Science Debate was founded during the 2008 U.S. election in response to the near absence of science and technology topics in the presidential debates and in the campaigns. Within weeks of its founding, people and organizations from across the political spectrum signed the following petition:
"Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth, we call for public debates in which the U.S. presidential and congressional candidates share their views on science and technology, health and medicine, and the environment."
Supporters included prominent institutions such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the U.S. National Academies, as well as political strategists ranging from John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, on the left to Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker, on the right.
In 2008, then nominees Senator Barak Obama and Senator John McCain agreed to participate in an online “debate.” The candidates’ answers to “The Fourteen Top Science Questions Facing America” were shared widely online and published in the journal Nature. In 2012, a similar endeavor was undertaken with President Obama and then Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney. Scientific American published the responses and rated them based on current scientific understanding at that time. In both years, the candidates' answers made nearly 850 million media impressions.
In 2016, all four major candidates: President Donald Trump, Senator Hillary Clinton, Governor Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein responded in writing to “Twenty key science questions facing America.” Science Debate is currently expanding to foster public and media engagement on science policy issue as we build our efforts for the 2018 elections and beyond.
Matthew Chapman, President Matthew is an accomplished filmmaker, author, and journalist. He has written and directed five independent movies, most recently The Ledge starring Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Terrence Howard, and Patrick Wilson. His books include Trials of The Monkey - An Accidental Memoir and 40 Days and 40 Nights Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities On Trial in Pennsylvania. He has also written for Harper’s Magazine, the Huffington Post, and National Geographic, among others. He is a noted speaker on the importance of science and science education, a passion that arose partly from his ancestry as a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin. Contact Matthew at Matthew@sciencedebate.org.
Sheril Kirshenbaum, Executive Director Sheril works to enhance public understanding of science and improve communication between scientists, policymakers and the public. She has authored two books and her writing appears in popular publications such as Bloomberg and CNN and scientific journals like Science and Nature. Sheril has been a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar, a Marshall Memorial Fellow, a legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate and a Next Generation Fellow through the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. She speaks internationally about science communication and has appeared at events like TEDGlobal and Cuidad de las Ideas. Sheril currently hosts "Our Table" at Michigan State University. Contact Sheril at Sheril@sciencedebate.org.
Alan Conceicao, Project Manager Alan is Project Manager at Science Debate. He also works as administrative assistant for the Holtom-Garrett Program in Neuroimmunology at the University of Michigan. Alan previously acted as the project manager for the Study of Latinos - Investigations of Neurocognitive Aging (SOL-INCA), successfully managing a national, multi-center observational study and co-authoring peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts. He also serves as the Vice President of the East Lansing Economic Development Corporation. Contact Alan at Alan@sciencedebate.org.
Michael Halpern is deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He works to promote solutions that ensure government decisions are fully informed by scientific information, and that the public understands the scientific basis for those decisions. He also oversees efforts to enable scientists to more effectively engage the public. Michael blogs regularly in The Guardian and has appeared in scores of national and international media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Boston Globe, CNN, National Public Radio, NBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Michael holds a B.A. in sociology and communication studies from Macalester College.
Ryan Johnson, J.D. is a shareholder at the law firm of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. He is an internationally recognized lawyer for entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators in the health care, medical device, life sciences, and health information technology industries. He frequently lectures and advises clients about issues emerging from the intersection of law, science, and technology. Ryan is a serial social entrepreneur who has founded several organizations designed to enhance the public’s support and understanding of science. Ryan serves on the boards of the Northstar Science Film Festival and ScienceDebate.org. He also serves as vice-chair of the American Bar Association's Science and Technology Committee.
Jayde Lovell is the CEO of ReAgency Science Marketing, and host of ScIQ, the science show on The Young Turks Network in New York City. Jayde also directs video news production at the New York Hall of Sciences, and in 2015 was a winner of “The Next MacGyver” television production competition by the National Academy of Engineering. Her client list includes NASA, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, Academic Ventures Exchange, USDA, and the American Institute of Physics. Jayde was named in Anthill’s ’30 Under 30,” has appeared with President Obama at SxSW in Austin, Texas, lectured on science marketing at NYU & Yale, has given speeches to Google and YouTube, and hosted live TV at Harvard University.
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We talk to Sheril Kirshenbaum, executive director of Science Debate (sciencedebate.org), a nonpartisan organization that asks candidates, elected officials, the public and the media to focus more on science policy issues of vital importance to modern life. Listen here.
Matthew Chapman and Sheril Kirshenbaum are trying to get all candidates for public office to answer 10 questions about science.
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I just lost what I thought was a sure bet. For the past two Presidential election cycles, my colleagues and I at ScienceDebate, supported by nearly every major science organization in the country, have asked the candidates to answer a series of questions about science and technology policy, in recognition of the fact that these matters will ultimately present the most important challenges to the next President. The questions range from health to education, energy to the environment, and security... Read more.
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Individuals and organizations from across the political spectrum have signed the following petition:
We believe science is essential to a modern democracy and that politicians and voters should be better informed. Since 2008, we have persuaded every major presidential candidate to answer science policy questions and reached billions of people with their responses. With science and the environment under attack as never before, we want to expand and become more active between elections as well as during them. We are looking for an executive director who will capitalize on our unique reputation and relationships and make Science Debate an even more powerful and prominent advocate for a science literate electorate and government.
• Work with Science Debate board of directors to develop a strategic plan
• Cultivate donors and foundations
• Develop and expand a working board of directors
• Manage and carry out communications strategy, including website, press, social media and email correspondence
• Support and grow a coalition of scientific organizations who share our goals
• Create relationships with opinion leaders in business, media, science, and politics
• Represent Science Debate at major events and conferences
• Oversee financial compliance and all administrative recordkeeping
• Demonstrated ability to work with people who are experts in their fields
• Experience making complex issues accessible to the public
• Demonstrated ability to lead and grow emerging initiatives
• 5+ years experience in organizing, fundraising, campaigning, communication or related field
• Significant self-motivation
• Strong personal and project management skills
• Excellent written and oral communications skills
• Expertise with social media platforms
• Passionate about the importance of science to society
Job Location: Remote
Start Date: ASAP
Compensation: Competitive nonprofit salary commensurate with experience
To Apply: Please send cover letter, non-academic writing sample, contact information for two references, salary requirements and resume to email@example.com with “Executive Director” as the subject.
Click here for PDF version of job description.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
American Chemical Society (ACS)
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Council on Competiveness
Moms Clean Air Force
National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
National Academy of Medicine (NAM)
National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
NOVA Television Series
Science Friday, Inc
Scientific American Magazine
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
The Nature Conservancy
The Scientist Magazine
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Norm Augustine, Former CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation
Stephen Berger, Chairman and Founder, Odyssey Investment Partners
Adam Bly, CEO and Editor-in- Chief, Seed Media Group
Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google
Johnny Depp, Actor & Producer
Vern Ehlers, Former Congressman, (R-MI- 3)
Sir Harold Evans, Author, BBC Columnist, editor at large, The Week Magazine, former editor, The Sunday Times
Joel Fields, Executive Producer and Writer, The Americans
Ira Flatow, Executive Producer and Host, NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday
Bill Foster, Former Congressman, (D-IL- 14)
Newt Gingrich, Former U.S. Speaker of the House (R-GA- 6)
Charlie Hunnam, Actor, Screenwriter and Producer
Rush Holt, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Former Congressman, (D-NJ- 12)
Jay Inslee, Governor, State of Washington
Mae Jemison, President & CEO, Biosentient Corporation; NASA Astronaut 1987-93
Bill McKibben, American environmentalist, journalist and author - Senior Advisor and Co-Founder, 350.org
Marcia McNutt, President, National Academy of Sciences
Elon Musk, CEO & CTO, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), CEO & Product Architect, Tesla Motors; Chairman, SolarCity
Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google Inc; Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence; Former head of Computational Sciences Division at NASA Ames Research Center; Awarded NASA Exceptional Achievement Award in 2001
Bill Nye, The Science Guy and CEO, The Planetary Society
Randy Olson, Marine Ecologist, Filmmaker, Flock of Dodos
John Podesta, Former White House Chief of Staff, President Clinton; CEO, the Center for American Progress
Nicholas Pritzker, Chairman and CEO, Hyatt Development Corporation
R.T. Rybak, Former Mayor, Minneapolis
David Schwimmer, Actor & Director
Kathleen Turner, Actor/Activist
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director, Hayden Planetarium
Harold Varmus, Former Director, National Cancer Institute and Former Director of the National Institutes of Health
Cynthia Wainwright, Former Corporate Philanthropist for J.P. Morgan Chase
Tim Walz, Congressman, (D-MN- 1)
Daniel Weiss, President and COO, Metropolitan Museum of Art