Iranian Presidential Election: The (Lack of) Debate on Science, Technology, and Environment

Since 2005, I have asked questions on important topics of science, technology, and the environment to the presidential candidates in every election to clarify their promises.

Over these years, only in 2005 did two candidates (Mr. Qalibaf and Mr. Ahmadinejad), and in 2009, one candidate (Mr. Mir-Hossein Mousavi) respond to these questions.

However, regardless of whether these questions reach the candidates and their campaign teams and whether they answer them or not, I must ask questions.

To the Campaign Headquarters of the Candidates for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Fourteenth Presidential Election:


Our country is approaching the presidential election while our world faces rapid and fundamental scientific, technological, and research developments and challenges arising from these advancements. Despite this, precise references to the most critical issues in science, technology, and the environment facing Iran are notably absent in the programs and speeches of the honourable candidates and existing development plans.

I hope the candidates and their campaign teams’ responses to the following questions, which cover some of the significant issues in science, technology, and the environment, will provide a more accurate assessment of their perspectives for the people and those interested in Iran’s scientific development.


1.     The Earth has experienced the warmest year recorded in meteorological history in the past twelve months. The effects of climate change on the environment, economy, and even national security are becoming increasingly noticeable, and according to global reports, developing countries will suffer more from this process. Despite such a threat, there is no mention of this issue in the country’s development plans, and the Iranian parliament has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement. What is your government’s view on the issue of climate change, and what specific plans does it have to address it and prepare the country to adapt to its effects?

2.     Our country has increasingly faced a water crisis in recent years. The provision of drinking water resources, water wastage in the agricultural sector, land subsidence due to the drying up of underground aquifers, and similar issues are observed in various parts of the country. What is your government’s practical plan to control this crisis and manage the challenges arising from what is sometimes referred to as water bankruptcy?

3.     In recent years, the giant leap of pre-trained language-generating algorithms (GPT), classified under artificial intelligence, has changed the trends of life, education, research, and daily activities. This new opportunity, which, if accessible, brings a significant leap in science and research, raises concerns about its misuse. Many forward-thinking institutions consider the development of countries in the next decade dependent on investment and research in this area. In Iran, however, while no specific plan has been announced for this purpose, we witness an intensification of the digital divide. The issue of filtering and infrastructural obstacles to accessing the standard internet flow disrupts Iranians’ connection with the world (and the world’s access to Iranian websites and information networks) and observes an access gap to the internet within different regions of Iran. What is your government’s specific plan to address the development of the internet and access to it, reduce the internal and international digital divide, and the issue of filtering, particularly the Protection Plan?

4.     Next year marks the deadline for achieving the goals of the Vision Document, according to which Iran was supposed to be a developed country in research, technology, and science. This is while, despite the emphasis of senior officials over the past four decades, the country’s research budget has not only not reached the target of 3 percent but remains below half a percent of the GDP. With the failure to achieve the Vision Document goals and the 2025 horizon in the scientific development document, what is your specific plan for development in scientific research, studies, and drawing the country’s plan in the field of science? Will your government ensure at least three percent of GDP for R and D in the upcoming annual budget?

5.     While various countries, including those in our region, are developing their non-military space programs, and despite Iran’s space program being established earlier than many regional competitors, we observe a kind of disorganization or lack of transparency in Iran’s non-military space program. What is your government’s view on Iran’s non-defensive space program, what plans do you have for its development, what are the program’s goals in your government, and how will you separate the military and civilian parts of this program?

6.     In recent years, several issues in public health, specifically in the field of women’s health, such as access to contraceptive drugs, prenatal screening, access to intervention facilities for pregnancy challenges, disease testing, vaccination, and similar matters, have faced many problems. What is your view on these restrictions? To what extent do you recognize women’s ownership rights over their bodies in medical policy, and does your government consider efforts to increase population at the expense of these interventions and endangering women’s and the next generation’s health?

7.     Iran and the world have not yet emerged from the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at any moment, we may face another public health crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the Ministry of Health and the health system’s policies caused a decrease in public trust in this institution, which seems to challenge the management of community health in future crises. What is your plan for monitoring and preparing for the next possible health crisis, and what plans do you have for restoring or improving this damaged trust?

8.     Given the development of communication technology and digital and the increasing use of network-based programs in private sector transactions and government processes, there are severe concerns about endangering and misusing personal data and violating individuals’ privacy by the commercial sector, digital criminals, and specifically some parts of the government. In some existing plans, online activists must generally share user data – without a court order – with governmental and judicial institutions. What is your view and opinion on privacy and individuals’ data in the digital space, and what plans do you have for achieving it?

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