Published October 03 2016

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology cannot engage in politicking, in which we encourage our members to vote for or against a specific candidate or political party. What follows is an overview of U.S. presidential candidates’ positions.

In case you’ve somehow missed the news for the past several months, this year is a presidential election year in the U.S. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, have been embroiled in a heated campaign for months now. The finish line is finally in sight with the elections being held next month. I want to explore the candidates’ views as they relate to biomedical research, because the new president will influence America’s scientific agenda by establishing funding priorities and appointing directors of the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Clinton, who is a former secretary of state, has a record of supporting research dating back to her time as senator from New York. As a senator, she co-chaired the congressional taskforce on Alzheimer’s disease. She has issued numerous policy statements on issues related to biomedical research. The statements include a commitment to find a cure to Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, advocating for research in autism, HIV/AIDS and breast cancer, and support for increased funding at scientific agencies such as the NIH and NSF. She has called on Congress to fund President Barack Obama’s request to combat the spread of the Zika virus. She supports an immigration policy that would offer citizenship to students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who earn advanced degrees from accredited universities.

Trump has few formal policy statements and lacks a demonstrable record regarding support for scientific research broadly or the life sciences specifically. Like Clinton, Trump supports making research on Alzheimer’s disease a top priority (although there is no specific plan on record) and also has called on Congress to pass legislation to combat the spread of the Zika virus. Unlike Clinton, Trump has suggested that the NIH is “terrible” and “has many problems,” has voiced a belief in links between vaccinations and autism and supports stringent immigration policies that may affect the nation’s ability to continue to attract the world’s best scientific minds.

The election, of course, is about more than just who will be the next U.S. president. All members of the House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate members and 12 state governors are up for election in November. While the president sets the policy agenda for the nation, as you know, Congress controls the funding levels for all federal agencies, including the billions of dollars that go to research and development. Funding levels for the NIH, the NSF and other federal agencies that provide money for scientific research will be influenced greatly by who controls Congress and sets funding levels. Fiscal policies, such as the Budget Control Act, which enacted caps on federal spending, and the threat of mandatory spending cuts, are up for debate in the next Congress. These issues, and others, have significant effects on the research enterprise broadly and on your own laboratory specifically.

Please take the time to research all of the candidates up for election, from those vying to be president to those aiming to get on your town council, and if you’re eligible, vote on Nov. 8!

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB.