The Obama administration will have more respected scientists in key positions than any previous administration. Steven Chu, Nobel laureate physicist and Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will be the Secretary of Energy. John Holdren, physicist and former President of the AAAS, will be Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. Jane Lubchenco, marine biologist and another former AAAS President, will lead NOAA.
NASA might not be so lucky. While I have heard no word yet on any changes at NASA, I understand that Michael Griffin, the current Director of NASA, is said to be on rather bad terms with the Obama transition team. Apparently, Obama is not particularly keen on Bush's Mars initiative or human space exploration in general. (Understandably, that has to take a back seat to the economy and other concerns.) Nevertheless, Obama's strong words in support of science are wonderful to hear.
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.
I am especially pleased that Obama (finally) put a physicist in charge of the Department of Energy. Since President Carter established the Department, Energy Secretaries have been lawyers, financiers, and businessmen. Chu will be the first Energy Secretary to view energy from both the scientific and commercial vantage points. At last we will have a Secretary who measures energy in Joules as well as kilowatt-hours.