More Influence for Science

Biden elevates science adviser to the cabinet and picks Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute, for the post.

January 18, 2021
 
Broad Institute
Eric Lander

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday nominated Eric Lander to be his science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy -- and also elevated the role of science adviser so that it will have cabinet rank.

Lander is president and founding director of the Broad Institute at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In a speech introducing Lander, Biden outlined five priorities for science in his administration.

"First, the pandemic and what can we learn about what is possible, or what should be possible, to address the widest range of our public health needs?

"Second, the economy, and how can we build back better to ensure prosperity is fully shared across America and among all Americans?

"Third, how can science help us confront the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity?

"Fourth, how can we ensure the United States leads the world in the technologies and industries of the future that will be critical to our economic prosperity and national security, especially as we compete with China and other nations?

"And fifth, how can we ensure the long-term health and trust in science and technology in our nation?"

Biden spoke of his respect for science.

"We’re on the cusp of some of the most remarkable breakthroughs that will fundamentally change our way of life," he said. "We can make more progress in the next 10 years than we made in the last 50 years. But we also face some of the most dire crises in generations, where science is critical to whether we meet this moment of peril with the promise we know that is in reach."

In addition, Biden announced that Francis Collins will continue in his role as director of the National Institutes of Health. He also named Alondra Nelson as OSTP deputy director for science and society. She is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and president of the Social Science Research Council.

And Biden appointed Frances Arnold and Maria Zuber as the external co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Arnold is director of the Rosen Bioengineering Center at California Institute of Technology. Zuber oversees the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT and leads the institution’s Climate Action Plan.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science praised Biden’s selections to several key science positions in the administration on Friday, particularly his decision to create a position in his cabinet.

“Elevating this role to membership in the President's Cabinet clearly signals the administration's intent to involve scientific expertise in every policy discussion,” AAAS said in a statement.

The creation of the cabinet position also drew praise from Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. President Peter McPherson said in a statement, “In selecting these talented individuals, President-elect Biden recognizes that science is interwoven into all aspects of federal policy and critical to fueling economic growth and job creation.”

“Science will always be at the forefront of my administration -- and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth,” Biden said in a statement. “Their trusted guidance will be essential as we come together to end this pandemic, bring our economy back, and pursue new breakthroughs to improve the quality of life of all Americans.”

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