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Obama’s science adviser starts job

The Senate on Thursday confirmed an expert on global climate change as President Obama's top adviser on science and technology policy.
Image: John Holdren
Harvard Professor John Holdren won Senate confirmation as President Obama's science adviser on Thursday night.Keith Srakocic / AP file
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The Senate on Thursday confirmed an expert on global climate change as President Obama's top adviser on science and technology policy.

John Holdren became the president’s science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has advocated sharp government action on climate change policy and is a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest science organization.

Holdren celebrated Thursday evening with staff at his new office, declining to comment except to say: “I’m very happy to have been confirmed.”

Holdren was a Harvard physicist who went from battling the spread of nuclear weapons to tackling the threat of global warming. As Obama’s top science adviser, he now manages about 40 Ph.D.-level experts who help shape and communicate science and technology policy.

In a statement issued Friday, Holdren said he was gratified that the recently approved economic stimulus package recognized the importance of supporting innovation in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, renewable energy and the development of more efficient vehicles and buildings. He noted that a portion of the recovery package was designated for high-risk, high-reward research — "the kind that, when successful, proves truly transformative."

Even before Thursday's unanimous confirmation vote, Obama gave Holdren the task of fleshing out new procedures to guarantee scientific integrity in the policymaking process. Those procedures are due to be drawn up within two months.

Holdren said in Friday's statement that scientific integrity and the melding of science with public policy would be a major theme of his work in the White House. "The relevant facts from science and engineering are never the only inputs to policy decisions, but they are often essential," he said.

The Senate also confirmed former Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees ocean and atmospheric research and the National Weather Service.

Lubchenco, who specialized in overfishing and climate change at Oregon State University, is the first woman to head NOAA. A member of the Pew Oceans Commission, Lubchenco has recommended steps to overcome crippling damage to the world’s oceans from overfishing and pollution and had expressed optimism for change after George W. Bush’s presidency.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and