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Policy

White House to nominate meteorologist for science adviser

Trump administration taps Kelvin Droegemeier to lead Office of Science & Technology Policy

by Britt E. Erickson
August 1, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 32

 

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Credit: AP
Kelvin Droegemeier

The Trump administration plans to nominate meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier for the top science post in the White House—director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP). Scientists are applauding the choice, announced on July 31, after speculating for more than a year and a half about who will be the president’s science adviser.

Droegemeier has many years of experience at the interface of science and policy. He is currently vice president for research and a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. He also serves as cabinet secretary of science and technology for Oklahoma under Republican governor Mary Fallin.

Droegemeier has a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences and is an expert in extreme weather and storm events. He previously served two six-year terms under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on the National Science Board, which establishes policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Droegemeier cofounded and directed the NSF Science & Technology Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms and the NSF Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere.

If confirmed by the Senate, Droegemeier will lead an office that has been significantly downsized from well over 100 employees under the Obama administration to about 50 under Trump. Some scientists are hoping the announcement will signal a shift in the Trump administration’s attempt to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change programs and other scientific work.

“Science and technology are embedded in almost every issue that the president deals with, and since 2016, we’ve urged the nomination of a respected scientist or engineer. Kelvin Droegemeier is such a scientist,” Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and former U.S. Representative in Congress, said in a statement.

Droegemeier “is a solid choice,” says John Holdren, who served as OSTP director under Obama and is now a professor of environmental science and policy at Harvard University. “I have no doubt that he accepts the mainstream scientific consensus that global climate is changing in ways that natural influences cannot explain, that human activities are the main cause of the changes observed over the past 100 years, and that these changes are already seriously impacting human well-being.”

UPDATE: This story was revised on Aug. 2, 2018, to add comments from John Holdren.

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