Almost 390 days since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a critical White House role remains conspicuously vacant. Despite repeated calls from lawmakers and top scientists to nominate a science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Trump has yet to appoint one.
This is longest that the science office ― which is currently operating with a “skeleton staff” ― has gone without a director since at least 1976, when Congress codified the role. A former presidential science adviser called the lag “mind-boggling.”
A Feb. 6 Science magazine article reported the White House interviewed candidates last year. It wasn’t clear why no one was hired.
Trump has demonstrated a disdain for science that some say may be complicating his search. In a scorching New York Times op-ed published in January, physicists Neal Lane, a science adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Michael Riordan said “it will be difficult at this point, if not impossible, to find an accomplished, reputable scientist who would agree to work” with Trump.
Citing the president’s many “assaults on health and environmental policy,” including his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement and his appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lane and Riordan said the president hasn’t just displayed a contempt for science, but “for evidence in general.”
“No president in recent history has needed a capable science adviser more while apparently wanting one less,” the scientists wrote. They noted that a capable adviser could have helped prevent, or at least blunt, some of Trump’s worst science-related policy decisions.