When President Biden asked if I would serve as the President’s Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with the role elevated for the first time to the Cabinet, I was mindful of the weight of the responsibility.
Science and technology—when applied with vision and optimism, with wisdom and humility, with rigor and integrity, and with a commitment to engage and serve everyone—are among the most powerful forces ever devised to better the human condition.
The mission of OSTP is to maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans. It is no small task.
For 75 years, America has led the world in science and technology. That leadership has had profound benefits for our health, economy, and national security: driving medical breakthroughs from cancer treatments to COVID-19 vaccines; creating new industries, from computers to biotechnology, with millions of jobs; and protecting our country and our people.
But today, America’s future depends on science and technology like never before. We have amazing opportunities ahead, but also face unprecedented challenges—from pandemics, to the climate crisis, to international competition in the technologies of the future. The choices we make now will determine our path for the generations to come.
To succeed, America will need to draw on all of its assets—chief among them, our unrivaled diversity. After all, scientific progress is about someone seeing questions or answers that no one has seen before—because they bring a different lens, different experiences, different questions, different passions.
Yet, science and technology have too often been unwelcoming or inaccessible to many Americans, due to their gender, race, resources or geography. We must ensure that all Americans can participate fully, including having a voice in shaping our nation’s priorities. And, we must ensure that all Americans share equally in the benefits of science and technology.
In a recent letter, President Biden laid out an ambitious agenda to reinvigorate America’s science and technology strategy to set our course for the rest of the 21st century. Although the letter was addressed to me, the task was addressed to all of us—to the extraordinary staff of OSTP, to the brilliant scientists in the federal government, to the vibrant community of scientists and technologists across our nation, and to everyone who believes we can use science and technology to make a better, safer, and more just world.
It is in that spirit that I take on this role with all of my energy and enthusiasm, and I ask everyone to join in the work ahead.
There is so much to be done!
Eric S. Lander