After eight years where politics has trumped science at almost every turn, I am thrilled to see that President-elect Obama is about to appoint a Real Scientist as his science advisor.
I'm particularly thrilled because I know John Holdren a little bit. Back in my young days as an academic debater, I used to quote from professor Holdren on various science issues, mostly pertaining to climate change (yes, it was an issue even way back then!). And as a student in the Environmental Science program at Berkeley, I had to take a required upper-division course taught by him ("Quantitative Aspects of Global Environmental Problems"), which was one of the best classes I ever took, and still shapes my thinking on a lot of matters.
But professor Holdren himself really impressed me. And it wasn't just that he'd recently won a Macarthur "Genius Award" Fellowship or the campus Distinguished Teaching Award, or that he was on the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. What impressed me was that this very busy, very accomplished man had time, even when I was no longer in his course, to talk with me and advise me about an article I was writing.
So I can say from first-hand experience that John Holdren is a terrific choice to advise the new president about all kinds of matters of science and public policy. He is not only a brilliant and accomplished scientist, but also a student and teacher of science policy with a terrific ability to communicate complex information in ways that it can be understood by different audiences.
Obviously, there are still political battles to be fought, but I now have confidence that the side of science will have a tremendous advocate.
Update: Good profile from the NYT here. Good link at the bottom of it to an appearance on Letterman. Worth watching.