This is the second part of a two-part series. The first diary, “Put a Scientist at the Big Table” was put up just a few days after Joe Biden was declared the winner. You do not have to read it. My thought was that two of largest issues that we face right now are fundamentally science issues: the pandemic and climate change. We need a scientist appointed to be Secretary of HHS, Interior, Energy, etc that can weigh in when important national decisions, even those that deal with Defense and Diplomacy, are brought up for discussion.
I am not suggesting that my lightly-viewed diary had anything to do with it, but was very satisfied to see in the WaPost this morning that Joe Biden will be elevating the leader of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a Cabinet-level agency. Dr. Eric Lander, a mathematician and geneticist, will have a seat at the Big Kids table!
OSTP was created by Congress in 1976 after Richard Nixon dismantled the federal science advisory apparatus. (Why do Republicans hate science? Did they just get bad grades?) The current leader is research meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier who did his best to keep his head down when his boss was feuding with NOAA about their hurricane tracks, dismantling the EPA, ignoring the pandemic, or picking the name “Space Force”. Kelvin will be quickly forgotten.
Here’s some of Dr. Lander’s back story
Lander was a key leader of the Human Genome Project — the race to sequence the human genome, which ended in 2003 — and is president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He will be the first biologist to run OSTP.
Between 2009 and 2017, he also co-chaired the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), an elite panel that advises the US president. Among the PCAST reports issued during Lander’s tenure were some dealing with pandemics, vaccination, energy and climate change.
Dr. Lander is not one of the four people that I recommended for the big table, but I am okay with that. He is also not the first scientist to sit at the big table. Dr. Steven Chu, physicist, was Energy Secretary in the Obama Cabinet.
Thanks Joe for bringing science back to the table!