Two notes heading into the weekend.
ScienceInsider reports that the Senate confirmed Cherry Murray to be the Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. While the position has been empty since 2013, at least the Senate moved relatively quickly on Dr. Murray’s nomination, which was presented in August. Yes, she wasn’t the first nominee made to fill the vacancy, so that might have shamed the Senate into acting.
Recently the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced its latest class of Fellows. The organization’s Council elects Fellows after nominations from the steering groups of each of the 24 sections of the AAAS. Fellows are elected to “recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”
One of this new class of fellows is Dr. Patrick Harran of UCLA. If you recognize the name, you might follow chemistry, or you might remember the 2008 accident in one of his labs that fatally injured a laboratory assistant. Both Harran and UCLA are still subject to settlement agreements with the Los Angeles County District Attorney on the case.
Some have found it odd that Harran has been elected a Fellow following a fatal lab safety failure. The UCLA paper, The Daily Bruin, asked AAAS about this, and Director of the Office of Public Programs Ginger Pinholster emphasized that the selection of Harran was based strictly on scientific accomplishments, and that the AAAS administrative members who oversaw the election were unaware of the fatal accident.
Even if you agree with the exclusion of the accident from consideration when electing Harran as a Fellow, that the decisionmakers at AAAS were unaware of it makes the organization look bad. It also contributes to the lousy perception (often justified) of lab safety in the U.S.
In response to other questions about Harran’s election, Pinholster posted the following on Twitter.
I will be interested in reading this statement, whenever it comes out.
The newly elected Fellows will be recognized during the AAAS Annual Meeting next February.