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Bucks, Montgomery County, PA May 20, 2014 Election
Smart Voter

Science Research & Development

By Shaughnessy Naughton

Candidate for US Representative; Pennsylvania Congressional District; District 8; Democratic Party

This information is provided by the candidate
"We need scientific research to find cures, bring forth new technologies, create new industries, and grow our economy. The United States is at a crossroads, and it is time for there to be a leader in Congress who will stand up and work towards creating a pro-science policy agenda."

Shaughnessy Naughton
Democratic Candidate, PA-08

Once upon a time, American ingenuity and innovation was the envy of the world. Our curiosity and our willingness to blaze new trails in science, technology, and research not only attracted the best and the brightest from around the world, it also created jobs and supported middle class families from coast to coast. It was our commitment to pushing the envelope of science that helped America put the first man on the moon and find lifesaving cures for some of our most devastating diseases.

Unfortunately, today America is suffering from a "science crisis"--a failure to sufficiently fund innovation and research, and a lack of interest in creating policies that encourage more research and development. I want to bring back a pro-science approach to leadership in Washington, and I want to make sure that we are investing in research and education. I want the world to, once again, look to America for the breakthroughs that define the next generation.

Without action, we are likely to fall behind Germany next year in terms of investing in R&D, and China will be ahead of us in a few years. Presidents from 180 universities recently sent a letter to Congress warning that the United States is not just facing a fiscal deficit, it's facing an "innovation deficit" as well. The United States should be a world leader in scientific innovation, and we will only keep that standing if we make investing in science a priority.

Simply increasing funding isn't enough. We have to keep anti-science politicians with their narrow-minded, ill-informed agendas from banning research because it offends one or another of their powerful special interest friends or another.

As a representative in Congress, I pledge to work to both restore job-generating R&D funds and work toward putting scientists, not politicians and bureaucrats, in charge of research. My agenda for Congress includes:

Work to improve science education: In order to continue supporting cutting-edge innovation, we need to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. America's youth need to have the training and skills to match the needs of the nation's fastest growing scientific industries.

This starts in early childhood, when formative learning occurs, which makes universal preschool crucial to preparing the next generation of scientists. Similarly, providing adequate healthcare and good nutrition for young children will ensure that they are healthy and prepared when they enter school. High school curriculums should be updated to include important skill sets, like computer coding and robotics. And, we need to make sure that higher education is affordable to all by expanding need-based grants, such as the Pell Grant Program.

The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-2014 ranks the United States 27th for quality of math and science education, which does not bode well for the future of American innovation. By investing heavily in STEM education, we can ensure that we continue to have scientists capable of taking on the next generation of challenges.

Immediately boost funding for R&D projects and exempt such funds from "automatic" cuts like the sequester: For the last few years, we have been slashing the budgets of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other sources of federal funding for scientific research and development. Research that will help us defend ourselves against bioterrorism and pandemics, find cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and influenza, and develop new forms of clean alternative energy are all at risk.

With nearly all R&D projects now facing automatic cuts of around eight percent a year and funding at the lowest level since 1988, we need to immediately end the budget sequester cuts on research funding. Right now, many important projects are not getting funded at all. I also endorse the so-called COMPETES legislation which seeks to double our science funding over the next decade.

More than that, we need to insure that Congress no longer has the power to approve arbitrary cuts in scientific research, especially life saving medical research.

Work to restore balance to all areas needing research funding: Restoring funding is only part of the solution. Due to Congressional mandates, most direct funding of research goes to health care and military projects. Only a fraction goes to vitally needed energy research, and basic research can only be funded indirectly through support for universities or institutes.

I will introduce legislation to broaden the areas of scientific research that can receive direct support. I support working with state governments that are far ahead of Washington in their efforts to create alliances among universities, governments, and industry to boost research and innovations that have created jobs and created economic growth.

I will also seek to decrease political interference in scientific research whether it is the gun lobby seeking to block research on crime, or when states pass laws to block using climate change data in building on shorelines.

Reform our broken Patent System: Congress has ignored the serious problem of so-called "patent trolling" for more than two decades and while some are predicting the politicians will act next year, we have heard that promise before. Patent trolls, or patent assertion entities, are companies that license or buy patents and then aggressively target patent "infringers" by suing them or demanding licensing fees.

Patent trolling, which costs our economy billions, has lead to abuses where small businesses have been threatened because they use scanners or offer Wi-Fi to customers. I support the bipartisan Senate bill, the "Patent Transparency and Improvement Act" to start addressing this problem.

It is an important first step, but we need to do more to fix our broken patent system, which was last overhauled 60 years ago during the Truman administration. With almost 1.5 million requests backlogging the U.S. Patent Office, we need a better fee structure to let the agency hire more staff to and streamline the system, but not in a way that gives multinational companies an edge over start-up technology firms.

As a scientist, I will add to the diversity of Washington's decision makers and bring a unique perspective to Congress. I am trained to make evidence-based decisions, and I will bring a pro-science voice to debates on everything from the environment to healthcare. I will fight to restore and increase the budgets of the NIH, NSF, and other funders of R&D and basic scientific research. We need scientific research in all areas to find cures, develop new technologies, create new industries, and grow our economy. I will fight for patent reform and introduce further legislation to fix our broken patent system. I will also push for better science education, and try to make that education available to all. The United States is at a crossroads, and it is imperative that we recommit to being the worldwide leader in science and innovation.

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