“Four ways the new administration can elevate evidence and build up the science ranks”
“During the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, I flew on Air Force Two with Vice President Joe Biden to the Gulf of Mexico to join him in meetings with fishing communities to hear their concerns and share what the federal government was doing. Although I had been in high-level group meetings with the VP, it was the first time he and I had an extended one-on-one exchange. Our plane conversation covered a range of topics and apparently intrigued him enough that, as we landed, he asked me to please join him in his VPOTUS car so the two of us could continue talking about what scientists had learned about the spill and what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was doing to help.
As he peppered me with questions, it was abundantly clear that he respects science and looks to scientists to help understand complex issues and chart a smart path forward. It was equally clear from his subsequent remarks to fishing communities that he was unusually adept at integrating scientific knowledge into an empathetic message with honesty, substance and sensitivity. In his meetings and speech, the point was how to make science relevant to people’s lives.
Ten years later his presidential campaign pledged to restore the place of science in government and to heed science in tackling urgent problems. In his acceptance speech on November 7, 2020, he said, “America has called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.” These battles include the pandemic, economic recovery, health care, racial justice, systemic racism and climate change.”