What are the most important things the next U.S. president needs to do for science? To cut through the jargon and find an answer, we bring you the DISCOVER Science Policy Project, in which we give a group of the country’s most celebrated scientists and thinkers the chance to respond to the following question:
What are the three most important things the next president can do to positively impact scientific research in the United States?
In the November issue of DISCOVER, we compile and analyze the results. In the meantime, we will be posting each response in its entirety here on Reality Base. Today’s entry is by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg. Feel free to offer your own ideas and analysis in the comments section. All past responses can be found here.
Nobel laureate in physics
In tax and budget proposals, aim to shift our economy to less spending in the private sector and more spending on public goods: pure and applied scientific research as well as health, education, and infrastructure. In particular, the U.S. should build the next large accelerator for elementary particle physics, thus resuming our participation in the exploration of science at its outer frontier.
Ask Congress for a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel that would increase their price at the pump by 20 to 30 percent, and guarantee that their price would never fall below that level, indexed for inflation. Nothing would do more to spur research and development on alternate fuels and energy efficiency, and reduce the flow of dollars to oil producers. The blow to individuals should be softened by building a modern passenger rail network, and by giving a tax credit to those who live at some distance from their jobs, but a credit based on mileage, not on the actual amount spent for fuel.
Radically cut back the manned space flight program, and in particular cancel the Moon-Mars project, which is not an effective program for scientific discovery. In this way, we can restore and expand programs to use robots and unmanned satellites to explore our solar system and the structure and evolution of the universe.
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