On December 24, President-elect Clinton nominated John H. "Jack"
Gibbons to be Assistant to the President for Science and
Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy (OSTP). Gibbons has served as Director of the
Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a bipartisan research arm of
the US Congress, for over a decade.
In nominating Gibbons, Clinton said, "I am delighted to appoint a
brilliant scientist and gifted administrator. . . It is profoundly
important that the President have a science advisor who understands
science, who understands technology, who understands the practical
application of these disciplines to the myriad of problems we face
today. And I can tell you that from [Vice President-elect] Al Gore
on down to every other member of Congress I have discussed John
Gibbons with, I have hardly ever received more glowing and more
consistent recommendations for anyone."
As he accepted the nomination, Gibbons stressed his support for
basic research. He stated that "our security and prosperity depend
as never before on the sustained support of science and the
thoughtful use of technology. . . We place a very great weight on
the intrinsic value of basic research out of which has flowed
extraordinary and often unanticipated benefits to society,
including enormous enrichment of the human spirit."
Gibbons has throughout his career shown an interest in science
policy issues, particularly those involving energy policy and
conservation. After receiving his B.S. in math and chemistry from
Randolph-Macon and his physics doctorate from Duke, in 1954 he went
to work in nuclear geophysics at Oak Ridge National Lab. His work
there included research into the origins of heavy elements in the
solar system, and nuclear reactions in stellar evolution. During
this time he also took sabbaticals to work on civil and ballistic
missile defense, and national lab-university relations.
In 1969 he moved to the directorship of the environmental program
at Oak Ridge. From 1973-74 he was Director of the Federal Energy
Administration's Office of Energy Conservation, where he headed
federal programs in energy conservation R&D, conservation policy
analysis and public awareness. In 1974 he became Director of the
Energy, Environment, and Resources Center at the University of
Tennessee, where he remained until accepting the directorship of
OTA in 1979. At OTA he heads a staff of 140, plus 2000 outside
experts, who provide analysis to Congress on science and technology
issues affecting society.
Among his honors and awards, Gibbons can count the 1991 APS Leo
Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest, and the 1992 AAAS
Abelson Prize for exceptional contributions to advancing science.
Gibbons is a fellow of both APS and AAAS.
As Director of OSTP, Gibbons inherits the chairmanship of FCCSET,
the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and
Technology. His predecessor, Allan Bromley, is credited with
revitalizing the FCCSET process, which encourages coordination and
cooperation in science and technology activities across the federal
agencies. President Bush used the FCCSET mechanism to launch his
five Presidential Initiatives, interagency programs in Global
Change, High Performance Computing, Biotechnology, Advanced
Materials, and Manufacturing.
Clinton is expected to have a much more aggressive technology
policy than did Bush, with Gore as his "technology czar." It is
unknown at this point how responsibilities for science and
technology would be divided between Gore and Gibbons, or who would
be the main spokesman for science in the Clinton Administration.
Some have also questioned whether OSTP will be fully staffed, in
light of Clinton's stated goal of reducing the White House staff by
25 percent. Some clues might surface during Gibbons' confirmation
hearing, to be held by the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee. So far, the hearing has not been