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Photo of Alondra Nelson

Photo of Alondra Nelson by Dan Komoda

In January 2021, President Biden appointed sociologist Alondra Nelson, a leading scholar of science, technology, medicine, and social inequality, to be the first deputy director for science and society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Issues in Science and Technology editor William Kearney recently spoke with her about her role in bringing social science expertise to federal science and technology (S&T) policy and the Biden administration’s goal to make that policy fair and equitable for all members of society.

You were writing a book about OSTP before your appointment there, and you’ve followed the ways its role in federal science policy has fluctuated over the decades. President Biden immediately heightened its role, however, when he elevated his science advisor, the OSTP director, to his cabinet. What is the significance of that move?

Nelson: I started doing the research for the book because I found it such a fascinating office for somebody who is a student of science policy. In the 1970s, the OSTP was originally imagined to... see more