Nobel laureates write public letter supporting Barack Obama

The letter expressed the writers' faith in Obama's commitment to scientific innovation

· October 25, 2012, 11:44 pm

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Last week, 68 Nobel Prize winners in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine — including two affiliated with Penn — became the latest to endorse Barack Obama.

The Nobel Laureates wrote a letter addressed to the American people explaining why they believed the future of American innovation lies with the re-election of the President.

Stanley Prusiner, a 1964 College graduate and 1968 Medical School graduate, was among the signers. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997 for his work on the cause of mad cow disease and its human form.

Alan Heeger, who was a faculty member at Penn from 1962 to 1982 and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000, also signed to support Obama.

“President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America, has delivered on his promise to renew our faith in science-based decision making and has championed investment in science and technology research that is the engine of our economy,” the letter reads.

The letter also explicitly expressed serious concerns about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s platform and its effect on innovation, saying that their budget would “devastate” the American tradition of innovation and public research.

Bioethics professor Jonathan Moreno, who was one of the first to report on the story for The Huffington Post, believes that research incentives and funding are crucial to determining the path that science will take in the next 15 to 30 years.

“Even though times are tight now we have to keep our eye on the ball for 10 years from now. The future Nobel laureates are graduate and undergraduate students right now,” he said.

“America’s economic future, the quality of our health, and the quality of our environment depend on our ability to continue America’s proud legacy of discovery and invention,” the letter opens. “But we’re deeply concerned that without leadership and continued commitment to scientific research the next generation of Americans will not make and benefit from future discoveries.”

Moreno agreed, explaining that the budget plan from the Romney and Ryan ticket would have to include cuts “that would create the future for your programs.”

“That is not a plan that is consistent with a prosperous and powerful country,” he said.

The two Americans who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year, Duke University’s Robert Lefkowitz and Stanford University’s Brian Kobilka also signed the letter.

A letter much like this one was written during the 2008 campaign, before Obama himself won a Nobel Prize in 2009.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 18 that 61 American winners of a science Nobel endorsed Obama over Senator John McCain in 2008. That number then rose to 76 by the end of October.

According to the same article, two signers of the 2008 letter did not sign this year’s letter because they are currently working in government. Steven Chu is the secretary of energy and Harold Varmus is director of the National Cancer Institute.

The Nobel Laureates’ letter ends with a call to arms. “If you believe, as we do, that America’s future is bound in essential ways to science and innovation, we urge you to join us in working to ensure the reelection of President Obama.”

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