Edited December 1 to reflect that Daddario served as President of AAAS, not the National Academy of Sciences. I regret the error, and want to thank Deborah Stine for pointing it out.
Original Post – Representative Rush Holt, soon to be leaving Congress, will take over as Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February. As best as I can tell, he will be one of the few executives of AAAS that will have government experience prior to taking the job (or in the case of Leland Howard, while holding the job). He will be the
first second former elected official to serve as CEO of the organization. Before election to Congress, Holt served as Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and worked for the State Department. His lab experience is comparable to several of his predecessors at AAAS. By point of comparison, fFormer Representative Emilio Daddario is probably the closest point of comparison at the National Academies (AAAS and the Academies are sometimes referred to as the House and Senate of science advice and advocacy in the U.S.) Daddario represented a Connecticut district in the House for nearly as long as Holt, then served for four years as head of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) before becoming President of AAAS. Presidents are elected, and Daddario served two terms (1977 and 1978).
So, we will soon have a major scientific society administered by a former member of Congress. While Representative Holt has been quite supportive of science and technology while in Congress, it’s not been a focus. His recent Senate campaign played up his geek credentials and he tried to represent himself as an energy scientist, although his background is in physics. One of his personal projects, a revival of the OTA, or some similar capacity, ran out of steam a couple of years ago.
In short, my past observations of the Congressman do not give me specific indications of how he might work in his CEO role at AAAS. Certainly his network on Capitol Hill could be used to the organization’s advantage, but I am quite curious to see how AAAS strategy and tactics might change under this new leadership. I’d be disappointed if they didn’t.