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Science, Education Leaders Call for a U.S. Science Adviser

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The heads of 29 top U.S. scientific and higher-education organizations – including Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS – wrote to President-elect Donald Trump on November 23, urging him to quickly appoint a “nationally respected leader with appropriate engineering, scientific, management and policy skills” to serve as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.

Such a senior-level adviser would be able to assist the White House in “determining effective ways to use science and technology to address major national challenges,” the group noted. They requested a meeting with the President-elect or leaders of his transition team to suggest candidates for top science and technology posts within the new Administration and to offer assistance “to ensure that the U.S. innovation infrastructure grows and flourishes.”

In their letter, the science-society CEOs, presidents and executive directors also emphasized the value of science and technology to society. “The economic benefits of advancements in science, technology and innovation have been well documented, estimated by leading economists to have accounted for approximately half of U.S. economic growth over the last fifty years,” they wrote.

“Past government investments in the U.S. scientific and technological enterprise have fueled our economy, created new jobs, and ensured our global competitiveness and national security,” the science-society letter added.

The correspondence was signed by the heads of the following organizations:

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science;
  • American Astronomical Society;
  • American Chemical Society;
  • American Geophysical Union;
  • American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering;
  • American Institute of Physics;
  • American Physical Society;
  • American Physiological Society;
  • American Society for Microbiology (ASM);
  • American Society of Plant Biologists;
  • American Sociological Association;
  • Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS);
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME);
  • Association for Psychological Science;
  • Association of American Universities;
  • Association of Public and Land-grant Universities;
  • Coalition for Life Sciences;
  • Consortium for Ocean Leadership;
  • Consortium of Social Science Associations;
  • Council of Scientific Society Presidents;
  • Ecological Society of America;
  • Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology;
  • Rescuing Biomedical Research;
  • Research!America;
  • SIGMA Xi, The Scientific Research Society;
  • SoAR Foundation;
  • Society for Neuroscience;
  • The American Society for Cell Biology; and
  • The Optical Society.

In September this year, AAAS CEO Holt joined Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and others in setting forth science-related recommendations for the next U.S. president.

“The next science adviser will need to be integrated at the earliest possible stage into the administration’s decision-making process,” Holt said, “not just on topics with an obvious science connection such as infectious-disease response, but on matters concerning diplomacy, cyber-security, agriculture and advanced manufacturing as well as resilient infrastructure, which also relate to science and technology.”

In November, AAAS also sent letters to leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the Senate, urging policymakers to “complete the strong, bipartisan work already completed in both chambers to develop and move appropriations bills” through committees.

“The suite of bills already passed would increase federal research & development (R&D) funding by an estimated 2.1% above fiscal year 2016 levels in the House and 3.2% above FY 2016 levels in the Senate, slightly above the rate of inflation,” AAAS wrote, citing objective analysis completed by the association’s R&D Budget and Policy Program. “This real growth in federal investment in R&D is crucial fuel for the innovation engines that grow our economy, enhance our safety and security, and expand human knowledge.”