Status of Science in the Biden Administration


President-elect Joe Biden announced on January 17th that Dr. Eric Lander will be appointed as Science Advisor and Head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and will also serve as a cabinet member.  Currently Dr. Lander is the president of the Broad Institute jointly operated by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He is both a mathematician and molecular biologist and served for eight years in the Obama Administration as Co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Dr. Lander, regarded as a polymath was the co-leader of the Human Genome Project before founding the Broad Institute. The appointment of Dr. Lander was met with approval from the scientific community.


Dr. John Holdren, the Science Advisor in the Obama administration stated, "he's incredibly good at explaining complex scientific issues and he is a fabulous choice with his breadth of knowledge across many disciplines".


In developing objectives, President-elect Biden has instructed Dr. Lander to address the future of science and technology with regard to public health, climate change, innovation, social equity and to work "broadly and transparently with the diverse scientific leadership of American society and engage the broader American public".


It is generally accepted that the present director of OSTP Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier has maintained a low profile during his two-year tenure and was essentially silent during political interference in scientific aspects of policy involving the Census Bureau, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA.


Concurrently with the announcement of the appointment of Dr. Lander, President-elect Biden named Nobel Prize winner Dr. Frances Arnold to serve as co-chair of PCAST together with Dr. Maria Zuber.


Dr. Francis Collins, a Nobel Prize winner and Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009 will continue in his current position, given the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and involving his coordination of projects involving development and evaluation of vaccines and therapeutics.