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Top Biden science advisor following rebuke over treatment of staff

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After being sworn into office by U.S. vice president Kamala Harris, Eric Lander, the director of Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaks with members of media.

Erin Scott | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After the White House revealed that Dr. Eric Lander, President Joe Biden’s chief science advisor, resigned Monday after it was confirmed by them that there had been credible evidence suggesting that Lander mistreated staff members.

A workplace complaint prompted an internal review that found evidence that Lander was the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to Biden. It also revealed that Lander bullied and treated staff members disrespectfully. While the White House strongly criticized Lander for his behavior with his staff over the past year, it first indicated Monday that Lander would continue his job. This was despite Biden’s Inauguration day assertion that he expected honesty and decency in all of his employees and would fire any person who disrespects others.

Jen Psaki, Jen’s press secretary, said that Biden had confirmed Lander’s resignation on Monday evening with gratitude to him for his contributions at OTSP in regard to the pandemics, Cancer Moonshots, climate change and other important priorities.

Lander stated in his resignation letter that he was devastated by the hurt he caused to former and current colleagues through the way he had spoken to them.

“It’s impossible for me to keep my job effectively, and this office’s work is too crucial to be hampered,” he said.

According to the White House, Biden didn’t request Lander’s resignation. It is the Biden’s first resignation at Cabinet level.

Psaki claimed that Lander had been questioned by senior officials of the administration. However, he indicated that Lander was allowed to remain in his position, stating that the administration would follow a “process” to address workplace complaints.

She said, “Following the completion of the thorough investigation into those actions, senior White House officials have conveyed directly Dr. Lander that his behaviour was unacceptable, and that corrective actions were required, which will be monitored by the White House for compliance moving forward.”

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Psaki stated, “The president was very open with us all about his expectations for how he and his employees should create an environment conducive to respect.”

As part of its review, the White House stated that Lander would have to be replaced by OSTP. The review found no evidence of gender-based discrimination, and the White House stated that Lander and OSTP were required to take corrective actions as part of the review.

Lander apologized to employees in his office on Friday, acknowledging that he “spoke in a rude or demeaning manner” to colleagues in OSTP.

He added, “I’m deeply sorry for my actions.” “I would like to especially apologize for those people who treated me poorly or were present when I was doing this.”

Politico reported Lander’s letter and findings first.

Lander’s behavior and the White House’s first decision to support him caused some confusion inside the White House as well as among Biden supporters. It also created an unneeded distraction from Biden’s agenda.

Lander realized late Monday that he was in a untenable situation and decided to resign effective February 18, 2002, “in order for an orderly transfer.”

In a statement Monday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said Lander would no longer be invited to speak at its meeting next week, saying he was not conducting himself in a “manner befitting a scientist or scientific leader — much less a cabinet-level leader in the administration.′

Unfortunately, toxic behavior issues continue to make their way into STEM communities where they hinder participation and inhibit innovation. OSTP should be a model for a respectful and positive workplace for the scientific community — not one that further exacerbates these issues,” the group’s leadership said.

Biden promoted Lander’s position to Cabinet-rank. Last week, the president relaunched “Cancer Moonshot”, a program that marshals federal resources to support research and treatment of all cancer diseases.

Lander was the founding director of Harvard and Broad Institute of MIT. His first paper, the so-called book of life, revealing the details of human genetics was led by him.

The confirmation of his Biden role was held up for several months while senators sought out more details about his meetings with Jeffrey Epstein (a disgraced financier, who was later charged with sex traficking). Lander was also criticized for downplaying two Nobel Prize-winning women scientists.

Lander apologised for an article he had written in 2016 that dismissed the contributions of female scientists at his confirmation hearing. At the hearing, he also called Epstein “an abhorrent individual.″

Lander claimed that he had underestimated the value of key biochemists Jennifer Doudna (Emmanuelle Charpentier) and Lander. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry later.

Lander’s resignation on grounds of Biden’s respectful workplace policy echos the February 2021 resignation by TJ Ducklo (then White House deputy press secretary), who was first suspended but then quit after threatening to confront a reporter.

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