March 21, 2009

Holdren Named Science And Technology Policy Adviser

Thursday, the Senate confirmed an expert on global climate change as President Barack Obama's top adviser on science and technology policy.

John Holdren is now the president's science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  He has advocated sharp government actions on climate change policies and is a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation's largest science organization.

Holdren celebrated Thursday evening with staff at his new office, declining any comments except, "I'm very happy to have been confirmed."

A Harvard physicist who went from battling the spread of nuclear weapons to tackling the threat of global warming, Holdren will now manage about 40 Ph.D-level experts who help shape and communicate science and technology policy.

Holdren said, in a statement issued Friday, that he was gratified that the recently approved economic stimulus package recognized the importance of supporting innovation in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, renewable energy and the development of more efficient vehicles and buildings.  He also said that a portion of the recovery package was designed for high-risk, high-reward research - "the kind that, when successful, proves truly transformative."

Obama gave Holdren the task of fleshing out new procedures to guarantee scientific integrity in policy making process, even before Thursday's unanimous confirmation vote.  These procedures are due to be drawn up within two months.

In Friday's statement, Holdren said that scientific integrity and the melding of science with public policy would be a major theme during his work at the White House.  "The relevant facts from science and engineering are never the only inputs to policy decisions, but they are often essential," he said.

Jane Lubchenco, former Oregon State University marine biologist, was also confirmed by the Senate as the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees ocean and atmospheric research and the National Weather Service.

Lubchenco is the first woman to head the NOAA.  A member of the Pew Oceans Commission, Lubchenco has recommended steps to overcome crippling damage to the world's oceans from overfishing and pollution and had expressed optimism for change after George W. Bush's presidency.


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