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Questions of Science, Progress and Politics

RWU faculty members to discuss the fact and fiction of scientific issues raised by the 2012 presidential candidates

BRISTOL, R.I. -- All the political spin on energy policies and scientific issues in the current presidential election campaigns can figuratively make your head spin. To help you sift through the science vs. the sensationalism, a panel of Roger Williams University faculty members will help voters discern fact from fiction in a public forum on Tuesday, October 16.

“Roundtable: Scientific Controversies and the 2012 Presidential Election” will feature four faculty members from the sciences and political science discussing how each presidential candidate’s platform frames the science of such controversial issues as women’s health, stem cell research, climate change, energy policies and sustainability.

“We need to educate the public, to prevent the rejection of science by our politicians and their electorate who, even though living in a country with the best universities, at present, dismiss scientific realities essential for our survival,” says Associate Professor of Biology Avelina Espinosa, who will serve as a panelist and as moderator. “And it is not only evolution (her area of expertise) that is rejected but also climate change research, stem cell studies, cloning and vaccinations.”

Other panelists include June Speakman (political science), Loren Byrne (biology and environmental science) and Charlie Thomas (engineering).

Two student producers will present questions from the audience and from the HawkTheVote Media Lab team, a group of journalism students who are producing the event and reporting on election issues on Twitter. (Follow their election coverage on @HawkTheVote and @HawkTheVoteenes.)

The roundtable discussion will take place on Tuesday, October 16, at 6 p.m. in Global Heritage Hall G01. It is free and open to the public. The Media Lab team will also provide live streaming of the event on

On the Agenda

Each panelist will offer insight on distinct topics:

• Avelina Espinosa, Associate Professor of Biology, will talk about science, evolutionary literacy, basic research funding, stem cell research, and vaccinations

• June Speakman, Professor of Political Science, will talk about the policies and politics of women’s health

• Loren Byrne, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, will talk about sustainability and climate change

                 • Charlie Thomas, Associate Professor of Engineering, will talk about issues related to energy policies