By Daniel Gorelick :Washington — Drawing on the power of science to “meet our challenges across the globe,” President-elect Obama announced key members of his science and technology team.
In his weekly radio address December 20, Obama said he has selected the following scientists: John Holdren to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Eric Lander and Harold Varmus to serve as co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
“The highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us,” Obama said. “That will be my goal as president of the United States — and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.”
Holdren, a physicist and environmental policy professor at Harvard University, will advise the president on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs.
“John Holdren’s expertise spans so many issues of great concern at this point in history — climate change, energy and energy technology, nuclear proliferation,” said Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
“President-elect Obama has made it absolutely clear that he is making science and technology one of the centerpieces of this administration,” Holdren, who is a former president of AAAS, said in an interview with The New York Times.
Holdren “has been one of the most passionate and persistent voices of our time about the growing threat of climate change,” Obama said. “I look forward to his wise counsel in the years ahead.”
Lubchenco, a professor at Oregon State University, studies the effects of overfishing and the influence of climate change on ocean processes. Like Holdren, she is a former president of AAAS and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Obama described Lubchenco as “an internationally known environmental scientist and ecologist” who has “advised previous administrations and Congress on scientific matters.”
“GREEN DREAM TEAM”
The December 20 announcement rounds out Obama’s science policy team.
On December 15, Obama selected physicist Steven Chu to lead the Department of Energy, chemical engineer Lisa P. Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment Nancy Sutley to direct the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Carol M. Browner, former EPA administrator, to serve as White House coordinator of energy and climate policy, a new position created by the Obama team.
Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for his work using lasers to cool and trap atoms and has been an outspoken advocate for renewable energy sources. He currently heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, overseeing 4,000 employees and a $650 million budget.
In a speech announcing Chu’s selection, Obama said his “appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.”
“This is a team with a keen interest in addressing climate change, and the talent and skills to get the job done,” Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a nonprofit, independent policy research organization, said in a statement. “With Steven Chu, Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley at the helm, President-elect Obama’s administration will be well-equipped to tackle the challenge of building a new clean energy future that preserves the climate while revitalizing our economy.”
“These selections form a green dream team that will help President-elect Obama’s vision for solving our economic and global warming challenges through clean energy become reality,” Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, said in a statement.
PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL OF ADVISORS ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
PCAST, composed of science and technology leaders from the private sector and academia, advises the president on technology, scientific research priorities, and math and science education.
Varmus, a former director of the National Institutes of Health, shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1989 for his work on the causes of cancer. Lander is the founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and was one of the driving forces behind mapping the human genome, an effort Obama called “one of the greatest scientific achievements in history.”
“From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “Leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.
“Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.”