Enlarge /. Anne Wojcicki, Co-Founder and CEO of 23andMe, President and Founding Director of MIT's Broad Institute, and Harvard Professor Eric Lander speak on stage during the TIME 100 Health Summit 2019.
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During the height of the presidential election last October, President Trump warned voters that if Joe Biden were elected president, he would "listen to the scientists". Now that the president-elect is about to take office as the 46th President of the United States, Biden seems to be leaning on that line of scrimmage.
On Friday, Biden's new administration announced that it would appoint Eric Lander as director of its science, technology and policy bureau. As is customary in this role, Lander will also serve as the President's chief "science advisor". Additionally, Biden announced that he is making the science advisor a cabinet-level position. This is a first for the role.
"Science will always be at the forefront of my administration – and these world-renowned scientists will ensure that everything we do is based on science, fact and truth," President-elect Biden said in a press release announcing the appointments were.
A geneticist with a mathematical background, Lander was the lead director of the human genome project and professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. From 2009 to 2017, he co-chaired the President's Advisory Council on Science and Technology for President Obama. Alondra Nelson, President of the Social Science Research Council, will serve as Associate Director of the Science and Society Bureau.
The Biden announcement also named co-chairs of the President's Advisory Council who will educate the President on public policy relating to a wide segment of science and technology issues. The council is chaired by Maria Zuber, a geophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has participated in more than half a dozen NASA planetary missions, and Frances Arnold, chemical engineer and Nobel Prize winner at the California Institute of Technology.
Dr. Francis Collins will continue in his role as Director of the National Institutes of Health.
The early designation of a science team by the Biden government suggests that science and evidence-based decision-making will prioritize policy. After President Trump joined the White House in January 2017, the position of director of the Office of Science, Technology and Politics was vacant for nearly two years. During this time the workforce decreased. Finally, in August 2018, the Trump administration appointed the scientifically respected Oklahoma-based research meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier to fill the post. He officially took office in January 2019.
Naming science and technology leadership is an important step in taking on other roles in the Biden administration, including NASA's administrator. An announcement of a replacement for Jim Bridenstine, who will step down on January 20 if President Trump leaves office, could be made in the next few weeks.