Biden announces new cadre of outside science advisers

By Kelsey Brugger | 09/22/2021 12:12 PM EST

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Frances Arnold will become a top Biden administration adviser on science and technology. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The White House today announced a new team of outside experts to advise the president on science and technology policy — replacing some industry executives from the Trump era with scientists.

The 30 new members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology include former Obama administration officials, engineers, physicians, biologists and academics.

The panel will be led by two women: Frances Arnold, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemical engineer, and Maria Zuber, a geophysicist who was the first woman to lead a NASA planetary mission. Eric Lander, the president’s science adviser, will also chair the board.

“President Biden understands that addressing the opportunities and challenges we face — to our health, our planet, our economic prosperity, and our national security — will require harnessing the full power of science and technology,” Lander, who oversees the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a statement.

“Scientific progress depends on people seeing things in new ways, because they bring different lenses, different experiences, different passions, different questions,” said Lander. He highlighted the council’s wide range of experiences and “unprecedented diversity."

In a press release, the White House said the board includes 20 elected members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; five MacArthur “genius” fellows; two Obama-era Cabinet secretaries; and two Nobel laureates.

A few notable names are Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist who received the Nobel Prize in physics; Ashton Carter, a former Defense secretary; Penny Pritzker, a former Commerce secretary; and Frances Colón, a longtime science diplomat.

The council, which originated in 1957 after Russia launched its Sputnik satellite, has a long history of connecting the president with experts who are removed from government. Former President Trump departed with tradition.

Trump waited years before announcing his roster of advisers. When the council did convene in late 2019, it included many industry executives and some academics. The council focused on intellectual property and cybersecurity rather than climate change (Greenwire, Nov. 11, 2019).

The Obama council, under top science adviser John Holdren, produced more than three dozen reports on climate change adaptation and drinking water safety (Greenwire, Sept. 29, 2017).

Others on Biden’s 30-member panel:

  • Marvin Adams, a professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M University.
  • Dan Arvizu, a mechanical engineer and expert in energy materials, and chancellor of the New Mexico State University System.
  • John Banovetz, a chemist and executive vice president at 3M.
  • Lisa Cooper, an internal medicine physician and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity.
  • John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.
  • William Dally, chief scientist at NVIDIA, a leading computer chip and technology company.
  • Sue Desmond-Hellmann, a physician-scientist and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Inez Fung, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Andrea Goldsmith, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University.
  • Laura Greene, chief scientist of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.
  • Paula Hammond, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Chemical Engineering.
  • Eric Horvitz, chief scientific officer at Microsoft.
  • Joe Kiani, founder of Masimo Corp.
  • Jonathan Levin, dean of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
  • Steve Pacala, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University.
  • William Press, a professor of computer science and integrative biology at the University of Texas, Austin.
  • Jennifer Richeson, a professor of psychology and director of the Social Perception and Communication Lab at Yale University.
  • Vicki Sato, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at Harvard University.
  • Lisa Su, CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
  • Kathryn Sullivan, a geologist, oceanographer, former NASA astronaut and former NOAA official.
  • Terence Tao, a professor of mathematics and James and Carol Collins Chair in the College of Letters and Sciences at UCLA.
  • Phil Venables, chief information security officer at Google Cloud.
  • Catherine Woteki, an agriculture and food scientist and former Department of Agriculture official.