Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good week for biology in the Bush Administration

It has been a really really good week for biology in the Bush Administration. First, the 2006 National Medals of Science were announced. I know this is administered by NSF but I am sure the Bush administration had some role in the selection but it still is happening during the Bush administration (see comment by Mayra Montrose from the National Medal of Science correcting my erroneous ways). Eight people were recognized (see the MSNBC CosmicLog of Alan Boyle for more information) and six of them do biology-related research:
  • Hyman Bass - University of Michigan. A mathematician.
  • Marvin H. Caruthers - University of Colorado, Boulder. A biochemist.
  • Rita R. Colwell - University of Maryland (College Park, MD). A microbiologist. One of my favorites.
  • Peter B. Dervan - California Institute of Technology. They list him as a chemist but he is really a biochemist with a biology focus, in my opinion.
  • Nina V. Fedoroff - Pennsylvania State University. A plant geneticist.
  • Daniel Kleppner - Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A physicist.
  • Robert S. Langer - Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Also listed as a chemist but does mostly biochemistry.
  • Lubert Stryer - Stanford University. A hard core biochemist.
There will be a presentation at the White House apparently broadcast live:

President Bush will present 2006 and 2005 Laureates with National Medals of Science and Technology during a White House awards ceremony on Friday, July 27, 2007. The ceremony will be broadcast via satellite feed for journalists.It will also be available as a live webcast at

And then, even better, Condoleezza Rice announced her new science advisor is Nina Federoff, one of the National Medal Recipients and a plant geneticist (see above). So - the Bush administration has been justifiably criticized for much of the way it treats science, especially biology (can we say evolution anyone). But there are nevertheless pockets of good news. And hey - its better than nothing.


  1. Lets just be happy for their awards, even if there's probably some political footwork going on. There's not much we can do to control it.

  2. Dear Readers:
    The National Medal of Science Laureates are selected each year based on their nomination packages meeting the criteria established by the Committee:

    The committee itself is a-political (SURPRISE!) I think it's because if you want the best minds to review the nominations, you have to cross political lines. The members are selected to maintain a balanced committee that is gender, geographical, and discipline-diverse.

    Mayra Montrose
    Program Manager
    National Medal of Science

  3. I'm delighted that my colleague and friend Rita Colwell is one of this year's recipients.
    Being a hopelessly argumentative type, though (:-), I can't resist pointing our to Mayra Montrose that there is some inconsistency in her explanation. If the committee is chosen to be "gender, geographical, and discipline-diverse", then you can't call it apolitical. Of those 3 criteria, only the "discipline-diverse" one has a scientific basis.
    Nonetheless, we can hope that the awardees are chosen for scientific reasons. I know that Rita Colwell has spent much of her career working to control infectious disease in the third world, and she has had a tremendous positive impact on helping to reduce cholera fatalities in the regions she has worked in.