OSU professor: Biden should restore science’s role in government

Environment

Jane Lubchenco is a professor at Oregon State University and former head of NOAA

Jane Lubchenco is a distinguished professor at Oregon State University and the former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Courtesy of OSU/Jane Lubchenco)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon State University professor and former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling on President-elect Joe Biden to restore the role of science in the U.S. government.

Jane Lubchenco worked with Biden while serving as the director of the NOAA under the Obama administration. She was also an inaugural member of Obama’s Science Team and first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean.

In an article published Thursday in Scientific American, Lubchenco urged the president-elect to “get science back into government and to allow science to guide government actions” — promises Lubchenco said Biden made during his campaign.

Lubchenco suggests four goals for the Biden administration to prioritize:

  1. Make science and scientists prominent.
  2. Restore and strengthen the conditions that enable science to thrive and inform decisions.
  3. Modernize the use of science across the agencies.
  4. Depoliticize science.

“When we flew aboard Air Force Two to the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon disaster and in the car after landing, Joe Biden peppered me with a wide range of questions that made it clear how much respect he has for science and how able he is to lean on scientists’ help in understanding complicated issues,” said Lubchenco. “He also has tremendous capacity for integrating science into his messaging in ways that make science useful and relevant to people’s lives.”

Lubchenco recommended steps the president-elect can take to make it clear his administration holds the same respect for science that he has personally. These steps include nominating a “Science Team” immediately after cabinet nominations and elevating a science advisor to the cabinet.

Lubchenco also believes “every major special team the White House creates needs a lead scientist, and a visible one. And every time a major decision or action is announced, it needs to include a summary of the applicable science.”

The professor’s outline also advises Biden to depoliticize science by allowing scientists within the federal government to talk freely to the press about their findings without politically constrained talking points.

“The more opportunities we can all provide for people to participate in science, the better,” Lubchenco said. “Those opportunities help to demystify science, make it accessible and drive home that it’s not political. The messages and actions that come from the top matter a lot, and I’m encouraging our new president to embrace and use science, even when it might not be convenient. The nation and world will be much better off if he does so.”

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