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Presidential debating points: How about science and technology?

Some of the greatest American minds are calling for a presidential debate on
science and technology.

“We need to begin to envision where science and technology are in our national priorities,” said Shawn Lawrence Otto, St.

 Some of the greatest American minds are calling for a presidential debate on science and technology.

“We need to begin to envision where science and technology are in our national priorities,” said Shawn Lawrence Otto, St. Paul screenwriter and a member of the steering committee. “They rest at the center of almost every major policy debate but we frequently let other things side track the discussion.”

Through a mutual friend Otto connected with Matthew Chapman, a producer and director, who hatched the idea. In a month’s time they put together a list of more than 75 supporters, including 10 Nobel Prize winners and scientists working in highly respected laboratories across the country.  


Will Steger, Minnesota polar explorer, and his foundation are among the supporters. Peter Agre, a graduate of Roosevelt High School and Augsburg College, both in Minneapolis, now vice chancellor for science and technology at Duke University Medical Center, and a 2003 Nobel Prize winner, has also signed on.

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Otto said the steering committee had contacted the entire Minnesota congressional delegation. As of Tuesday, Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad and Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum had joined the list.

Supporters of the idea have “great concern about the politicization of science and the increasing globalization of science and technology,” Otto said. They’re also concerned about the United States’ investment in higher education, he said.

Otto said the steering committee had not contacted anyone from the University of Minnesota yet.

“The whole approach is to begin a dialogue and be as inclusive as possible so everyone has a voice in the process,” Otto said. “We’re looking for partners.”

One presidential campaign has expressed interest. Otto declined to name the candidate. “They asked us not to say until we’ve heard from the others,” he said.

No date or place has been chosen for the debate.