Enter, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Speaking to a huge crowd at the annual gathering of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Austin, Texas, the famously blunt statesman blasted those seeking to undermine science. Although describing the (imperfect) US system as the “best system for science in the world,” he stressed that “we cannot keep our position as the scientific leader in the world if we ban scientific research about climate change and pollution.”
Referencing a chat with a researcher from the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he told them: “You must know how Galileo felt.”
Biden effused his vexation over the restrictions, censorship, and budget cuts facing government researchers, telling his audience that it reminded him of the Inquisition.
“It’s unacceptable that, after a year in office, our President has no science advisor, no Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy – none!” he roared.
Highlighting his “overwhelming conviction that the United States government… should be doubling and tripling down on investment in pure research across the board,” he emphasized that, despite individual and private marvels, federal investment and leadership drives scientific research.
“If science loses its place in guiding the future of American life, America loses its place in guiding the future of science in the world,” Biden said. “We cannot let that happen.”
The speech largely focused on cancer advances, something that the former VP is undeniably passionate about.
Biden vociferously supported his Cancer Moonshot initiative, which aims to accelerate research, improve diagnosis and treatment, and support pioneering therapies. Set up during the Obama administration, it was partly inspired by his son Beau, who died from brain cancer back in 2015.
Chastising the Trump administration for attempting to make cuts to such cancer research programs, he also lamented: “I’d like to be able to say that the government is moving quickly to modernize our research, that prioritizes progress, not credit – but I can’t.”
In the face of the White House’s treatment of scientists, though, Biden’s support of such academics – and their potential – struck the strongest notes.
He told the 1,000-strong crowd that “the incredible accomplishments of the scientists in this room, and across the nation” is proving a source of “renewed hope”.
Biden ended his speech with a scientific call to arms. Referring to "this know-nothing crowd who see science as a threat," he explained that they "cannot stand up against [the] momentum” of American scientific progress.
“Folks, it’s time for us to get up and start to holler,” he said. “They cannot stop us.”