As I noted in a previous post discussing the possibility of Francis Collins as presidential advisor, the government's chief science policy person can also be an important public ambassador. In that role, and in dealing with a diversity of constituents and stakeholders, the science advisor needs to be able to communicate science in a way that connects with religious Americans and their equally devout Republican and Democratic leaders. Collins might be uniquely suited for achieving this task.
But Varmus might also be up for the job. He is a Nobel prize winner in the life sciences and one of the most experienced science administrators in the country. Moreover, in past speeches he has recognized that science needs to seek common ground and that the scientific community can be just as intolerant of religion as religious persons can be of science. His stand is the right one: watchdog cases of politicization while building consensus among diverse publics.
Here's what Bora, with his usual Candle in the Dark wisdom, has to say about his choice of Varmus:
So, my personal pick for the job is Harold Varmus, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for his discovery of oncogenes and is a prolific researcher. He spent six years as the Director of NIH during which time he managed to persuade the Congress to double the NIH budget. He really got PubMed going, is a big proponent of Open Access, is now the President of Sloan-Kettering and he turned a dream into reality by founding the Public Library of Science. He has testified in Congress and is a very likable person and an effective speaker. He has no negatives I can possibly think of, knows his science, knows his policy/politics and is persuasive and passionate. I think he would be perfect.