Top White House science adviser resigns after internal investigation

Eric Lander, PhD, President Joe Biden's top science adviser, resigned Feb. 7 after an internal investigation found he bullied and demeaned colleagues, according to Politico

As a Cabinet-level adviser, Dr. Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, led the revived Cancer Moonshot initiative. However, an investigation found "credible evidence of disrespectful interactions with staff by Dr. Lander and OSTP leadership," according to Politico. Fourteen current and former staff members of the 140-member office revealed similar descriptions of a work environment in which colleagues were humiliated, shouted at and dismissed.

On the evening of Feb. 4, Dr. Lander sent an email to his staff, apologizing for speaking in a demeaning and disrespectful manner. He then pledged to create a healthier work environment by establishing forums for discussion and reiterating the misconduct reporting process.

"White House leadership met with Dr. Lander to discuss the seriousness of the matter and the president's expectation that all staff interactions be conducted with respect," according to a White House statement shared with Politico.

Eight current and former staffers called for tougher disciplinary measures to be taken against Dr. Lander, with some calling for him to be fired, Politico reported. Dr. Lander resigned Feb. 7.

President Biden had told a group of appointees on Inauguration Day, "If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot."

"It has been a great honor to serve as your science adviser and to work with the extraordinarily talented career and non-career colleagues at the Office of Science and Technology Policy," Dr. Lander wrote in a letter to the president, as cited by Politico. "I am writing to submit my resignation, to be effective no later than Feb. 18 in order to permit an orderly transfer.

"I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them." 

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