Science Policy & Funding News

White House Science Adviser Seat Filled After 2 Years

The Senate’s confirmation of Kelvin Droegemeier to head the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is a win for the science community. But will Trump take his advice?


The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) finally has a new director nearly 2 years after President Trump was sworn in.

Meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier was confirmed by voice vote by the U.S. Senate last night in one of its last actions before the end of the 115th Congress. An OSTP spokesperson previously told Eos that Droegemeier would also be referred to as the president’s science adviser.

Droegemeier, a respected atmospheric scientist and expert on extreme weather, comes into his position at a time when the administration faces a storm of criticism about its views and actions on climate change and environmental issues.

During his Senate confirmation hearing in August, Droegemeier pledged his support for scientific integrity and for maintaining the strength of the nation’s scientific enterprise. “Certainly, my role if I’m confirmed as director of OSTP, is to bring unbiased science, the best science available, to the executive branch, to all the parties, and make sure that that information is at the table and available for policy making,” he said at the confirmation hearing.

Droegemeier previously was vice president of research at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He served for 12 years as a member of the U.S. National Science Board and was its vice chairman from 2012 to 2016.

Science Community Welcomes the Confirmation

His confirmation was a relief to many in the science community, including Marcia McNutt, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. “Congratulations on your confirmation, finally (!!!!) as Director of OSTP,” she tweeted. “I look forward to working with you in your new role.”

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted congratulations “to my good friend and fellow Oklahoman.”

Will Trump Listen to His Science Adviser?

Despite the many expressions of congratulations, some in the science community wondered whether Droegemeier would make a difference in the administration and whether the president would heed his advice.

On Droegemeier’s confirmation, Peter Gleick, cofounder and president emeritus of the global water think tank Pacific Institute, tweeted, “This is very good news, except for the fact that Trump will completely ignore him. Obama met with his #science advisor every week and often more frequently. And listened. And understood. And acted. Sincere best wishes to Dr. Droegemeier.”

Environmental Quality Director Also Confirmed

The Senate last night also confirmed Mary Neumayr as director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), a post considered the administration’s senior environmental official. Neumayr formerly served as CEQ chief of staff. She was Trump’s second choice to head CEQ, after former Texas environmental official  Kathleen Hartnett White withdrew her name from consideration following a testy Senate hearing where she disputed scientific findings about climate change.

The Senate failed to confirm Barry Myers, chief executive of AccuWeather, to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2019), White House science adviser seat filled after 2 years, Eos, 100, Published on 03 January 2019.
Text © 2019. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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