Today, President Joe Biden announced that Dr. Alondra Nelson will perform the duties of director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Dr. Francis Collins will perform the duties of Science Advisor to the President and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology until permanent leadership is nominated and confirmed. These appointments will allow OSTP and the President’s Science and Technology agenda to move seamlessly forward under proven leadership.
Nelson currently serves as OSTP’s Deputy Director for Science and Society. 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.
Collins recently stepped down as the director of the National Institutes of Health, after serving as its Director for more than 12 years, under three Presidents. As the longest serving Presidentially-appointed director of NIH he oversaw the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, from basic to clinical research. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007. He will continue to run a research lab at NIH, which he has run since 1993.
In the selections of Dr. Alondra Nelson and Dr. Francis Collins, President Biden has doubled down on science. The selections are responsive to the dual importance of a strong OSTP that can drive science and technology solutions to our greatest challenges – and the very specific attention the President wants to give to the creation of a new ARPA-H research and discovery agency, the building of support for a Cancer Moonshot 2.0, the search for a new head of NIH, and the broad advisory work of PCAST.
Dr. Alondra Nelson, Deputy Director of Science and Society of OSTP and Performing the Duties of Director of OSTP
Alondra Nelson, Ph.D., serves as the inaugural Deputy Director for Science and Society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role, she brings social science expertise, including attention to issues of social inequality, explicitly into the work of Federal science and technology strategy and policy. Dr. Nelson is also Harold F. Linder Chair and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent research center in Princeton, NJ. She was president of the Social Science Research Council, an international research nonprofit from 2017-2021. She was previously professor of sociology at Columbia University, where she also served as the inaugural Dean of Social Science. Dr. Nelson’s research contributions are situated at the intersection of political and social citizenship, on the one hand, and emerging science and technology, on the other. Dr. Nelson connects these dimensions in a range of widely acclaimed publications, including, most recently, The Social Life of DNA. Dr. Nelson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Medicine.
Dr. Francis Collins, Acting Science Advisor to the President and Acting Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
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.