Thursday, April 09, 2009

What a Real Science and Technology Policy Advisor Looks Like

John Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama administration. He did an undergraduate degree at MIT, a PhD in plasma physics at Stanford, and taught at UC Berkeley for many years before serving at Harvard University as director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at the John F. Kennedy school of government.

He was recently interviewed by a reporter from the world's leading scientific journal, Nature. Believe it or not, he managed to answer all the question without deferring to his religious convictions.

Here a few bytes from the interview, good examples of the types of things you might expect to hear from a competent science and tech policy advisor:

"Clearly initiatives related to science and technology as they affect economic recovery, job creation, growth and competiveness have to have high priority, given the circumstances."

"The second big issue, and it's related to the first one, is the energy and climate interaction. How do we need to be thinking about the scientific and technological dimensions of the energy challenge and of climate change? And particularly, again, how can we link those things positively to the economy?"

"Steve Chu and I are the two scientists in that group. Steve and I are the ones who bring science and technology to the table."

"We have a strong set of international interactions and will continue to have them. Issues of energy, climate change, nuclear arms control and non-proliferation are all big deals. These are problems that we have to get right globally, not just nationally, and there are big benefits in cooperating, in terms of sharing costs, in terms of sharing risks, in terms of propagating the best answers."

"The nuclear weapons we already have are more than adequate for the limited purpose for which we should reserve them, which is deterring other people who have nuclear weapons from using theirs. I think the pursuit of a wider range of missions for nuclear weapons is a prescription for continuing proliferation."

"I also think the wider community has a huge role to play in the education of the public and policymakers about the role of science and technology. I can't do that by myself."

Makes Canada look a little silly, no?