Alondra Nelson to Conclude Distinguished Term at White House

Will Lead Social Science Theme—Platform—at IAS in 2023–24

Harold F. Linder Professor Alondra Nelson—the first woman of color to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and a Deputy Assistant to the President—announced in an interview with Axios that she will leave the White House on Friday, February 10 and return to her role in the School of Social Science.

“Alondra’s work to advance open-access, integrity, and equal opportunity during her leadership at OSTP will leave an enduring mark on the future of science policy,” stated David Nirenberg, IAS Director and Leon Levy Professor. “We are all grateful for her service. But we are also overjoyed that she is returning to the Institute to continue her field-defining efforts to understand the social implications of science and technology.”

Nelson served for two years as the Principal Deputy Director for Science and Society at OSTP. Science and Society is a new team created to position the social implications of U.S. science and technology more centrally in U.S. policy, as a necessary component of American innovation. Nelson also took on the leadership of OSTP for eight consequential months.

During her OSTP tenure, Nelson’s accomplishments included:

  • Leading a team to write the landmark Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, developed through a rigorous public and expert input process. The blueprint lays the groundwork for policymakers, legislators, regulators, courts, and technology developers to better safeguard people’s rights as algorithms and AI reach further into our lives.
  • Strengthening U.S. research infrastructure and a trustworthy science system, and overseeing a task force on scientific integrity.
  • Unveiling guidance to federal agencies to make all tax-payer funded research freely available to the public upon publication.
  • Leading a multi-sector effort that yielded a national vision to confront systemic barriers to participation in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine (STEMM) fields, including education, workforce and research, as a necessary cornerstone of economic opportunity, innovation, and global competitiveness.

In the coming academic year at IAS, beginning in September 2023, Nelson will lead a special theme year that considers the impact of “platforms.” The Platform theme aims to incite scholarly thinking across platforms of different kinds, and in different mediums—including analog, electronic, and virtual—to explore the norms and practices that organize, permeate, and stem from them. The theme year will investigate what historical, technological, theoretical, and policy perspectives and methodologies are key for understanding platforms and how they operate in academia, government, and industry, as well as in the physical world and in the realm of social relations.

Appointed as IAS Faculty in 2019, Nelson’s scholarly work offers a critical and innovative approach to the social sciences in generative dialogue with other disciplines. Her major research contributions are situated at the intersection of racial formation and social citizenship, on the one hand, and emerging scientific and technological phenomena, on the other.


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