Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Enhancing the Contract: The Federal Government and American Science in a New Administration

Harold Varmus

President of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; former Director, National Institutes of Health (1993-1999); Nobel Laureate, 1989

April 3, 2008, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Yenching Institute Auditorium, 2 Divinity Avenue


Many observers have commented on the damage that the current administration has done to science over the past seven years. I will evaluate the effects of this era on the traditional relationship between the scientific enterprise and the federal government, and offer some ideas about what a new administration could do to restore that relationship, increase the confidence of the scientific community in government, and allow the nation to take greater advantage of science and technology. In particular, I will consider measures to strengthen the representation of science in the White House; discuss the possibility of achieving a more predictable, multi-year pattern of funding for science agencies; recommend ways to codify the mechanisms by which the federal government obtains scientific advice and protects the independence of government scientists; and explain why our country should establish stronger roles for science, medicine, and technology in foreign policy. Video of this lecture is located here.


David Goldston

Center for the Environment, Harvard University

Sheila Jasanoff

Harvard Kennedy School

Charles Rosenberg

History of Science, Harvard University

Moderated by

Jon Beckwith

Harvard Medical School

About the speaker

Harold Varmus received a BA in English Literature from Amherst College in 1957, an MA in English from Harvard in 1962, and an MD in 1966 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. From 1993 to 1999 he served as Director of the National Institutes of Health. Since January 2000 he has served as President of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In 1989 Varmus received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine together with J. Michael Bishop for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. In 2001, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.


Photos by Ming E. Vandenberg.

Harold Varmus Harold Varmus Jon Beckwith Jon Beckwith, Harold Varmus, Charles Rosenberg, David Goldston, and Sheila Jasanoff.


This short excerpt from the event was edited by William Firestone.