US President Donald Trump will nominate meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier as his government’s top scientist. If confirmed by the Senate, Droegemeier would lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Trump, who took office 19 months ago, has gone longer without a top science adviser than any first-term president since at least 1976.
“My initial reaction is, wow, they found someone,” says Kei Koizumi, visiting scholar at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and former assistant director of the OSTP under president Barack Obama.
Droegemeier would be the first non-physicist to serve as White House science adviser since Congress established the OSTP in 1976. “I think he is a very solid choice,” says John Holdren, who led OSTP for eight years as Obama’s science adviser. “He is a respected senior scientist and he has experience in speaking science to power.”
An expert on extreme-weather events, Droegemeier has been the vice-president for research at the University of Oklahoma in Norman since 2009. Last year, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, appointed him as the state’s secretary of science and technology.
The meteorologist has also served on the National Science Board (NSB), which oversees the National Science Foundation, under presidents Obama and George W. Bush. Droegemeier led NSB committees on hurricane science and research administration, among other topics, and was the board’s vice chairman from 2012 to 2016.
“He combines a lot of qualities in somebody you’d like to see in public service,” says Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder who has studied the history of US science advisors and who worked with Droegemeier in the 1990s and early 2000s. “He is, in the most positive way, a nerdy meteorologist who loved working on weather technology. And he also has a knack for administration and working his way around the system.”