Levin named to Obama science panel

University President Richard Levin will serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, The White House announced on Monday.

In an address at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, President Barack Obama said he will call on the council for advice “about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation.” Obama appointed 20 people to the council; Levin, Yale’s Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics, is the only economist in the group.

President Barack Obama speaks to the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting in Washington on Monday.
Saul Loeb
President Barack Obama speaks to the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting in Washington on Monday.

“I think President Obama would like to restore this as a very important advisory committee to help with all of the science investments that he’s planning to make” Levin said in a telephone interview.

The council was started during the presidency of George H.W. Bush ’48, and was especially active during his term in office. Obama’s council will be co-chaired by John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Eric Lander, a biology professor at the Massachusets Institute of Technology; and Harold Varmus, the Chief Executive Officer of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Varmus received an honorary degree from Yale in 2001. Another member of the council, chemist and Nobel laureate Mario Molina, received an honorary degree from Yale in 1997.

Barbara Schaal GRD ’74, a leading evolutionary biologist, and Google chief Eric Schmidt will also serve on the council.

Levin, for his part, has served on presidential panels before. He was appointed in 2004 by President George W. Bush ’68 to an independent commission that investigated intelligence failures related to Iraqi weapons programs. In 2003, he began service on the President’s Commission on the United States Postal Service; previously, Levin served on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Baseball Economics, though that was not a presidential-level task force.

While the members of the council gathered in Washington on Monday for a meet-and-greet and to hear Obama’s speech, they have not yet begun their work or set their agenda. From 2002 to 2008, the second Bush’s council released around 20 reports on issues ranging from energy efficiency to nanotechnology and broadband build-out.

Levin said Monday’s gathering was an auspicious beginning to the council’s work; Obama’s speech garnered media attention because of a small gaffe the president made while reading from a teleprompter, but Levin said there was much more to the event than just that.

“It was a brilliant speech,” he said. “I thought it was really masterful in terms of President Obama’s grasp of issues of science and technology.”


  • Anonymous

    It's great how Levin can switch from being in Bush's camp to Obama's camp in just a few months.

  • Townie

    Can you spell "o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-s-t"? Gee, maybe Obama will invite Levin and his wife to stay in the Lincoln bedroom just like Shrub did at the beginning of his first term…NOT!

  • Anonymous

    The man knows his science. One assumes.

  • What?

    How can Obama's speech be "brilliant" when he didn't write it and couldn't even read it? Perhaps Levin should rephrase by saying "Obama's speechwriter did a brillian job." Of course, one can no longer say that this emperor [Obama] has no clothes without political fallouts.

  • Bio Alum

    Yes, he's an opportunist. He takes every chance he has to improve the world we live in, regardless of who's in the White House. I appreciate his efforts.

    Oh, and the speech was brilliant (#4) as the policies were brilliant (I think that's the most important part, right?). Do you actually disagree with any of the policies, or are you just an opportunist out to bash Obama?

  • Anonymous

    Three points… a) Levin is doing what is best for Yale, b) See Point A, c) Shutup