Obama's Science Appointees Called a Team of All-Stars

Article excerpt

Call it the "green team" or the "dream team." Either way, President-elect Barack Obama's choices to fill top science and environment-related posts in his new administration represent a remarkable assembly of talent.

With his picks well in hand, Mr. Obama is positioned to reverse what many see as eight years of sluggish action in the US and internationally on global warming. The picks also boost the prospects for wider use and further development of alternative energy sources. And the nominees - particularly those who come directly out of the science community - are expected to be strong advocates for erasing political interference with government research.

Many groups have sent the transition team a list of actions Obama could take to achieve the goals during the first 100 days, most of which could be accomplished by executive order.

"In terms of appointing top scientists to key agency positions, we haven't seen the caliber of scientists we're seeing now," says Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. "Probably more important, we haven't seen such highly respected scientists who also have been outspoken conservation advocates.

The challenge, however: Shaping a collection of driven, highly accomplished individuals - including two Nobel prize winners - into a group that can help implement changes Obama seeks in policy areas ranging from shaping a green economic recovery and more aggressive action on global warming to stem-cell research. That's the view from several science-policy specialists as they look at the team Obama has named.

The four most recent additions came over the weekend. They include John Holdren, who heads the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at Harvard University, as the president's science adviser; Jane Lubchenco, a highly regarded marine scientist from Oregon State University to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and biomedical researchers Harold Varmus, a former director of the National Institutes of Health and Nobel laureate, and Eric Lander, a key leader in the Human Genome Project and founding director of the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, to serve with Dr. Holdren as co- chairs of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

These nominations come on the heels of earlier nominations that include Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from the University of California at Berkeley and head of the Lawrence- Berkeley National Laboratory to head the US Department of Energy.

The nominations also got a thumbs-up from one of the few members of Congress with scientific expertise, Rep. Rush Holt (D) of New Jersey, a physicist: "Those who want our nation to take real steps to address climate change and bolster innovation ... are thrilled with this news."

One key area where the appointments are expected to make a difference is in correcting what many critics see as the Bush administration's consistent distortion or suppression of research conducted by government scientists.

In his weekend address, Obama highlighted the issue. …