In a brief ceremony today, the White House nominated Arden Bement to be the next director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF watchers hailed the appointment for bringing clarity to an unsettled situation as well as for the quality of the appointment.
"This is an extraordinary and inspiring honor for me--and one that I feel very humble in accepting," says Bement, a 72-year-old materials engineer. "The foundation has a rich history of strong and independent directors, and I look forward to continuing with that tradition."
Bement has been acting NSF director since February, when microbiologist Rita Colwell stepped down 6 months before the end of her 6-year term (ScienceNOW, 11 February). Bement is also director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House said at the time that he would soon be returning to that post. But the Bush Administration didn't name a new head of NSF. A 1998 law may have finally forced the president's hand: On Saturday, Bement would have reached the 210-day limit for the temporary head of an agency."It's good to know where things stand," says Samuel Rankin, chair of the Coalition for National Science Funding and chief Washington lobbyist for the American Mathematical Society. "And most people at NSF seem to like him. He's improved morale, and he's a good listener." Also feeling upbeat is David Goldston, staff director for the House Science Committee, which oversees NSF's programs. Bement "knows NSF well. He's got a lot of credibility within the agency, on the Hill, and throughout the community. He's familiar with how government works. And he's already on good terms with the Administration." Bement has spent a half-century working as a scientist and administrator in academia, industry, and the federal government. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1963 and was appointed NIST director in December 2001. His nomination now goes to the Senate, but it's not clear that the Senate will act before adjourning next month.