The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Barack Obama

Obama Announces Science and Technology Team

By Garance Franke-Ruta
President-elect Barack Obama used his weekly YouTube and radio address to formally announce physicist John Holdren and marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to pivotal science posts in his administration, as Juliet Eilperin and Joel Achenbach reported on Thursday that he would, continuing a pattern that has given even his non-Cabinet personnel announcements three to four days of news exposure each.

Day one in this dynamic is kicked off by an online story, based on leaks. Day two sees a print report fleshing out the online story, and may be accompanied by a formal announcement. The formal announcement then kicks off a new round of online reports, which drags the story into the day after that, when the print version of the formal announcement lands. In this case, because of a two day gap between the first online report of the coming announcement and the formal announcement itself, the process will likely play out over four days.

Obama also this morning announced that Eric Lander, a leading force behind mapping the human genome, and Nobel-winner Harold Varmus would co-chair the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), along with Holdren.

Obama is traveling to Hawaii today for the holiday with his family, the transition office said, and will continue to work on the transition from there.

A transcript of his address follows:

Remarks of the President-Elect Barack Obama
Science and Technology Team Radio Address

Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have announced some of the leaders who will advise us as we seek to meet America's twenty-first century challenges, from strengthening our security, to rebuilding our economy, to preserving our planet for our children and grandchildren. Today, I am pleased to announce members of my science and technology team whose work will be critical to these efforts.

Whether it's the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create twenty-first century jobs - today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology.

Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionize our lives. But history tells us that they can't do it alone. From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources - it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient - especially when it's inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States - and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.

Dr. John Holdren has agreed to serve as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. John is a professor and Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, as well as President and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center. A physicist renowned for his work on climate and energy, he's received numerous honors and awards for his contributions and has been one of the most passionate and persistent voices of our time about the growing threat of climate change. I look forward to his wise counsel in the years ahead.

John will also serve as a Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology - or PCAST - as will Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Eric Lander. Together, they will work to remake PCAST into a vigorous external advisory council that will shape my thinking on scientific aspects of my policy priorities.

Dr. Varmus is no stranger to this work. He is not just a path-breaking scientist, having won a Nobel Prize for his research on the causes of cancer - he also served as Director of the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton Administration. I am grateful he has answered the call to serve once again.

Dr. Eric Lander is the Founding Director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard and was one of the driving forces behind mapping the human genome - one of the greatest scientific achievements in history. I know he will be a powerful voice in my Administration as we seek to find the causes and cures of our most devastating diseases.

Finally, Dr. Jane Lubchenco has accepted my nomination as the Administrator of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is devoted to conserving our marine and coastal resources and monitoring our weather. As an internationally known environmental scientist, ecologist and former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Jane has advised the President and Congress on scientific matters, and I am confident she will provide passionate and dedicated leadership at NOAA.

Working with these leaders, we will seek to draw on the power of science to both meet our challenges across the globe and revitalize our economy here at home. And I'll be speaking more after the New Year about how my Administration will engage leaders in the technology community and harness technology and innovation to create jobs, enhance America's competitiveness and advance our national priorities.

I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery; if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity.

Thank you, and happy holidays everybody.

Posted at 9:52 AM ET on Dec 20, 2008  | Category:  Barack Obama
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Did you know the current Director, Dr. Marburger?

Posted by: JakeD | December 22, 2008 10:08 AM

When Lewis and Clark lead the Corps of Discovery west from Missouri, they stepped into the unknown and unmapped territory of America's future. At the request of President Thomas Jefferson, Congress appropriated $2500.00 for the voyage.

Many speculated about the worthiness of Jefferson's expedition. Many guessed at what would be discovered. Only Jefferson seemed to understand, as a man of science, that we must go beyond the frontier to see what lies in our the future.

The fact that our earth's climate does change is undeniable. The question is not,"Is climate change real." The question is, "How will we deal with the changes that are already in motion."

Ask the people in Darfur about the effect of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa and then wonder what will happen when there is not enough water in Atlanta.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | December 22, 2008 1:12 AM

Although touted as a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Holdren was admitted through a back door called the “temporary nominating group”, a process which appears designed and has certainly been exercised to gain entry for large numbers of environmental alarmists who, it is fair to presume from this exception, would not gain election through the normal channel.

Also typically styled as a professor at Harvard, Holdren is primarily employed by the Woods Hole Research Center (an environmental advocacy group, not to be confused with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which is a research organization — both discussed [later in the book]). Despite his outside affiliations and activism he typically instead carries the Harvard tag, lending the institution’s academic prestige to his environmentalist advocacy, thereby embodying a growing tactic of environmentalists using credentials from an academic perch where they may not be all that active to push an activist agenda through other, pressure group perches where they are in fact quite busy.

The vocal Holdren predicted in the mid-1980s that climate-related catastrophes might kill as many as one billion people before the year 2020 but now brushes off inquiries about such failed catastrophism while continuing to sound a similar alarm.

Posted by: roberth | December 20, 2008 7:54 PM

I shared my UC Berkeley office with Energy Secretary Designate Steve Chu in the early 1970s, while I was John Holdren's assistant in the Energy and Resources Group at UC. Both were among the smartest, sharpest, and nicest colleagues and friends I have ever had,and they are excellent choices for scientists after 8 years of anti-scientists running the country.
In fact, judging by the right-wing hate bloggers who have attacked these two, we know they must be the best choices
Lee Schipper, Ph.d
UC Berkeley
Stanford University
EMBARQ/World Resources Institute Emeritus

Posted by: schipper | December 20, 2008 2:11 PM

The science folks are well and good, but everyone knows this was really about having something interesting to convey in what has become a very boring weekly video address. YouTube is just a stale novelty.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | December 20, 2008 2:05 PM

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