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Rosalind Franklin Society asks President-elect Obama to appoint a woman as a third co-chair

December 23, 2008, New Rochelle, NYThe Rosalind Franklin Society (RFS) urges president-elect Obama to appoint a woman scientist as third co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in addition to the newly named co-chairs, Harold Varmus and Eric Lander.

"It is gratifying to observe the ascendancy of sciences in the new administration, but these appointments must also reflect the importance and contributions of outstanding women scientists," said Jo Handelsman, PhD, president of the Rosalind Franklin Society (Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin)

"Dr. Varmus and Dr. Lander are outstanding choices, but inclusion of women in the leadership of PCAST will enhance the committee's work and impact," Dr. Handelsman continued.

The Society commends the outstanding selection of Jane Lubchenco to be head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but notes that few other women appear on the lists of scientific appointees. To remedy this, RFS strongly recommends appointing a woman to join Harold Varmus and Eric Lander as co-chair of PCAST. It is imperative that this prominent and influential committee be superb, representing the best and broadest advice.

The National Academy of Sciences report Beyond Barriers and Bias demonstrates that women in science are key to our national competitiveness. "Bias, however unintended, must not limit our choices for leadership and talent or our nation will suffer," said Handelsman.

"Choices for leadership of PCAST are many," said Rose Grymes, PhD, vice president of strategic planning for the Rosalind Franklin Society (Director, Advanced Studies Laboratory, UCSC, and NASA Ames Research Center). They include Shirley Tilghman, renowned biologist and president of Princeton University; Shirley Ann Jackson, physicist and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and first woman to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and Maxine Singer who helped break the genetic code and is President Emeritus of Carnegie Institution. Each of these scientists has the stature and experience to be a powerful contributor to the leadership of PCAST and positively affect the quality and breadth of the committee's deliberations.

"The extraordinary 'perfect storm' of problems faced by our nation will only be solved by tapping the best minds and most innovative approaches," said Dr. Grymes. The Obama administration promises to be one that is committed to seeing beyond adversarial politics and status quo solutions, and the Rosalind Franklin Society calls on the administration to include all the people - women and men.


Contact: Karla Shepard Rubinger
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News

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