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Former OSTP Chief Holdren to Receive 2018 Moynihan Prize News
John Holdren

Former OSTP Chief Holdren to Receive 2018 Moynihan Prize

October 18, 2017 1813

John Holdren

John Holdren

Physicist John Holdren, the longest-serving presidential science adviser in U.S. history, will receive the 2018 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science. This marks the first time that the Moynihan Prize has gone to a natural scientist.

Holdren, who currently is at Harvard University, spent eight years advising President Barack Obama as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP. In that span, as he later told Nature, he got “virtually all of the departments and agencies to produce for public review and comment, and then to finalize, policies on openness and on scientific integrity.” Holdren’s initiative led to great progress toward “open data”—the free availability of scientific data for analysis and publication—and toward the publication in open venues of federally funded research

“John Holdren’s public service shows that an enlightened national science policy needs to account for the interdependence of the social and natural sciences,” said Kenneth Prewitt, the president of the AAPSS. “His commitment to advocating for the social sciences from the very top of the federal policymaking apparatus has been most welcome, and his clear-eyed actions to bring social science fully into national science policymaking have earned him this recognition.  He is a uniquely suited Moynihan Prize winner.”

In a 2010 article in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, titled “Social Science Data and the Shaping of National Policy,” Holdren wrote:

“To make public policy on the basis of bad data or no data is almost always a serious error. … [R]esearch in the social sciences has been of demonstrable benefit to public policy in giving rise to a large array of explanatory concepts and analytic tools such as cost benefit analysis, the concept of risk aversion, the notion of unintended consequences, national accounts, randomized field trials for policy design, and so on.”

In the same piece, Holdren advocated for the importance of and need for federal statistics and the need for the U.S. government to link survey and administrative data.  In what is typically an opaque environment, he has shown a light on the importance of data and research findings for more effective policy, something he has done throughout his career as an academic and a public official.

Holdren trained as a plasma physicist. In a widely varied career has received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship (the so-called ‘genius grant’), accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs (he was chair of the executive committee), and chaired the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the National Academy of Sciences.

Holdren is currently Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government; co-director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy in the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs;  and professor of environmental science and policy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.

Each year, the Moynihan Prize is given to a leading policy-maker, social scientist, or public intellectual whose career demonstrates the value of using social science evidence to improve the human condition.

Previous Moynihan Prize recipients include last year’s recipient Alan Krueger, former chairman of Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama; Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins, both senior fellows in economic studies at Brookings Institution; and Rebecca Blank, chancellor of University of Wisconsin–Madison and former acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

As the 2018 Moynihan Prize winner, Holdren will give a public lecture on May 17, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

To RSVP for this free lecture click HERE.


The American Academy of Political and Social Science, one of the nation’s oldest learned societies, is dedicated to the use of social science to address important social problems. For over a century, our flagship journal, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, has brought together public officials and scholars from across the disciplines to tackle issues ranging from racial inequality and intractable poverty to the threat of nuclear terrorism. Today, through conferences and symposia, podcast interviews with leading social scientists, and the annual induction of Academy Fellows and presentation of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, the Academy is dedicated to bridging the gap between academic research and the formation of public policy.

View all posts by American Academy of Political and Social Science

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