Award-Winning Scientists Offer Advice to President-elect Joe Biden

The White House in Washington, D.C.

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This article is part of the magazine, "The Future of Science In America: The Election Issue," co-published by LeapsMag, the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program, and GOOD.

We invited Nobel Prize, National Medal of Science, and Breakthrough Prize Laureates working in America to offer advice to the next President on how to prioritize science and medicine in the next four years. Almost universally, these 28 letters underscore the importance of government support for basic or fundamental research to fuel long-term solutions to challenges like infectious diseases, climate change, and environmental preservation.

Many of these scientists are immigrants to the United States and emphasize how they moved to this country for its educational and scientific opportunities, which recently have been threatened by changes in visa policies for students and researchers from overseas. Many respondents emphasize the importance of training opportunities for scientists from diverse backgrounds to ensure that America can continue to have one of the strongest, most creative scientific workforces in the world.

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Aaron F. Mertz
Aaron F. Mertz, Ph.D., is a biophysicist, science advocate, and the founding Director of the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program, launched in 2019 to help foster a diverse scientific workforce whose contributions extend beyond the laboratory and to generate greater public appreciation for science as a vital tool to address global challenges. He completed postdoctoral training in cell biology at Rockefeller University, a doctorate in physics at Yale University, a master’s degree in the history of science at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree in physics at Washington University in St. Louis.
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In this 2020 photograph, a bandage is placed on a patient who has just received a vaccine.

CDC/Robert Denty

COVID-19 vaccine development has advanced at a record-setting pace, thanks to our nation's longstanding support for basic vaccine science coupled with massive public and private sector investments.

Yet, policymakers aren't according anywhere near the same level of priority to investments in the social, behavioral, and data science needed to better understand who and what influences vaccination decision-making. "If we want to be sure vaccines become vaccinations, this is exactly the kind of work that's urgently needed," says Dr. Bruce Gellin, President of Global Immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Simply put: it's possible vaccines will remain in refrigerators and not be delivered to the arms of rolled-up sleeves if we don't quickly ramp up vaccine confidence research and broadly disseminate the findings.


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Jenny Luray
Jenny Luray is Vice President of Strategy and Communications for Research!America. She served as Chief of Staff to former Senator Barbara Mikulski, Legislative Director to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, and Deputy Assistant to the President in the Clinton White House. Jenny directed U.S. policy and government affairs for lifescience companies BD and Abbott. She is a member of the Governing Committee of the FDA-supported NESTcc and the Advisory Council of the Brown University School of Public Health.

These 6 people deserve to be widely known and celebrated for their brave and ingenious contributions to battling the pandemic.


Kira Peikoff
Kira Peikoff is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Nautilus, Popular Mechanics, The New York Academy of Sciences, and other outlets. She is also the author of four suspense novels that explore controversial issues arising from scientific innovation: Living Proof, No Time to Die, Die Again Tomorrow, and Mother Knows Best. Peikoff holds a B.A. in Journalism from New York University and an M.S. in Bioethics from Columbia University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and son.