Science lessons for the next president

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Science  21 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6310, pp. 274-279
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6310.274

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New presidents typically move into the White House neither expecting to spend much time on scientific issues, nor prepared to. But history shows that, ready or not, every president ends up grappling with a host of science-related policy issues or crises. What technical issues will the next president face? Climate change is sure to loom large, as will the annual debates over how much the government should spend on basic research and help industry commercialize new discoveries. Technological advances, from self-driving cars to new genetic-engineering techniques, will pose new regulatory challenges. And there are likely to be unplanned events, such as disease outbreaks, oil spills, and natural disasters. In each case, a little science savvy might help a president better understand how best to respond. With that in mind, we offer crash courses in six areas of science that are likely to demand attention in the Oval Office over the next 4 or 8 years. On our list: sea level rise, brain health, pathogen evolution, risk perception, artificial intelligence, and new genome-editing tools. And we provide a timeline that highlights major science-related policy decisions and events faced by presidents since Franklin Roosevelt.