As the U.S. Senate considers President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees, one stands out as much for the position he was appointed to as for his impressive qualifications.
Two days before his inauguration, Biden announced that he planned to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), often referred to as the president’s science advisor, to Cabinet rank. The move underlines Biden’s break with the previous administration’s de-emphasis and politicization of science, which downplayed climate change, sought to slash climate-related research spending, and crafted rules designed to limit the influence of science in agency decisionmaking.
Created by Congress in 1976 to help the president and White House staff steer the country in an increasingly complex world, OSTP leads cross-government efforts to incorporate scientific and technological developments into policy and budgetary decisions. During the Trump administration, OSTP staff dropped by two-thirds, and its director position remained vacant for over two years.
Biden tapped geneticist Eric Lander, who holds a doctorate in mathematics, to lead OSTP into new prominence. Lander is president and founding director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, which uses genomics to advance human health, and has been a leader in mapping the human genome and using the results to fight disease.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lander must quickly capitalize on his office’s elevated status by emphasizing science and transparency in decisionmaking throughout the executive branch. Here are four things he should get started on immediately:
These priorities will allow science to start making a comeback in the federal government after four years of relentless assault, and Biden’s elevation of the OSTP director to Cabinet status is a hopeful sign that facts will once again matter to the administration. Lander has the credentials and connections to restore science as a cornerstone of federal policymaking — a big but essential task ahead.
Editor’s note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform’s Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR’s website.