Eight words in President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech delighted scientists yesterday — “We will restore science to its rightful place.”
Along with an international crowd of around 300 evolutionary biologists, I watched the inauguration at an impromptu closing session for a meeting on the Evolution of Society, held by the Royal Society in London. As Obama promised a rosy future for science (at 7:14 in the speech), elated applause and cheers flooded the full room.
The science blogosphere is similarly abuzz. BBC Newsnight’s Susan Watts, for instance, provides a meaty overview of a light at the end of the tunnel after 8 long years for scientists. Pseudonymous Kyle Finchsigmate, on The Chem Blog, has a shorter and cruder, but equally poignant, post.
Later in the speech (at 12:33), Obama gave a hat to the ‘non-believers’ of America, earning himself a second round of applause from the Royal Society. And while there is some debate about how big a gesture this really was — and I certainly wonder why he didn’t say atheists — it was, some say, the first time that an American president has ever acknowledged the existence of the godless among his ranks.
Hearing Obama say that we need to “wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost”, “roll back the spectre of a warming planet” and “harness the Sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories” was music to my ears, and likely to biologists and climate change scientists worldwide. Space scientists weren’t left out of the loop though, as a hilarious looking NASA lunar rover “danced like a crab” down the road during the inaugural parade.
Much has been written, in Nature and elsewhere, about the needs of the scientific community. And Obama has certainly shown enthusiasm for science, in terms of his inauguration speech, his picks for government posts and his proposed congressional stimulus package. The big question is: how will all this research and scientific advice affect his policy decisions?
Top image: President Barack Obama is sworn into office. Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force/Wikipedia.