As of February 18th, Dr. Alondra Nelson, a social scientist, is serving as the Acting Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Dr. Francis Collins is joining the White House as President Biden’s Science Advisor.
Dr. Nelson, previously the Deputy Director for Science and Society at OSTP, will now oversee all six OSTP policy divisions and, in her own words, work “to maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans.”
Dr. Collins, who recently retired from his role as Director of the National Institutes of Health, will serve as one of three Co-Chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The White House specified three projects on which his efforts will be focused:
- Identifying a candidate to be the President’s nominee for the next Director of NIH;
- Working with Congress and Executive Branch agencies to advance President Biden’s proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health; and
- Coordinating efforts to reinvigorate the White House Cancer Moonshot research initiative.
These senior leadership changes come in the wake of the resignation of Dr. Eric Lander, who left the White House following reports that he treated staff poorly and fostered a toxic work environment. Dr. Lander served as Director of OSTP and Science Advisor to the President, but those roles have been split between Drs. Nelson and Collins while they serve in an interim capacity. It is unclear when President Biden will choose a nominee to take over in a permanent capacity, and whether the roles of Science Advisor and OSTP Director will remain separate at that time. Additionally, any nominee will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.