Are Democrats or Republicans Better for Science?

William S. Smith
Vice President
Science Works

"Are Democrats or Republicans Better for Science?"

Abstract: Since the beginnings of the publicly funded research enterprise, science funding and science policy have been inextricably linked to politics.  A strong sterotype exits that Democrats are better for science, perhaps corresponding to the known demographics of scientists themselves.  This talk will examine the roles of the President, Senate, and House of Representatives as the political majorities have changed.  This discussion is relevant today as scientific societies, and grass roots scientists grapple with decisions regarding the future advocacy roles they might undertake.

Biography: Dr. William S. Smith Jr. brings over 35 years of experience in scientific research, public service in the Executive Branch, policy experience on the Hill, and management experience in the non-profit sector. Dr. Smith obtained his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Texas A&M University in 1974, and carried out research on ozone depletion while at the University of California, Irvine. The work led to the Nobel Prize for Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, the group leader.

He joined the Department of Transportation to manage its research program aimed at high altitude aircraft emissions, another cause of ozone depletion. The work at DOT resulted in a major assessment of the effects of supersonic transports, and the impacts on ozone and the interplay with global warming. While at DOT, Dr. Smith also carried out research and assessments of a wide variety of aviation related issues. Dr. Smith was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service medal in 1980 for his analysis and support of airspace operations during the final phases of the Skylab program and its ultimate re-entry.

In 1985, Dr. Smith joined the staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and served as the Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Space. During his 14 years as a key staff member of this Committee, he led in the development of policy and legislation to guide the space program through a dynamic and sometimes difficult period highlighted by the onset of Shuttle operations, the Challenger accident, the initiation of the Space Station program, and the Hubble Space Telescope program. Dr. Smith worked with senior managers of, not only NASA, but also NOAA, NSF, and DOE.

In 2000, Dr. Smith was appointed President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). AURA is a consortium of 46 major academic research institutions, promoting the advancement of astronomy and its related sciences. In this capacity, Dr. Smith led in the advocacy and construction of major cutting edge astronomical facilities. AURA, under Dr. Smith’s leadership, has been the largest single awardee for the NSF. As President of AURA, Dr. Smith built strong relationships with a wide variety of public and private universities in the US and in other countries such as Chile, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Spain and Japan.

Dr. Smith brings a wealth of experience in science management and policy. His scientific background and areas of expertise have enabled his involvement in a diverse array of issues including astronomy, space science, space technology, environmental research, basic research policy, technology policy, the budgetary process, the functioning of the executive agencies, and policy making in the congressional environment.