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 Monday.

In an address at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., 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 Massachusetts 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 chairman 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. Levin said he expects the group to be prolific. After all, from 2002 to 2008, the second Bush’s council released around 20 reports on issues ranging from energy efficiency to nanotechnology and broadband Internet access.

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 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.”

Comments