OSTP Leadership Transition as Eric Lander Resigns—Alondra Nelson Takes on OSTP Director Responsibilities, Collins Named Acting Science Advisor

February 2022

Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM Issues Statement

On February 7, Eric Lander, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), announced his resignation as of February 18. Lander’s departure came in response to news reports on an investigation into allegations of bullying and a toxic workplace culture raised by OSTP staff.

Subsequent to the Lander resignation, on February 16, President Joe Biden announced that Alondra Nelson, deputy director of OSTP, will perform the duties of OSTP director. Nelson, an accomplished social scientist and expert in the sociology of science and social inequalities, serves as the first-ever deputy director for science and society at OSTP.

President Biden also appointed longstanding former director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, to serve as acting science advisor and acting co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. As physician/geneticist, Collins’ scientific accomplishments include his leadership of the Human Genome Project. Lander had filled both roles, as OSTP director and science advisor, as part of President Biden’s elevation of the OSTP director to Cabinet-level status.

In response to the allegations raised on Lander’s behavior, the executive committee of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM issued an open letter. AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine, a signatory to the letter, co-chairs the executive committee.

“The issues of harassment, bullying, and unwelcoming work and educational settings are particularly intransigent when powerful scientists in leadership positions are involved,” the letter states. “The allegations made by OSTP staff, as reported in the media, concern deplorable behaviors with broad effect.”

The letter continues, “Authentic change in STEMM requires policies that explicitly embrace equity and inclusion for all talent and articulate concrete examples of conduct that is expected to advance that aim, as well as conduct that is harmful and unacceptable. Change requires the hard and long-term work of developing and practicing inclusive norms in the way work is carried out every day, by everyone, regardless of position.”