Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the newly confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, shared the aims of U.S. science and technology in her talk, ‘Achieving America’s Aspirations,’ on October 21. Her comments were followed by a fireside chat with Sudip Parikh, chief executive officer of American Association for the Advancement of Science, who hosted the event.
Dr. Prabhakar spoke about the possibility of a better tomorrow, reflecting on how far we have come and noting that we have equally as far to go, listing health and climate as well as security and democracy. To this end she identified “three shifts” needed to advance the benefits of science and technology.
The first “building a ‘what-does-it-take’ mindset,” would require the research ecosystem to mobilize around bold goals. She pointed to the CHIPS and Science Act as a positive example, ARPA-H would fit this as well. Second, she raised the importance of diversifying the scientific ecosystem, saying that the U.S. must be “much more deliberate about opening the opportunities that science and technology provides to everyone in every zip code.” Finally, she underscored the importance of the “societal implications” of science and new technologies, offering the example of the White House’s new “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights”.
The importance of the basic science emerged as another theme. Describing basic science as ‘the raw stuff that generates knowledge,’ Dr. Prabhakar expressed some concern of the perception that basic scientists have ‘had their wings clipped.’ While not raised during her remarks, this is often attributed to the tight funding lines that reduce the risks that federal agencies are able to take. In response to a question from the audience, Dr. Prabhakar acknowledged the challenge ahead to fund the ‘and Science’ part of CHIPS and described it as an invitation to step up and make happen. She expressed a commitment to putting the resources into continuing and building on the investment.
FABBS members will be encouraged to learn that, at least twice during her presentation, Dr. Prabhakar called out the importance of the behavioral and social sciences to obtain the ambitious goals that she set forth. It was clear throughout her talk that she has a deep appreciation for FABBS disciplines.
FABBS sent Dr. Prabhakar a letter of congratulations and looks forward to working with her in this role.