“America risks being left behind in the global economy: Revolutionary
advances in information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and
other fields are reshaping the global economy. Without renewed efforts,
the United States risks losing leadership in science, technology and

Barack Obama

So what does Obama’s election as president mean for science and technology?

Firstly, he appears to believe in openness and equality when it
comes to technology. Obama and Senator Tom Coburn teamed up to pass a law
that they hope will “lift the veil of secrecy in Washington”, by
creating a Google-like search engine that will allow “ordinary
Americans” to track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans

While in the Senate, Obama also passed three amendments to the America COMPETES
Act, which is now law, to increase participation of women and
underrepresented minorities in the professions of science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics.  Competitive state grants
was also offered to support summer term education programs to help students develop
skills in mathematics and problem solving.  The plan also wished to establish a mentoring
program for women and minorities as they advance in those fields.  I'm not sure I agree with positive discrimination, but if we are to break the glass ceilings then we have to start somewhere.

Technology was also a central part of the campaign activities using computers and social networks to reach out to the younger generations and allow a dialogue to take place on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Friendfeed as well as spread the key campaign messages outside of the mainstream media.

On the science front, Obama has been a long-term supporter of increased stem cell
research.  He introduced legislation while a member of the Senate that
would allow embryonic stem cell research in Illinois.  He also co-sponsored
legislation to allow greater federal government funding on a wider
array of stem cell lines – he says he believes we need, “high ethical
standards that allow for research on stem cells derived from embryos
produced for in vitro fertilization, embryos that would otherwise be
needlessly destroyed.”

From a cancer perspective, introducing health economic models along the lines of the UK's NICE might be bad for the pharma industry in the short term, but in the long run they will gain from any Medicare changes that limit insurance companies rejecting people because of pre-existing conditions.

The real issue at heart here is putting a basic question 'what is the right thing to do for the patient?' centre stage and going from there in a more consensus driven approach.  There is something ingerently wrong when families go into debt to pay huge medical bills for relatives who get cancer, only to find that the new therapy only added a few weeks or months of extra life at great cost.  While an overhaul of the US health system is long overdue, this may well end up a challenging and difficult task that consumes a lot of time, energy and resources. 

It will be fascinating to see how the new administration tackles this herculean task, we can but hope that change is indeed around the corner and we will all be better off for it.

“The Bush Administration has been one of the most secretive, closed
administrations in American history. Our nation’s progress
has been stifled by a system corrupted by millions of lobbying dollars
contributed to political campaigns, the revolving door between
government and industry, and privileged access to inside information – all of which have led to policies that favor the few against the public

Barack Obama

All of these ideas (and many others discussed during the long and tough campaign) are very noble and just, but with the economy badly in the tank it may take a while for these issues to get the attention they badly need.  Politics, like every thing else, is a matter of priorities and focus.

Time will tell.