Jun 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden to nominate Arati Prabhakar as new White House science adviser

Arati Prabhakar
Arati Prabhakar speaks onstage during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in October 2016. Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

President Biden intends to nominate Arati Prabhakar as director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), making her the first woman, immigrant or person of color nominated to hold the position.

Driving the news: Prabhakar's nomination comes after White House science adviser Eric Lander resigned from the post in February after violating the Biden administration's workplace policy.

  • He later apologized for speaking to OSTP staff in "a disrespectful or demeaning way."
  • Former longtime National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins and Alondra Nelson deputy director stepped up to do the job in Lander's absence.

State of play: Once confirmed as OSTP director, Biden will also appoint Prabhakar as assistant to the president for science and technology, per the White House press release.

  • In these roles, she will act as Biden's chief science adviser, be a member of the cabinet and co-chair the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
  • Prabhakar is the former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and was previously the first woman to lead the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

What they're saying: "Dr. Prabhakar is a brilliant and highly respected engineer and applied physicist and will lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy to leverage science, technology, and innovation to expand our possibilities, solve our toughest challenges, and make the impossible possible,” Biden said in the press release.

  • "Dr. Prabhakar is the real deal. The first woman to receive a Ph.D. in applied physics from Caltech, she is a pathbreaking scientist, innovator, and leader," Nelson said in a statement.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Andrew Freedman: The OSTP under the Biden administration has become a key organization when it comes to steering programs related to climate change, energy, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and other high-tech topics.

  • Lander was the first OSTP director to be elevated to the Cabinet level. By moving to put Prabhakar at the same status, Biden is making clear that the honor was not just for Lander, but indicative of how he views the importance of this position.
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