Jane Lubchenco, an Oregon State University faculty member for 30 years, has been asked by President-elect Barack Obama to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, university officials said.Lubchenco, one of the world’s leading marine biologists and distinguished professor of zoology at OSU, is well known for championing ocean reserves and for commenting on the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change on ecosystems.
In the new position, besides giving direction to the agency, she would serve as a key scientific adviser on marine and climate issues to the secretary of commerce.
However, she appears to consider herself more of an activist than a mere scientist.
I was Vice President of the Ecological Society of America in 1988 when the society was challenged with crafting research priorities – figuring out what kind of areas were most important to ecologists. That activity was an exceptionally challenging one, as you might imagine, for any group of scientists to agree on what their priorities were. Something like that had never been done by the ecologists before, and yet it forced us to really come to grips with the criteria that we should be using to set priorities. The document that we produced was called the Sustainable Biosphere Initiative. It was a landmark document for the ecological community. It really made a case statement for ecology and said “These are the connections between all of these very basic things that ecologists like to do, and a lot of real-world issues that people are struggling with, but where politicians and business people and lay-folks don’t understand that these are really ecological issues.” We decided in the end that there were two criteria for setting priorities. [15:57]
One were areas where there were exciting intellectual frontiers, but that that alone was insufficient. The other criterion that was equally important was, were areas where there was important benefit to society. The fact that a large professional scientific society would acknowledge the importance of social relevance in setting research priorities was really a remarkable occasion.
“Benefit to society?” Who says what is and isn’t a benefit? That’s not a scientific question.
Under our (purported) form of government, things like that are decided in the public forum, by the people effected. Not some narrow clique of self-appointed know-it-alls who know what is best for everyone.
But under a Democrat administration we can expect that every appointee is going to have to toe the Party line. Not that most of them ever thought of doing anything different.