Bryn Mawr Faculty on President Obama’s Pledge to ‘Restore Science to Its Rightful Place’

Posted February 20th, 2009 at 10:27 am.

In his inauguration address last month, President Barack Obama said his administration would “restore science to its rightful place.” We asked the Bryn Mawr faculty what they hoped or thought the president meant by that comment. Here are a few of the answers we got:

President Jane Dammen McAuliffe

Bryn Mawr President Jane McAuliffe Among the many bright notes of President Obama’s inaugural address, I heard with particular delight his promise to invest in America’s scientific and technological future. As Bryn Mawr students prepare themselves for careers and lives in this “science century” and as Bryn Mawr graduates make creative contributions to the biomedical, the physical and the mathematical sciences, they are certain to play leading roles in the fulfillment of this presidential promise.

Eleanor Bliss Professor of Biology Paul Grobstein

Professor of Biology Paul Grobstein I would like to think that President Obama is inviting science back into the public discourse not on the terms in which it has been rejected, appropriately, in the past—as a competitor for the mantle of “Truth”—but rather as a sympathetic supporter of the President’s own pragmatist inclinations and understandings. If so, his call “to restore science to its rightful place” in social/political life is a mandate for change not only in the national political arena, but in the more local world of science as well, an encouragement for scientists themselves to pay renewed attention to both how we practice science and how we teach it.

Professor of Computer Science Deepak Kumar

Computer Science Chair Deepak Kumar I was thrilled to see a mention of science in the President’s speech. I think it was a clear signal that his leadership will be guided not so much by personal convictions but by informed deliberations based on scientific evidence. While much of science exists outside the arena of government and policy, his speech also indicated that there will be an increased emphasis on science education and research and that science would once again be at the core of our social and strategic consciousness.

Associate Professor of Political Science Marissa Martino Golden

Political Science Chair Marissa Golden President Obama was attempting to make a clear demarcation between how policy was made during the Bush administration and how it will be made during his administration. Under Bush, politics routinely trumped science. In other words, policy decisions ignored or outright overturned the recommendations made by scientists in favor of decisions that contradicted scientific evidence but were consistent with the President’s ideology and policy agenda.

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