Washington Update

Senate Confirmed Presidential Science Advisor Reports for Duty

By: Jennifer Zeitzer
Thursday, June 17, 2021

On May 28, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Eric S. Lander, PhD, in the dual roles of Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Presidential Science Advisor. Dr. Lander makes history as the only Science Advisor to hold cabinet rank and the first life scientist appointed to this position. He acknowledged his historic role in a White House press release stating, “America’s future depends on science and technology like never before. In elevating OSTP to the Cabinet, President Biden made clear that science and technology will be central to solving the nation’s most urgent challenges.”

Prior to his nomination by President Biden, Dr. Lander served as Director of the Broad Institute at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) for eight years under former President Barack Obama, where he worked closely with Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, and interacted with then Vice President Biden.

In announcing that Dr. Lander would join the administration, President Biden referenced Franklin Roosevelt’s letter to Vannevar Bush in 1944 (“Endless Frontier”) and revealed he sent a similar communication to Dr. Lander regarding the use of science and technology to benefit American society. The new Science Advisor followed his boss’ lead, issuing a letter to OSTP staff and the scientific community on June 2 commenting on the challenges and opportunities facing the country. He specifically mentioned the need to incorporate more diversity in science noting, “We must ensure that all Americans can participate fully, including having a voice in shaping our nation’s priorities. And, we must ensure that all Americans share equally in the benefits of science and technology.”

FASEB congratulated Dr. Lander on his confirmation and subsequent swearing in via a letter from President Louis B. Justement, PhD. FASEB highlighted Dr. Lander’s vast experience assembling interdisciplinary research teams and guiding public policy at the helm of OSTP. The Federation also extended its support and resources to him and indicated a strong desire to collaborate with OSTP to develop policies to advance scientific and research excellence over the next four years.