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Both McCain and Obama have a coterie of advisers. Each candidate has vowed change from the highly politicized Bush Administration. But we searched in vain for McCain's scientific advisers. Evidently he has none of significance! We did find one reference: Nature, 25 Sept 2008, that lists five individuals as "McCain's main science and technology advisers, James Woolsley, James Schlesinger, Robert McFarlane, Carly Fiorina, and Meg Whitman." All are respectable individuals, but where is the scientist? In contrast, Obama advisers are many and their roots in science are deep. For him, science means science; for McCain, science means politics.

Harold Elliot Varmus (born December 18, 1939) is an American Nobel prize winning scientist. He was a co-recipient (along with J. Michael Bishop) of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. Varmus also received the 2001 National Medal of Science. Varmus has endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama

Donald Q. Lamb is a professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the College; Director, ASC Flash Center; Enrico Fermi Institute. Lamb's research has covered a wide range of topics in high-energy astrophysics, including the properties of cold and hot dense matter; the structure and evolution of white dwarfs and neutron stars; X-ray emission from compact stars, especially magnetic white dwarfs; and the physics of radiation transfer in super-strong magnetic fields.

Gil Omenn has an M.D. and a Ph.D. He is Professor of Internal Medicine, Human Genetics, and Public Health at the University of Michigan. He is the director of the UM Center for Computational Medicine & Biology and the Proteomics Alliance for Cancer Research. He served as Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and as Chief Executive Officer of the University of Michigan Health System from 1997 to 2002. He was formerly Dean of the School of Public Health, and Professor of Medicine and Environmental Health, University of Washington, Seattle. He served as Associate Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Associate Director, Office of Management and Budget, in the Executive Office of the President in the Carter Administration. He is a longtime director of Amgen Inc. and of Rohm & Haas Company[1]. He is a member of the Council and leader of the Plasma Proteome Project for the international Human Proteome Organization[2]. He is Chairman of the Board (2006-2007) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is also on the advisory board of Next Services.

Henry Kelly Henry Kelly has a PhD; is president of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), and believes science and technology can help solve the earth’s problems. To affect the solutions and changes needed to sustain this home to more than six million people – nine billion by 2050 – science and public policy need to come together. This work requires technical knowledge coupled with a clear understanding of existing laws, economics and political opposition. The scientist becomes an activist in working to bring these solutions into public policy.

Kelly was inspired to pursue this career path by his father. “My father was a scientist who was very concerned about public interest,” Kelly says. “He had a passionate love for science with a sense of obligation for public issues.”

Bringing science and public policy together is a difficult career path that involves active political education with focus on analytical skills. “People almost always have good reasons for their position, so it is important that you are able to communicate your ideas to people who are not scientists,” Kelly says. Kelly has been actively bringing science and public policy together since the 1970s. His distinguished career has involved a wide range of projects with global impact including arm’s control, renewable energy, energy efficiency, the environment, and education policy. Kelly has received impressive recognition for his work including the 2002 APS’ Leo Szilard Lectureship Award for “promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society.” He was named the biannual “Champion of Energy Efficiency” in 2000 by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, and was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989.

Peter Agre: Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. After winning a Nobel Prize in 2003 for discovering proteins that move water through cell membranes, he pledged to use the prize money to defend scientific freedom from the restrictions of the war on terror. He has been sharply critical of President Bush's climate change policies. "The Bush administration has been a disaster for the environment," he said in 2004. "If we wait until there's unequivocal proof that this is the cause of global climate change, it will be too late." Agre helped found Scientists and Engineers for America, a non-partisan science advocacy group. An advocate of increased government investment in science, he wants more scientists to run for public office. He has appeared twice on The Colbert Report.

Sharon Long: Recently stepped down as dean of Stanford University's School of Humanities & Science to return to her research on the symbiosis of soil bacteria with alfalfa. Long resigned last year from the Board of Directors of Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation. A former MacArthur Fellow, Long is a member of the leadership council of the National Academy of Sciences. She has contributed to the campaigns of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Long is an authority on the interactions of microbes and plants, Long's research has led to numerous advances in understanding the important process of nitrogen fixation, in which Rhizobium bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia that can be absorbed by plants. Her research group uses molecular, genetic and biochemical techniques to study how Rhizobium cells recognize and form nodules on their plant hosts. Her research on the regulation of the plant-bacterial symbiosis will be of direct use in controlling the effects of undesirable pathogenic bacteria and in reducing the need for expensive, nitrogen-based fertilizers.

In addition to these, Obama has a long list of Energy and Climate Advisors. This man leaves nothing to chance it seems.

Alone among the candidates, Obama has fielded a superb group of technical advisors. His team is the strongest in the history of the White House. He will need them for dire times are coming, both nature and human made.


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