An Endorsement for Harold Varmus as Pres. Science Adviser
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Out of all the suggestions that have been thrown around about who should be the next Presidential science advisor, I think Bora over at A Blog Around the Clock might have hit on the best choice and that's Harold Varmus.
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.