Dole, Clinton Square Off on Science

The major party presidential candidates sound out on science policy in today's issue of Science. In response to questions posed by Science, the candidates list the same priorities: protecting basic research, improving science education, and encouraging tech transfer. But their proposed methods of achieving those goals are quite different.

In his first detailed discussion of science issues as the Republican presidential candidate, Robert Dole says he would favor basic research even as he reduces overall civilian spending for science to help eliminate the federal deficit. Dole intends to encourage industry to invest in R&D through tax breaks and regulatory reform, rather than through direct government funding. And he promises to overhaul the federal R&D bureaucracy.

In response to the same questions, Clinton pledges to continue funding his Administration's science and technology priorities ``to the highest levels possible'' but stops short of promising any specific increases for 1998. He says a second Clinton Administration will continue to push for government-industry partnerships, and he criticizes attempts to kill such programs as ``dangerous and reckless.''

Perhaps the area of greatest disagreement between the two men is their view of how Washington administers R&D programs. Dole pledges to conduct ``a complete review of how to make the government's science support infrastructure more coherent,'' but he stops short of recommending a Department of Science and Technology. Clinton, on the other hand, says his Administration will focus on streamlining bureaucracy ``rather than shuffling pieces around the government.''