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Obama Grabs the Reins
18 November 2008 (All day)
Barack Obama's transition team has announced the officials who will review personnel and policies at federal agencies for the new Administration, including dozens who will begin visits to examine the work of science agencies this week.
Prominent among the hundreds of people is Nobelist Mario Molina of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), who along with former White House science and technology official Thomas Kalil will head the review of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Molina served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Bill Clinton, where he told The Scientist in 1996 that turning expert advice into policy "takes some patience because we have to compete with all sorts of other issues." Kalil served as an aide in the Clinton White House on economics as well as science and technology and advised the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton (D–NY). He told a Washington gathering on technology earlier this year that the next president must restore "integrity to U.S. science and technology policy so that decisions are made on the basis of facts and not ideology."
One reviewer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, parent agency for the National Institutes of Health, is former NIH Director Harold Varmus, who headed Obama's scientific advisory group during the campaign. That group shaped the candidate's stances on issues such as a proposed doubling of basic research over 10 years, lifting the limitations on stem cell research, and funding comprehensive sex education. Another is R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, whose support for research using human embryonic stem cells reflects Obama's position on the controversial work.
NASA will come under the scrutiny of Lori Garver, a Washington consultant with deep ties to the space community who advised Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign before switching her support to Obama. Garver has pushed for a bigger NASA budget, additional shuttle flights, and a White House–level council to coordinate space issues. Like other agency transition team members, Garver was a NASA official during the Clinton Administration. Michelle McMurry, a health policy analyst at the Aspen Institute who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Democratic primary for an open seat from northern California, is the only official designated to examine the National Science Foundation.
A number of officials named to the transition review team were public supporters of Obama's candidacy during the campaign. Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists, and FAS staff member Michael Stebbins were vocal in their support of the President-elect, and they've been granted review spots covering OSTP and the National Education Association, respectively.
With reporting from Jocelyn Kaiser, Andrew Lawler, and Jeffrey Mervis.