President Biden announced this week that Dr. Alondra Nelson will lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Dr. Francis Collins will serve as Science Advisor to the President and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) until permanent leadership is nominated and confirmed. In elevating two of the nation’s preeminent research leaders to key White House roles, the President reasserted the central role of science, technology, and innovation in confronting the nation’s most pressing challenges.
Under Nelson’s leadership, OSTP’s six policy divisions will advance critical Administration priorities including groundbreaking clean energy investments; a people’s Bill of Rights for automated technologies; a national strategy for STEM equity; appointment of the nation’s Chief Technology Officer; data-driven guidance for implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; a transformative, life-saving Community Connected Health initiative; and programs to ensure the U.S. remains a magnet for the world’s top innovators and scientists.
Collins will assume the responsibilities of the Science Advisor to the President, including serving as one of three Co-Chairs of the PCAST, and identifying a highly qualified NIH Director nominee for the President’s consideration. He will also work in partnership with OSTP to urge Congress to authorize the launch of ARPA-H and, under the leadership of the White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator at OSTP, promote the further development of the Cancer Moonshot.
Collins and Nelson will also work together on safeguarding international collaboration in science and restoring trust in science and government during this critical time in history.
Dr. Nelson, who was also named Deputy Assistant to the President, has served since Day 1 of the Biden-Harris Administration as Deputy Director of the newly-created OSTP Science and Society Division. In that role, Nelson has directed priority efforts to protect the integrity of science in the federal government, broaden participation in STEM fields, strengthen the U.S. research infrastructure, and ensure that all Americans have equitable access to the benefits of new and emerging technologies and scientific innovation. She has played a key role in overseeing the implementation of the President’s early directives on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking and on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
A renowned scholar of science, technology, medicine, and social inequality, Nelson has served since 2019 as the Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and was previously Dean of Social Science at Columbia University. From 2014 to 2017, she led the Social Science Research Council as the international research organization’s president and CEO, directing historic efforts to apply the insights of social science to the work of making technology development more equitable. Nelson is the author of numerous books and articles. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is the former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As the longest serving Presidentially-appointed director of NIH — spanning 12 years and three presidencies — he oversaw the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, from basic to clinical research. Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. Dr. Collins’ research laboratory has discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease, a familial endocrine cancer syndrome, and most recently, genes for type 2 diabetes, and the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a rare condition that causes premature aging. Dr. Collins is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, the National Medal of Science in 2009, and the Templeton Prize in 2020.
A Message to OSTP from Dr. Alondra Nelson
In remarks (excerpted below) to the 150-member staff of OSTP, Dr. Nelson launched a new chapter for science and technology at the White House:
When President Biden asked me to serve, it was with great honor and humility that I agreed to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). I do so with a powerful sense of how important science and technology are to the future of our country.
We’re here to carry out the mission of OSTP — to maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans — and to realize the vision of the Biden-Harris Administration.
From the start, I want to make three commitments:
Commitment number one is to our people — the devoted civil and public servants who work at OSTP. We should never lose sight of how lucky we each are to work with such dedicated, passionate, brilliant colleagues every day.
We have incredibly high aspirations for what science and technology in America should be, but it really begins with all of us. That’s why I’m committed to making sure OSTP is a model for the science and technology ecosystem we envision for the nation — to making us a mirror of the possibilities we hope to achieve in policy.
The second commitment is to the President and the bold goals he’s set for our country: to be ready for the next pandemic; to end cancer as we know it today; to map the path to net-zero emissions; to preserve our planet; to build equity into everything we do; to remain the global leader in science and technology; to having scientists at every table; and so much more.
We’ve been hard at work on all of this across OSTP, and I’m committed to making sure we keep it up and get the job done.
My third commitment is to the possibilities, the potential of science and technology to improve people’s lives: To deliver more healthcare access and less healthcare inequity. To deliver clean water for everybody, fresh air for everybody, and a bountiful planet for everybody. To build a society where everyone can live with equal dignity and hope and opportunity, as well as equal safety and security.
That’s what our bold agenda on science and technology is all about. And I’m keeping our commitment to that, strong as ever.
We are here to serve the American people. Far beyond the White House, there are millions of people counting on us to deliver — from our transformative Community-Connected Health initiative to innovations in game-changing clean energy technologies; from data-driven guidance for implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to a national strategy for understanding and preserving America’s natural resources; from a people’s Bill of Rights for automated technologies to programs that can ensure the United States remains a magnet for the world’s top scientists, engineers, and innovators.
That is the work we do across OSTP every single day. I could not be more excited, or more grateful, to serve alongside such an extraordinary team.