Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Barack Obama announced his science and technology advisers in his weekly radio address on Saturday. The list includes Jane Lubchenco as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and John Holdren as his assistant for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“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 twenty-first century job — today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation,” said Obama in the address. “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.”

Lubchenco is an Oregon State University marine scientist who has studied the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. Holdren, a physicist who has focused on climate and energy, is a professor and director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is also the president and director of the Woods Hole Research Center. Both have previously served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“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,” said Obama in closing his remarks. These were to be the final appointments announced before the holidays.

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The New York Times praised the picks in an editorial in Monday’s edition:

Like Mr. Obama’s earlier appointments… these choices solidly affirm Mr. Obama’s commitment to aggressively address the challenges of energy independence and global warming.

The broader point, though, is what they say about his appreciation for the processes of science. That was not much in evidence in the Bush administration, some of whose appointees edited and suppressed scientific documents to serve the administration’s political agenda.