President-elect Barack Obama selected Dr. John Holdren Dec. 20 to serve as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren will also serve as assistant to the president for science and technology and co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
With a broad mandate to advise the president and others within the Executive Office on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs, Congress established OSTP in 1976. The act also authorizes OSTP to lead interagency efforts to develop and implement science and technology policies and budgets and to work with the private sector, state and local governments, and the science and higher education communities.
“The truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry,” Obama said during his weekly radio address. “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.”
Obama named Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Eric Lander as the other co-chairs of PCAST, which the president-elect said he hopes will be “a vigorous external advisory council that will shape my thinking on the scientific aspects of my policy priorities.”
The president-elect tapped Dr. Jane Lubchenco as his choice to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Holdren is a professor and director of the Program on Science, Technology and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, as well as president and director of the Woods Hole Research Center. Holdren is a physicist known for his work on climate and energy.
Varmus won a Nobel Prize for his research on the causes of cancer and he served as director of the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton administration. Lander is the founding director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard and was one of the driving forces behind mapping the human genome.
“Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionize our lives,” Obama said. “But history tells us that they cannot do it alone. 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.”