David Gergen | BIO
CNN Senior Political Analyst
In coming months, public attention will heavily focus on the performance of Barack Obama’s economic and national security teams, but over the long haul, his new team in science and technology could do even more to shape the country’s future. They will arrive not a moment too soon.
Over the past seven plus years, many leaders in the science and technology community feel they have been in a virtual war with the Bush administration. They despaired, as one told me this weekend, that “no one was ever home” and that the Bush team was so dismissive of key scientific research that it threatened our future.
In a brief capsule, here are some of their key complaints:.
Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that the scientific community began rallying to Barack Obama months ago. Periodically, Dr. Harold Varmus, now chief of Memorial Sloan Kettering, convened informal conference calls among leading scientists to provide counsel to the Obama campaign, and they also met with Obama for a morning of conversation in Pennsylvania.
This past Saturday, Obama began filling out his appointments to his science and technology team, and it is a star-studded cast, promising a sharp break with the Bush administration. Among those who will be surrounding him are a physicist who has won a Nobel Prize (Steven Chu), a physicist and top expert on global warming who will be his top science adviser in the White House (John Holdren), a chemical engineer who has won acclaim for as an environmental leader in New Jersey (Lisa Jackson), a marine biologist is a leading expert on the impact of global warming on the oceans (Jane Lubchenco),. a polymath who heads up one of the most important genome projects in the country (Eric Lander), and a biologist who won a Nobel prize in medicine (Varmus). It doesn’t get any better than that!
For at least half a century, America has been the world’s premier nation for scientific and technological research. Remaining at the cutting edge is not only important for the advancement of knowledge, but it is also critical – absolutely critical - for the creation of high-powered jobs and meeting the challenges of global warming. In his Internet address on Saturday, Obama said, “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.” He’s right – it is none too soon to call off the war and build a strong, new alliance between government and science. .