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Winter 2009 Vol. 8 Number 3

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Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt FROM THE PRESIDENT

National Academy of Sciences

A Fresh Start for Science and Our Continuing Mission

With a new president in the White House, we anticipate that the National Research Council, and the three academies, the NAS, NAE, and IOM, will be asked the questions of the times. We are gratified that President Barack Obama has declared that “…it is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and work to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.” Scientific methods will be called upon in many contexts, and I believe that this newly expanded role for science, engineering, and medicine will help break our nation out of this period of serious economic trouble.

President Obama has selected a group of outstanding scientific leaders to help him to lead. Six are members of the NAS, and two are also members of the IOM. Nobel laureate Steven Chu is now secretary of energy. John Holdren directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and is the president’s science adviser. Along with Holdren, Nobel laureate Harold Varmus and Eric Lander are co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Jane Lubchenco administers the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And Lawrence Summers directs the White House National Economic Council. These talented individuals have served on many of our study committees, and they deserve our special thanks for accepting the president’s call.

Our Research Council and Institute of Medicine reports continue to have great national impact, and a number of other nations are creating structures and processes similar to ours that will enable them to rationally guide public policy. Several ongoing studies here exemplify such efforts to inform policy. Launched last year at a National Summit on America’s Energy Future, we will soon release a series of objective reports on U.S. energy options and their costs. Following a request from Congress, we are also undertaking a set of parallel studies aimed at better understanding and defining America’s climate choices. A summit and four study panels will examine the sweeping issues associated with global climate change and provide advice on new strategies and actions that the nation can pursue now and in the future. A deep examination of the future of biological science is also under way.

In closing, I’m delighted to note that the 2009 Public Welfare Medal of the NAS will be presented to Neal Lane in April, recognizing his numerous and profound contributions as director of the National Science Foundation, White House science adviser, and outstanding public citizen.

    National Academy of Sciences

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Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences