Status quo…my predictions as regards science policy

President Obama has been re-elected for another four year term. The Democrats retained control of the Senate. The GOP retained control of the House. On the surface, one might think this would be a prescription for another four years of political paralysis…

One might think. But my sense is that two things have fundamentally changed: first, Obama doesn’t have to run for re-election again. The second is that the Affordable Care Act (more colloquially known as Obamacare ) will become a stable piece of the American social contract–it’s here to stay I think.

This is a President who has been reasonably friendly to science. He appointed scientists to high positions in his first administration, he has supported the two US flagship science agencies (the NSF and NIH), and he speaks to policy issues with the measured tones that scientists tend to be comfortable with.

With the political “room to run” of a second term, and the prospect of Obamacare becoming a legacy, there’s every reason to believe that the President will push hard to support science so that it can be leveraged to make health care more affordable. But to do this, he’ll need a long-term budget deal. Not only does that mean avoiding the fiscal cliff (and the recession it would bring), it also means coming to some agreement with the House GOP on taxes and fiscal policy. I’m beginning to think this may be more likely.

So with that preamble, my predictions:

–NSF and NIH will survive and even thrive.

–“Race to the Top”, as a model, will be expanded beyond education into science R&D arenas.

–Convergent, team-based science and technology investments will expand, even as the old single PI model perhaps contracts–this may start to change the character of American science.

–US National Labs will accelerate a process of reinvention (that I think may have already begun) so that they may better positioned to play a central role

–More US medical schools, but with a diversity of different models.

Overall, I’m optimistic.