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MBL Falmouth Forum: “Speaking Science to Power: My Eight Years in the Obama White House” – John Holdren

May 5, 2023 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm


The President’s Science Advisor is the chief scientist of the U.S. government—a position that few people other than government officials and science-policy wonks have ever heard of. Why does the President of the United States need a science expert close at hand in the White House? What does the Science Advisor actually do on a typical day? (Actually, few days are typical in the White House.)

In this lecture, John Holdren, former Science Advisor and Senate-confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Obama will discuss his experience in the White House—how he got the job, what Obama was like, as a person and a boss, the main achievements of the Obama administration applying science and technology to the public interest, and where they failed. Holdren will also discuss what challenges and opportunities President Biden’s Science Advisor—Arthi Prabhakar, the first woman and first Asian-American to hold the job—faces.

John P. Holdren is the Teresa and John Heinz Research Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Co-Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program in the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is also Senior Advisor to the President at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth. From January 2009 until January 2017, he was President Obama’s Science Advisor and Senate-confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. His responsibilities in those roles included advising the President on all science and technology issues bearing on the national agenda; coordinating R&D strategy & budgets across the Executive Branch; and leading the Administration’s efforts on science and technology cooperation with other countries. Trained at MIT and Stanford in aerospace engineering and fusion-energy science, Holdren spent most of his career focused on energy technology and policy, environmental science and policy, and nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. In 1995 he gave the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization of scientists and public figures in which he served in leadership positions from 1982 to 1997. He and his wife Cheryl live in Falmouth.


May 5, 2023
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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Marine Biological Laboratory
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Marine Biological Laboratory
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole,MA02543United States
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