President-Elect Obama Receives Advice on Filling S&T Posts
November 5, 2008 -- As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take the helm, he should use the best available science and scientists to help manage the nation’s current and future issues, such as climate change, alternative energy, veterans' health, and the nation's infrastructure, advises a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine.
The incoming president's highest science and technology priority should be to select a confidential adviser who will help identify and recruit the best candidates for key S&T appointments, participate in budget decisions, and provide guidance in the event of a crisis. This and other advice appears in the report Science and Technology for America's Progress: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments in the New Administration, released in September.
Shared with the candidates during the campaign, the report states that this adviser should be appointed the assistant to the president for science and technology promptly after the inauguration, and nominated as the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The OSTP director should be included in cabinet discussions about the scientific and technological aspects of broader policy decisions.
Filling key science appointments is very important. The report lists 80 high-level positions that will be crucial in advising the new president on issues that range from energy to health care to economic growth. It encourages members of the scientific community to serve in these positions, and suggests ways to make it more attractive for well-qualified people to do so. To broaden the pool of candidates for appointments, scientific and professional societies should also more actively reach out to the president's science adviser and other senior administration leaders to provide input.
The report also recommends that the president and Senate accelerate the appointment process for S&T leadership to reduce the personal and financial burdens on nominees and to allow important positions to be filled swiftly. Congress and the Office of Government Ethics should simplify procedures aimed at avoiding conflicts of interest, which have become unduly complex over the years.