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Gore, Bush Campaigns Vie for Votes with Offers of Research Largesse

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 - Advisors to presidential candidates Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore have each publicly pledged to double funds for biomedical research in an effort to win the scientific community's vote.

At a recent forum on science policy hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Gore’s spokesman also touted the vice president’s proposed plan to create a new center at the National Institutes of Health for bioinformatics and bioengineering.
A Bush administration would double the NIH budget, and also increase the budget of the National Science Foundation to make it " the center of peer-reviewed university science" in the United States, said former congressman Robert Walker (R-PA), who is currently a Bush spokesman and CEO of the Wexler Group, a lobbying firm.
Bush sees the role of the federal government as encouraging the sort of long-term basic scientific research that industry cannot tackle, he added. In order to foster commercial research, Bush advocates a permanent research and development tax credit, Walker said.
Responding to a question from moderator Joe Palca about the balance between basic research and disease-targeted efforts, Walker said that Bush understood the importance of putting money into basic knowledge. However, he added, " The president's also going to have to work with a Congress that is targeted by groups that allocate money to various diseases."
The Democratic platform pledges to double federal funds for cancer research over the next five years, citing the importance of capitalizing on insights gained from the Human Genome Project.

But " you can't just double the NIH budget," said David Beier, Gore's chief domestic policy advisor and a former lobbyist for Genentech.

Beier stressed the importance of integrating research across disciplines. The Gore campaign agenda includes the establishment of " 20 centers of excellence in biomedical computing on the campuses of our finest schools."

The forum, sponsored by a consortium of eight science policy institutions called the Washington Science Policy Alliance, took place in an auditorium at the AAAS offices in Washington. Beier mentioned that in the same room, President Clinton earlier this year signed an executive order prohibiting genetic discrimination.

" We need to make sure our newest technology reflects our oldest values," Beier said.

However, both speakers backed away from a question from Palca about where the candidates would draw the line on issues such as stem cell research using tissue from human embryos, saying the campaigns had not established specific positions.

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