and identified and mapped near-Earth asteroids as a first step to protect our planet from a major asteroid impact. The International Space Station stands as the largest and most complex international technological project in history and has been key to understanding the response of the human body to long periods in zero gravity.  And in recent years, new companies have sprung up that offer the promise of innovative approaches to transporting cargo and, eventually, humans in space. Americans have always been willing to think big, take risks, and push forward. These pillars will continue to underpin what America does in space, just as they define who we are as a people.

As president, my administration will build on this progress, promote innovation, and advance inspirational, achievable, and affordable space initiatives.  We must maintain our nation’s leadership in space with a program that balances science, technology and exploration; protect our security and the future of the planet through international collaboration and Earth systems monitoring; expand our robotic presence in the solar system; and maximize the impact of our RD and other space program investments by promoting stronger coordination across federal agencies, and cooperation with industry. I will work with Congress to ensure that NASA has the leadership, funding and operational flexibility necessary to work in new ways with industry, placing emphasis on inventing and employing new technologies and efficiencies to get more bang for the buck while creating jobs and growing the American economy. 

Today, thanks to a series of successful American robotic explorers, we know more about the Red Planet than ever before. A goal of my administration will be to expand this knowledge even further and advance our ability to make human exploration of Mars a reality. 

As a young girl, I was so inspired by America’s leadership and accomplishments in space that I wrote to NASA about becoming an astronaut. As president, I will help inspire the next generation of young Americans and do what I can to ensure that we have the world’s most exciting and advanced space program, one that meets our highest human aspirations in a world where the sky is no longer the limit.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

Private corporations are increasingly interested in space travel, and the private sector has access to far more resources than the public, so we welcome private participation and even dominance in space exploration.

Jill Stein (G)

We recognize the inspiration provided by space exploration and so we support:

1. the peaceful exploration of space

2. space-based systems to monitor environmental conditions on Earth

3. measures to ensure that space technology benefits all the people of Earth

Space exploration and science are international scientific endeavours requiring cooperation between many nations and peoples across borders. The peaceful exploration of space provides inspiration, education, and valuable scientific knowledge. Cooperation on space science and exploration is a promising path to peace. The US has an opportunity to continue leading in space science while ending space militarization. The US can lead international collaboration in space science and exploration without privatizing outer space or turning over space science and exploration efforts to corporations.

Climate science, including the study of other planets in our solar system and beyond, is essential for understanding how to address climate change on Earth. Space science, exploration, and Earth observation provide tools, technologies, and science to help address not only climate change but flooding, drought, storms, famine, and other crises. By focusing US space efforts away from corporate and military interests, we can work to create peace here on Earth and in space, prevent the deployment of space weapons and instead focus on technologies to solve problems on Earth, not create new ones.

Here are steps we will take to advance space exploration and science:

– Funding STEM education and forgiving student debt of STEM scholars so they can focus on science and research.

– signing of the International Treaty for the Demilitarization of Space. 

– Ensuring scientists, not corporate or military interests, are driving the space exploration and science agenda

– Ensure funding of pure research, for the benefit of all humanity and our planet.

– Work closely with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) on ensuring the peaceful exploration of space.

17. Opioids

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?

Clinton touches on a variety of concerns, which shows that she has thoroughly engaged in the issue. Among other things, she wants to allow first responders to administer naloxone (an anti-overdose treatment). Grade: 4/5

Trump focuses on illicit drug smuggling, leaving out the arguably larger problem of addiction to prescription drugs. He asserts that he can stop the flow of opioids into the U.S. but offers no details on how he would change current drug enforcement policy, demonstrating a near-total lack of understanding of the issue. Grade: 0/5

Johnson offers a single, specific proposal: the rescheduling of cannabis to allow more research into marijuana as a potential alternative to prescription opioids. He loses points for failing to adequately address counseling, treatment or research issues. Grade: 1/5

Stein says she would end the “war on drugs” and redirect funds toward expanded research, education, counseling and treatment. She loses points for lack of detail. Grade: 1/5

Full Answers to Question 17

Hillary Clinton (D)

Our country is in the grips of a quiet epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction. Twenty-three million Americans suffer from addiction, and 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have misused prescription drugs, including one in four teenagers. We must work with medical doctors and nurses across the country to treat this issue on the ground, from how patients are accessing these medications to how we are supporting them in recovery. 

To combat America’s deadly epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, I have proposed a $10 billion initiative, and laid out a series of goals to help communities across the country. We need to expand the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant and support new federal-state partnerships targeting prevention, treatment, recovery, and other areas of reform. We must empower communities to implement preventive programming for teenagers; help individuals suffering from addiction receive ongoing, comprehensive treatment; and provide first responders with naloxone, which prevents overdoses from becoming fatal. We must also work with those individuals prescribing controlled medications, and ensure they are getting the proper training in providing these prescriptions. 

Finally, we must prioritize rehabilitation and treatment over prison for low-level and non-violent offenders. Currently, 65 percent of inmates in our prison system meet medical criteria for substance use disorders and over half of inmates suffer from a mental health problem. Jail time should not be a substitute for treatment. Working together, we can combat this epidemic and ensure that people across the country are getting the care they need to live long and healthy lives. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

Opioid addiction is, indeed, a crisis, and one that can largely be attributed to the insanity of our drug laws. A major reason opioids are overprescribed is that patients don’t have access to other safer pain management alternatives—such as cannabis. It is absurd that thousands of people are dying each year from ‘legal’ opioids, while the Federal Government still treats medical cannabis as criminal. One of my first acts as President would be to direct the rescheduling of cannabis to allow more research and prescription.

And in all due respect, with regard to doctors and pharmaceutical companies, the reality is that opioid prescription and subsequent abuse is a product of crony capitalism. In state after state, legislation to allow the prescription of medical cannabis and related products has been stymied largely by doctors, pharmacists and those who profit from the sale of legal opioids.

Jill Stein (G)

We will end the “war on drugs” and redirect funds presently budgeted for the “war on drugs” toward expanded research, education, counseling and treatment.

18. Ocean Health

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?

Clinton promises to “oppose efforts in Congress that seek to weaken” current legislation against overfishing in U.S. waters. She also promises to “act globally to address the fisheries crisis” as well as the negative impact of rising temperature and acidification of ocean water. Grade: 4/5

Trump does not mention the ocean, fish, fisheries, coral reefs or coastlines in his answer. Grade: 0/5

Johnson favors taking “reasonable steps to protect coastlines and territorial waters,” but he does not define what “reasonable” means. Global efforts, he says, should focus on “international agreements and allowing consumer-driven market forces to reduce over-harvesting and ocean pollution,” completely ignoring the extent to which market forces have fueled the problem in the first place. Grade: 0/5

Stein promises to “move smartly to address ocean health with or without Congress.” She loses points for not providing a specific plan for handling overfishing or oceanic concerns. Additionally, the platform on the Green Party’s website does not offer a solution for sustainable fishing, aside from banning drift net and long-line fishing and banning importation of drift-net-caught fish. Grade: 2/5

Full Answers to Question 18

Hillary Clinton (D)

Our coastal and ocean resources play a critical role in providing nutritious food, good livelihoods, and critical storm protection for our nation. With about 40 percent of our nation’s population living in coastal counties, 1.8 million Americans making their livelihood from fisheries, and 3 billion people globally dependent on the oceans for a major portion of their protein, we cannot afford to ignore the health of our oceans.

I will continue to recover and rebuild U.S. fish stocks by making sound management decisions based on the best available science. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act laid an important foundation for guiding how we manage our fisheries.  My administration will work with fishers so that we continue to have the best managed fisheries in the world, and I will oppose efforts in Congress that seek to weaken Magnuson-Stevens or divorce it from our best science.  These steps will protect the livelihoods of today’s fishers and ensure the health of these resources for generations to come.  

At the same time, we will act globally to address the fisheries crisis.  Ninety percent of our seafood is imported, making the United States one of the top markets for fish from around the world.  Yet, experts estimate that up to 32 percent of that seafood, worth up to $2 billion, comes from “pirate” fishing. This illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing also deprives fishing communities of up to $23 billion per year and puts honest, hardworking American fishers at a disadvantage in the marketplace.  I will work with our industry, and other countries, to implement strong traceability standards for our seafood from bait to plate.

In addition, we must continue to protect and restore the coastal habitat upon which healthy fisheries depend. My administration will work collaboratively across government, academia, and industry to build solutions that keep our waters clean, our coastal and ocean resources healthy, and our communities thriving. 

At the same time, climate change and carbon pollution is also taking a heavy toll on our oceans.  From oyster farms in Washington State to coral reefs in Hawaii and rising seas in Virginia, warming, acidifying waters are damaging our resources and the people who depend on them. I will make sure America continues leading the global fight against climate change, support development of the best climate science, and instruct federal agencies to incorporate that knowledge into their policies and practices so that we are preparing for the future, not just responding to the past.

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

Much like climate change, we must be realistic about the limits of unilateral regulatory action in addressing problems that are largely international. While we can, and should, take reasonable steps to protect our coastlines and territorial waters, our larger efforts will have to be focused on international agreements and allowing consumer-driven market forces to reduce over-harvesting and ocean pollution. Ultimately, the health of our oceans and fisheries will hinge upon economic forces and global agreements.

Jill Stein (G)

Our climate action and environmental protection plans will work to conserve fish stocks and coral reefs. Rapid response to climate change is the centerpiece of the Stein administration. From plastic trash to ocean acidification, we will move smartly to address ocean health with or without Congress.

19. Immigration

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?

Editor’s note: As a science magazine, we did not feel qualified to give number grades on immigration policy. Thus, we offer the following assessments without providing number grades.

Clinton proposes “stapling” a green card to masters and Ph.D. degrees in science, technology, engineering and medicine as a way of enabling high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. She does not address recent abuses of the H1-B visa program by tech companies.

Trump notes that “immigration has been one of the cornerstones of my campaign,” without mentioning the one promise for which he is most famous: building a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. He denounces companies that abuse the H1-B visa system to replace high-paying jobs with “cheaper” labor.

Johnson favors “a robust H1-B visa program,” which he says “increases innovation and creates wealth,” among other things. He would “remove caps, expedite processes and otherwise allow immigration by those with all levels and types of skills to be determined by the employment marketplace.”

Stein supports the H1-B visa program and seeks to broaden discussion about immigration issues into the larger context of the global economy, “international development and demilitarization.” She does not specifically address the status of “scientists and engineers who receive their graduate degree at an American university.”

Full Answers to Question 19

Hillary Clinton (D)

As president, I will fight to make sure the United States continues to be a place where individuals from around the world can come to pursue their dreams and use their talents to help our country grow and innovate. This includes the talented scientists and engineers who choose to pursue their education at American universities. 

Our immigration system is plagued by visa backlogs and other barriers that prevent high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs from coming to, staying in, and creating jobs in America. Far too often, we require talented people from other countries who are trained in United States universities to return home, rather than stay in here and continue to contribute to our economy. As part of a comprehensive immigration solution, we should “staple” a green card to STEM masters and PhDs from accredited institutions—enabling international students who complete degrees in these fields to move to green card status. I will also support “start-up” visas that allow top entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the United States, build companies in technology-oriented globally traded sectors, and create more jobs and opportunities for American workers. 

In my first 100 days in office, I will put a bill before Congress introducing comprehensive immigration reform. This bill will secure our borders, focus our enforcement resources on violent criminals, keep families together, and include reforms to retain and attract talented, skilled scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. 

In addition, there are an estimated nine million lawful permanent residents in our country who are eligible to become citizens. We need to promote the benefits of American citizenship, and eliminate the cost barriers to naturalization. I will also work to ensure that individuals who immigrate to our country have the support they need to integrate into their communities. I will create a National Office for Immigrant Affairs, and will support affordable integration services through new grant funding. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

We believe immigration is key to American strength. American culture evolves by getting new ideas from without as well as within—we would do everything in our power to loosen limits on immigration. While some in the technical fields believe that a robust H1-B visa program depresses STEM wages, we believe that it increases the market, increases innovation, and creates wealth.

Our immigration system is a relic of a protectionist era that is now far removed from the global economy. Our approach will be simple, if not universally popular. Remove caps, expedite processes and otherwise allow immigration by those with all levels and types of skills to be determined by the employment marketplace—not a bureaucrat’s determination of “how many scientists we need”.

Jill Stein (G)

We support the H1-B Visa program. However, we must look at it in the context of overall immigration policy, trade, economic and military policies. In the big picture, we are concerned about a global economy in which people have to leave their home countries to find decent jobs. We support more just international development and demilitarization, so that people don’t have to go half way around the world to find just employment.

20. Scientific Integrity

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? 

Clinton recognizes one of the largest issues in objective science: conflicts of interest that can lead to self-serving results. (A prime example: the recent realization that some companies had suppressed or redirected scientific findings regarding sugar’s effect on coronary heart disease.) While her answer can use more detail, it demonstrates a willingness to fight for evidence-based knowledge rather than results that are politically or economically driven. Grade: 4/5

Trump says “science is science and facts are facts,” and yet his campaign has repeatedly demonstrated an utter disregard for facts. His PolitiFact scorecard shows more than two-thirds of his statements to be “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants-on-Fire,” which is unprecedented in its evaluation of politicians. In an evaluation sent to us, a college instructor from Michigan characterized Trump’s response to this question “as so simplistic that it made me concerned that he may not actually understand the scientific method or the government structures that support it.” Grade: 0/5

Johnson starts off promisingly enough by saying that “Science is not democracy—results do not conform to popular or accepted opinion.” But then he undercuts his own declaration by arguing that we “must respect diversity of thought.” Grade: 1/5

Stein pivots from question’s focus on undue political influence in the scientific process to undue commercial influence. She promises to “stop the revolving door” between industry and government agencies, but does not say how she will accomplish such a goal. Grade: 3/5

Full Answers to Question 20

Hillary Clinton (D)

The scientists I know are women and men of great integrity.  We all have something to learn from the scientific ideals of respectful argument, based on evidence, to reach an eventual consensus.

The work done by scientists at federal agencies is critical for shaping our policies on health, environment, food and drug safety, national security, and many other issues. The scientific and technological information and processes relied upon in policymaking must be of the highest integrity to engender public trust in government.  

As president, I will support efforts to ensure a culture of scientific integrity in each of our science-based agencies, strengthen the credibility of government research, and facilitate open communication and public engagement. 

I am deeply concerned by the recent increase in partisan political efforts to interfere in science. I strongly support the free exchange of ideas and data, peer review, and public access to research results and other scientific information, all of which can help protect science-based policy decisions from undue influence from special interests. 

Finally, I believe federal policies can do even more to reinforce public trust in the integrity of science throughout the research enterprise.  Though very rare, deliberate fraud in how scientists use public research dollars must be exposed, punished, and prevented. We can and will create further incentives to encourage scientists not only to maintain accountability and accuracy checks, but also to share data, code, and research results for reuse and support replication by others. Similarly, self-serving scientific claims and blatant conflicts of interest must be exposed, punished, and prevented, so that the public can trust scientific conclusions. Finally, we can and should provide further incentives to prevent foreseeable harm to human subjects and robustly protect personal privacy. 

Donald Trump (R)

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.

Gary Johnson (L)

Science is not democracy—results do not conform to popular or accepted opinion. However, we must respect the diversity of thought. The First Amendment does not stop at the doors of government, universities and research centers.

When government decides to fund A vs B, it has unavoidably put itself in the business of picking winners. That is dangerous. The key word in the question asked here is transparency. Particularly in this age of almost limitless information and instant “peer review”, real transparency will resolve many of the distortions that exist and create a scientific check on political interference.

Science has too often been encouraged to oversell its results in the political theater. In order to have a fully informative exchange between politics and science, investigators and reporters should be as transparent as possible with respect to the degrees of uncertainty findings have.

Jill Stein (G)

It is a major concern that many Americans don’t trust our scientific and regulatory agencies, and extremely unfortunate that there are valid reasons for this declining trust that must be addressed.

For example, the current FDA commissioner appointed by President Obama was a highly paid consultant for big pharmaceutical corporations, as Senator Sanders pointed out in opposing his nomination. In the case of Vioxx, the FDA approved a profitable pain reliever that caused up to 140,000 cases of heart disease, and even tried to silence its own scientists who discovered this deadly side effect.

The CDC actually accepts huge amounts of money from big pharmaceutical corporations, as an investigation by the British Medical Journal revealed. So many scientists, doctors and watchdog groups have flagged these clear conflicts of interest in the FDA, CDC and other federal agencies.

As President I would stop the revolving door and clean up these agencies so that the American people can trust that they’re putting people over profits, and science over lobbying interests.

Totals

Clinton: 64

Trump: 7

Johnson: 30 

Stein: 44



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