For nineteen months since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, the position of the leader of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has remained unoccupied. Now the President will be nominating meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier as the science advisor.
Droegemeier is an extreme-weather researcher who is currently serving as the vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma. Approving of his choice as a candidate, John Holdren, who served for eight years as Barack Obama’s science adviser, says, “He is a respected senior scientist and he has experience in speaking science to power.”
While President Trump has been criticized for his stance on climate change, Droegemeier is known to be a believer in climate change. “I'm certain he believes in mainstream climate science," says Rosina Bierbaum who has worked with Droegemeier on climate change issues. Therefore, the scientific community feels that his appointment would have a positive impact on the administration’s stance on the efforts being taken to reverse and arrest climate change.
The position of science advisor has remained unoccupied for a considerable amount of time. Moreover, under Trump’s administration, the number of staff members in the OSTP went down considerably. From 130 during Obama’s administration, the current strength of OSTP is down to about 50. Therefore, Droegemeier might face bigger challenges than his predecessors. He “has a knack for administration and working his way around the system,” assures Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder who has worked with Droegemeier for an extended period of time.
Despite Droegemeier’s experience and skills, experts believe that a science advisor’s efficacy largely depends on the president. “He will have many challenges in his new post, not [the] least of which that there is no evidence President Trump is interested in science,” says Holdren.
According to an article published by Nature, only after and if the Senate confirms his appointment will it become clear whether Droegemeier will hold the position of the director at OSTP or that of an assistant to the president; the latter signifies a closer association with the president.
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