Posts Tagged ‘OSTP’

Something that annoys me is when a group will not recognize when there own members mess up and turn a blind eye instead of holding them accountable. It makes me think that the members of a group are more concerned with defending the group rather than defending what is right (however you might define that).

So, to make sure I do not fall into that trap, I have some thoughts on the resignation of Eric Lander who was appointed by President Biden as the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. But first, some background.

Lander was sworn in to this post on June 2nd, 2021. The mission of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is to “maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans.” However, significant complains started to accumulate about Lander’s behavior and conduct toward the staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy who worked under him. These complaints led to an internal White House investigation.

The two month long internal investigation into Lander’s behavior ended in January 2022 and “found credible evidence of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff.” It further found that Lander created a toxic work environment for many subordinates regardless of gender.

This investigation was reported on by Politico. After the Politico piece came out, Lander issued an apology via email to the staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. A few days after that apology, and after further pushback from current and former staff and the press, Lander submitted his resignation on February 7, 2022.

My thoughts are that it was inappropriate for Lander to resign. He should have been fired.

I think it is telling that Lander only issued his apology email after the Politic article was published. To me this suggests that it was simply done in an attempt to limit damage, and not as a genuine indication of remorse. I think there is no place for the type of toxic workplace that he seems to have engendered, and individuals who behave in such a way should be held accountable and removed from their positions, particularly when they occupy positions of power. And I think this internal investigation was only the tip of the iceberg. Lander had caused some disturbances when he dismissed the accomplishments of two fellow geneticists who contributed significant work to advanced gene editing research that Lander was involved with; surprise surprise, those two geneticists were women. And Lander has been a long standing admirer of James Watson who co-discovered the structure of DNA, and who also was well known for holding many sexist and racist views.

Has Eric Lander done some very important science? Absolutely. Did he help to advance science policy and the public understanding of science? Definitely. Does this mean he is above reproach? No way.

All in all, I don’t think Lander should have been appointed to the position in the first place. He had enough of a track record of morally dubious views that his should have been eliminated during the vetting process. And I definitely think that having him no longer in that position of power is a step in the right direction.

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