After 19 months, the White House may finally have its science adviser.
On Tuesday, President Trump announced his nomination for the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology—a meteorologist fittingly named Kelvin (which is also a measurement of temperature, for those who don’t know).
Kelvin Droegemeier is currently the Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, and also serves as Oklahoma’s secretary of science and technology. He previously served on the National Science Board, which sets the priorities for the National Science Foundation, and was an adviser on extreme weather for both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Droegemeier’s nomination has been largely praised by the scientific community, in no small part because of his relevant qualifications. He has been seen to respect climate science and has advocated for public investment into scientific research and education. He is an expert in extreme weather science and has been at the cutting edge of storm prediction research, leading the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storm, and co-founding the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms and its Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere.
Despite his strong credentials, The New York Times suggests that Droegemeier’s position on climate change is “not widely known,” particularly because of his focus on short-term weather patterns.
Droegemeier will need to be confirmed by the Senate before taking the position. Should he be confirmed, Droegemeier will be responsible for providing advice on a wide range of matters. These could include epidemic preparedness, natural disaster response, nuclear energy, and facilitating scientific innovation. The OSTP is also responsible for coordinating the White House’s science agenda across government, universities, and the private sector.
It still might not be time for members of the scientific community to breathe a sigh of relief, however. While Droegemeier may become the OSTP director, Trump could theoretically appoint him and never seek his advice. Several recent White House science advisers were also named assistant to the president, which is a separate title and “essentially signals close ties to the president and his top aides,” according to The Atlantic. It is unknown whether the White House will give Droegemeier this additional title.