Sunday, December 21, 2008

Science Secretary & NIE?

President-elect Obama released his appointees for top science advising jobs. They include names that may be familiar to our blog readers: Jane Lubchenco (NOAA), Harold Varmus and Eric Lander (PCAST),  and John Holdren (Chief Advisor, OSTP). In case you missed it, the Secretary of Energy nominee, announced last week, is Steven Chu. Generally speaking this is great.

A basic understanding of science is increasingly necessary as a basis for informed decisions on a range of economic and environmental issues. Yet there are only four scientists in the House (Boyda D-KS, Ehlers R-MI, Foster D-IL, Holt, Jr. D-NJ, and McNerney D-CA, all physical sciences/math) and zero in the Senate (see here)! The situation in the current Executive Branch could barely be worse (sub-zero?), and the Supreme Court is clearly devoid of scientists. How is this possible in a country that appears preoccupied with science-related problems, like global warming, and is in stiff need of science breakthroughs to fuel another dot-com-like boom? Obama should be urged to push for establishment of a cabinet-level position for Holdren (Science Secretary). 

And in the micro-funding world of ecology and evolution, it may be time to revive our prescient colleagues' (including Hank Howe and Steve Hubbell) idea for the formation of the National Institutes for the Environment, and give it another push in the now-friendlier Congress and White House.

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