John H. Marburger will be nominated by President Bush to become the new Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Marburger is currently the Director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and President of Brookhaven Science Associates. The nomination has drawn praise, including positive words from the previous OSTP Director, Neal Lane.
President Bush's lack of a science adviser has been a growing source of concern within the S&T community. There is speculation that the Administration's FY 2002 budget request for R&D might have been higher had there been a science advisor. There is also concern that policies with a large science component, such as global warming, stem cell research, and national missile defense are being formulated without the input of a science advisor. Senior level S&T appointments also await the guidance of this advisor.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy is based in an office building that is part of the White House complex. The staff is not large, and the degree of influence it has within an administration depends greatly on how the president decides to integrate OSTP into the decision-making process.
Marburger has a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford University, and a B.A. in Physics from Princeton University. Before coming to Brookhaven he was President of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Marburger also served as the chairman of Universities Research Association, which runs Fermi Lab, from 1988-1994.
Brookhaven National Laboratory was much in the news when Marburger became its director in 1998. A tritium leak in its High Flux Beam Reactor attracted considerable media attention, resulting in a call to close the reactor by local groups, a senator and a representative. At a late 1997 press conference, as incoming director, Marburger remarked that the laboratory failed to communicate adequately with the local community. The Secretary of Energy closed HFBR in 1999. Marburger has been praised for the way in which he reestablished communication with the lab's neighbors. His "Personal Statement" on BNL's web site reflects his approach:
"As society holds us to ever higher standards of accountability for the impact of our work on health and environment, we need to learn new ways of working. And we need to learn new ways of describing our increasingly complex mission to the public that is skeptical and concerned about the undesirable side effects of technology."
In a statement to BNL employees after the White House announcement, Marburger said "I would be delighted to be nominated for this position." He does not expect the Senate nomination hearing before September. In discussing the announcement, Floyd Kvamme, the co-chair of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST), said that Bush was "looking for somebody with broad experience and an appreciation of practical science issues." Marburger describes himself as a lifelong Democrat. In an interview with the New York Times, Marburger declared, "If there's any subject that should be bipartisan, it's science."