The White House reviewed evidence to show that Dr. Eric Lander, a top scientist, violated the “Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy.” However, the administration intends to keep him employed after providing counseling.
A workplace complaint prompted an internal review that found evidence that Lander was the director of Office of Science and Technology Policy and science advisor to President Joe Biden. It revealed that Lander bullied staffers and treated them with disrespect. This was contrary to Biden’s first directive, which stated that he expects honesty and decency from all employees of his administration. He would also fire any employee who displays disrespect “on the spot.”
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stated that Lander’s actions and management were discussed with senior officials from the administration.
“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 the corrective measures that were required, which the White House will monitor to ensure compliance moving forward,” she stated.
Psaki said, “The president was very clear with us all about his high expectations for how he and his employees should create a respectful work environment.”
When asked why Lander had not lost his job, Psaki replied that the administration was following a process to deal with workplace complaints.
The White House stated that Lander and OSTP must take corrective steps as part of the review. 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 his staff on Friday. He acknowledged that he had spoken in a disrespectful and demeaning manner to colleagues at OSTP.
He said, “I am deeply sorry about my conduct.” “I want to express my deepest regret to all of you who were present or I treated poorly.”
Politico first reported the letter and Lander’s findings.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science stated Monday that Lander would not be invited to speak at its next meeting. They said that he wasn’t acting in a manner appropriate for a scientist or scientific leader, much less a cabinet-level leadership in the administration.
“Unfortunately, toxic behavior issues continue to make their way into STEM communities where they hinder participation and inhibit innovation. OSTP should not be a model for a positive and respectful workplace for scientists, but one that further exacerbates these problems,” said the group’s leader.
Biden elevated Lander to Cabinet-rank, and Lander was prominently present with the president when he launched his “Cancer Moonshot” program to mobilize federal resources for research and treatment of cancer diseases.
Lander, a mathematician as well as a molecular biologist, was the founding director of Harvard’s Broad Institute of MIT. Lander was the lead author of the first paper that revealed the details of the human gene, the “book of Life”.
The confirmation of his Biden role was delayed for months by senators who sought more information on meetings Lander had with Jeffrey Epstein, a disgraced financial advisor who was accused of sex trafficking and then committed suicide. Lander was also criticized for downplaying two Nobel Prize-winning female scientists.
Lander apologised for a 2016 article that he had written which downplayed the contributions of female scientists at his confirmation hearing last January. He also called Epstein an “abhorrent person” at the hearing.
Lander stated that he underestimated the significance of biochemists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier’s key discoveries. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.