FYI #104: Obama Urged to Quickly Name Science Advisor

Status Report From: American Institute of Physics
Posted: Friday, November 7, 2008


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News

Number 104: November 7, 2009

President-Elect Obama Urged to Promptly Name White House Science Advisor

"It is essential to quickly appoint a science advisor who is a nationally respected leader with the appropriate scientific, management and policy skills necessary for this critically important role." - Letter to Senator, now President-Elect, Obama

Almost 180 organizations, including the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the American Astronomical Society signed letters to Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain urging them to quickly appoint a White House Science Advisor by Inauguration Day. The October letters also ask that this position be called the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and that it be made a cabinet-level position.

A similar recommendation was made in a report issued last summer by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (see The first of three overarching recommendations in this report, "OSTP 2.0," stated:

"The President should appoint a nationally respected leader to be Assistant for Science and Technology. This individual should serve at the cabinet level. The appointment should be made early in the new Administration, along with the appointments of heads of cabinet-level agencies."

President Bush nominated John Marburger to be his science advisor five months after he was inaugurated. In reviewing this development in 2001, FYI (see noted: "President Bush's lack of a science adviser has been a growing source of concern within the S&T community. There is speculation that the Administration's FY 2002 budget request for R&D might have been higher had there been a science advisor. There is also concern that policies with a large science component, such as global warming, stem cell research, and national missile defense are being formulated without the input of a science advisor. Senior level S&T appointments also await the guidance of this advisor."

This letter was sent under the leadership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of American Universities. The full text of this letter follows:

"Dear Senator Obama:

"The next President of the United States will face a wide range of domestic and international challenges, from financial and regulatory reform to healthcare and rising energy costs, from global climate change to ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. These challenges share one thing in common: long-term solutions that will be impossible without groundbreaking scientific and technological advances. It is therefore critical that the next President seek out and rely upon sound scientific and technological advice early and often in the new Administration.

"Your responses to the Science Debate 2008 questions reflect your acknowledgment of the important role that science will play in a new Administration. With this in mind, it is essential to quickly appoint a science advisor who is a nationally respected leader with the appropriate scientific, management and policy skills necessary for this critically important role.

"For these reasons, the undersigned organizations representing the business, education and scientific communities urge you, if you are elected President, to appoint your White House Science Advisor by January 20, so this individual can participate immediately in coordinating relevant policy and personnel decisions relating to science and technology.

"We further urge that the next President give the science advisor the title of Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and assign the position a cabinet rank, the same status currently given to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Trade Representative.

"The next President must lead our country in addressing the national issues of concern to us all. To do so effectively, science and technology must be part of the solution. Putting a science advisor in place early, and providing this individual with adequate stature and authority within the White House, will help the new President effectively address the challenges we face."

For a complete list of the signatories to this letter, see

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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