Biden’s top science adviser after reprimand for treatment of staff

Eric Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), speaks to members of the media after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Erin Scott | Bloomberg | beautiful pictures

President Joe Biden’s top scientific adviser, Dr Eric Lander, resigned on Monday, hours after the White House confirmed that an internal investigation had found credible evidence he had mistreat its employees.

An internal review last year, prompted by a workplace complaint, found evidence that Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and science adviser to Biden, bullied employees and treated them disrespectfully. The White House reprimanded Lander for his interactions with his staff, but initially signaled Monday that he would be allowed to continue working, despite Biden’s Inauguration Day insistence that he expects “honesty and courtesy” from all who work for his administration and will fire anyone who shows disrespect to others “on the spot.”

But on Monday night, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden accepted Lander’s resignation with “gratitude for his work at OTSP on pandemics, BPTNMT, climate change and priorities” other importance.”

Lander, in his resignation letter, said, “I am very disappointed that I have hurt past and present colleagues in the way that I have spoken to them.”

“I believe it is not possible to effectively continue in my role, and the work of this office is too important to be impeded,” he added.

The White House said Biden did not ask Lander to resign. It marks the first Cabinet-level departure of the Biden administration.

Earlier, on Monday, Psaki said senior administration officials had met with Lander about his actions and office management, but said he would be allowed to stay at work, saying the administration is following a “process” for handling workplace complaints.

“Following the conclusion of a thorough investigation into these actions, senior White House officials referred directly to Dr. Lander that his conduct was inappropriate and that corrective actions are needed. that the White House will monitor for future compliance,” she said.

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Psaki added, “The Chairman has made it clear to all of us about his high expectations for how he and his staff should create a respectful work environment.”

The White House said Lander and OSTP would be required to take certain corrective actions as part of the review process. It also said the review found no “reliable evidence” of gender-based discrimination and that the re-appointment of the employee who filed the original complaint was “deemed appropriate.”

Lander on Friday issued an apology to employees in his office, admitting “I spoke to colleagues in OSTP in a way that was disrespectful or demeaning.”

“I am extremely sorry for my behavior,” he added. “I especially want to apologize to those of you who I mistreated, or were present at that time.”

The letter and the findings against Lander were first reported by Politico.

Lander’s behavior and the White House’s initial decision to side with him caused some surprise in the White House and among Biden’s allies and created an unnecessary distraction from the agenda. the Bidens.

By the end of Monday, Lander believed he was in an irrevocable position and resigned effective no later than February 18, “to allow for an orderly transition.”

In a statement Monday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said Lander will no longer be invited to speak at its meeting next week, saying he is not conducting himself in a way that befits a scientist or scientific leader – much less a cabinet – senior leader in the administration.’

“Unfortunately, issues of toxic behavior still permeate the STEM community, where they inhibit participation and innovation. The OSTP should be a model for a respectful and positive workplace for the community. scientific community – rather than aggravating these problems,” said the group leader.

Lander, who was promoted to Cabinet rank by Biden, made a prominent appearance to the president last week as he relaunched the “Cancer Moonshot” program to coordinate federal resources supporting research and treatment. cancers.

Founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Lander is a mathematician and molecular biologist. He was the lead author of the first paper to publish the details of the human genome, the so-called “book of life”.

Confirmation of his role in the Biden administration has been delayed for months as senators seek more information about meetings he had with the late Jeffrey Epstein, a disgraced financier who was accused of sex trafficking before he committed suicide. Lander was also criticized for belittling the contributions of two female Nobel laureates.

At his confirmation hearing last year, Lander apologized for a 2016 article he wrote that downplayed the work of female scientists. At the hearing, he also called Epstein “a disgusting individual.”

Lander said he had “underestimated the magnitude of those important advances” by biochemists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. The two were later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Lander’s departure, citing Biden’s respect for the workplace policy, echoes then-White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo’s resignation in February 2021, who was suspended and subsequently resigned. office because of threatening conversations with a reporter.

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