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Clinton Names Three from MIT to Science Advisory Committee

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

Earlier this month, President Charles M. Vest and two MIT faculty members were named to a new private-sector committee to advise President Bill Clinton on major science and technology issues.

Vest, Professor Phillip A. Sharp, head of the department of biology and 1993 Nobel laureate, and Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Mario J. Molina, are three of the 18 members on the President's Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology. California Institute of Technology physicist Murray Gell-Mann PhD '51 and former astronaut Sally K. Ride were also named to the committee.

"It's ideally interacting at the level of science and technology policy formation in the country and potentially has the possibility of doing some good," Sharp said.

In appointing the committee, Clinton said, "I am very pleased to name these eminent scientists, engineers, business leaders, and educators as some of my key advisers. Drawn from a cross-section of America, they will help ensure that our science and technology policies reflect our national needs."

Vest said, "I am pleased to have been asked to perform this national service because the country faces many challenges in establishing and implementing appropriate science and technology policy in the post-Cold War era."

Strong MIT presence

"Frankly, I was surprised, but very pleasantly so, that there are three members of the same institution" on the committee, Vest said. "The [Clinton] Administration's appointments speak clearly to the extraordinary stature of our faculty."

Sharp and Molina are "at the pinnacles of their fields and are enormously well-respected," Vest said. "They probably threw darts at a board to choose a university president."

Molina, a former research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Sciences. Molina has served on federal advisory committees for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.

Sharp, formerly director of the Center for Cancer Research, is a co-founder of Biogen Inc. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last year for his gene splicing discovery. Sharp has been involved with policy committees at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health.

Private sector perspective

The PCAST will ensure that the private sector perspective is included in the science and technology policy-making process, according to a press release from the White House.

Clinton called for strengthening partnerships with industry, government, and colleges and universities to achieve national science and technology goals.

"I believe we have serious growing inadequacies in our overall R&D base that will require strong interaction of government, academia, and the private sector to alleviate," Vest said. "Hopefully PCAST can be helpful in this regard."

The committee will also "serve as a formal channel for private sector advice to the National Science and Technology Council," a cabinet-level group that coordinates science and technology policies, the press release said.