Are scientists and technologists really going to be heard?

In my view, inspiration and reality are often quite different, especially given the worldwide economic chaos that we face today

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In my view, inspiration and reality are often quite different, especially given the worldwide economic chaos that we face today

By Jeff Bairstow

In my periodic and, often, somewhat random forays into the awkwardly named “blogosphere,” I occasionally come across important news items that I missed the first time around. I thought that the news of the president-elect’s science and technology team was unfortunately buried by the economic disasters occurring daily in the last few weeks of 2008. But blogs do have the stellar virtue of archiving all that they serve up.

So here are some excerpts from the then president-elect’s weekly radio address of Dec. 20, as it appeared on the change.gov blog. You can also find the original video on “You-Tube.” I make no editorial comment on these announcements and the persons selected. The proof will be in the pudding served up long after the Presidential Inauguration.

“...Whether it’s the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create 21st century jobs–today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology...

“...Dr. John Holdren has agreed to serve as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. John 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. A physicist renowned for his work on climate and energy, he’s received numerous honors and awards for his contributions and has been one of the most passionate and persistent voices of our time about the growing threat of climate change....

“....John will also serve as a cochair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology–or PCAST–as will Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Eric Lander. Together, they will work to remake PCAST into a vigorous external advisory council that will shape my thinking on the scientific aspects of my policy priorities.

“Dr. Varmus is no stranger to this work. He is not just a path-breaking scientist, having won a Nobel Prize for his research on the causes of cancer–he also served as director of the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton Administration. ...

“...Dr. Eric 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–one of the greatest scientific achievements in history. I know he will be a powerful voice in my administration as we seek to find the causes and cures of our most devastating diseases.

“...Finally, Dr. Jane Lubchenco has accepted my nomination as the Administrator of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is devoted to conserving our marine and coastal resources and monitoring our weather. An internationally known environmental scientist and ecologist and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Jane has advised the president and Congress on scientific matters...”

“...I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery; if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity.”

As to the proof of the pudding mentioned earlier, I must note that, in my view, inspiration and reality are often quite different, especially given the worldwide economic chaos that we face today.

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Jeffrey Bairstow
Contributing Editor
[email protected]

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