In The Field

AAAS 2010: 13 months of science and Obama

You have to hand it to Eric Lander: he gives a good talk. At last night’s plenary session, he admitted he would have been more comfortable talking about the human genome. But as one of three co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) he was instead tasked with reflecting on science and technology in the Obama administration just over one year in, and he kept the full house rapt.

Here’s a one-minute version (of Lander’s version) of the last 13 months:

Jan: Inauguration speech: “We’ll restore science to its rightful place.”

Feb: >$100 billion for science and technology in the economic stimulus package.

March: Obama overturns Bush-era restrictions on human embryonic stem cells

April: Obama sets goal of spending 3% of GDP on R&D.

June: “We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys.”

July-Sept: Summer; PCAST meets; plus lots of H1N1 influenza.

Oct: Presidential commission rethinks space program

Nov: Launches program to boost science education. National Lab Day launched, but turns out to be every day.

Dec-Jan: Winter

Feb: Freeze on discretionary spending; yet Obama budget requests nearly 6% increase for R&D.

Lander emphasized that he was talking about his own experiences, not speaking on behalf of the White House. The White House would have been pretty happy with his talk though; at some points you had to wonder if Obama had been doing anything but furthering science in its first year.

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