Biden Challenges Incoming Science Advisor: Five Questions on Science in the National Interest

On January 15, 2021, U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden nominated geneticist Dr. Eric Lander to be his Science Advisor and head of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP). Concurrently, the President-Elect also announced he would elevate OSTP to cabinet-level, a first since the position was created in the early-1970’s.

In a letter to Dr. Lander [PDF] released at the time of his announcement, President-Elect Biden asked five specific questions on how science can and should benefit the nation. Citing the questions posed by Franklin Roosevelt to his science advisor, Vannevar Bush in 1944 that resulted in Bush’s landmark report, Science: The Endless Frontier, Biden asked five specific questions on how science can meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Biden asked that Dr. Lander should call on the entire U.S. science enterprise to make recommendations “on the general strategies, specific actions, and new structures that the federal government should adopt to ensure that our nation can continue to harness the full power of science and technology on behalf of the American people“.

The five specific questions put forward by the President-Elect are:

  1. What can we learn from the pandemic about what is possible—or what ought to be possible—to address the widest range of needs related to our public health?
  2. How can breakthroughs in science and technology create powerful new solutions to address climate change—propelling market-driven change, jump-starting economic growth, improving health, and growing jobs, especially in communities that have been left behind?
  3. How can the United States ensure that it is the world leader in the technologies and industries of the future that will be critical to our economic prosperity and national security, especially in competition with China?
  4. How can we guarantee that the fruits of science and technology are fully shared across America and among all Americans?
  5. How can we ensure the long-term health of science and technology in our nation?

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