OSTP has director at last – except for government shutdown

At long last, we have a director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The director of OSTP often serves as the presidential science adviser as well. According to FYI, Kelvin Droegemeier was approved by the Senate on January 2, but other science-related positions remain vacant. Pending nominations will have to be resubmitted to the new Congress before they can be considered.

According to FYI,

At his confirmation hearing, Droegemeier identified three areas he planned to focus on as OSTP director: coordinating the federal R&D portfolio, building a diverse STEM workforce, and supporting new models for public-private partnerships that can translate research into the marketplace. He also expressed interest in developing a cross-government approach to addressing sexual harassment in the sciences.

Asked about the role of science in guiding policy, he said science must be “conducted free of political interference,” and he committed to ensure that “scientific results, unbiased, are presented to the president and others for effective decision-making.”

As we reported in August,

Kelvin Droegemeier [is] vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma and a former vice-chair of the governing board of the National Science Foundation. According to my confidential sources, the American Institute of Physics and Science magazine, Dr. Droegemeier, who has also been a science advisor to the governor of Oklahoma and to Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, is a very solid choice.

Dr. Droegemeier is a meteorologist whose research focused on supercomputers and atmospheric modeling, primarily of thunderstorms. He founded 2 NSF centers while at the University of Oklahoma. John Holdren, a former director of OSTP, told Science, “He has experience speaking science to power.” Dr. Holdren also told Science, perhaps with some understatement, that Dr. Droegemeier has “a big challenge ahead of him. … I look forward to seeing what he’s able to accomplish in a very challenging circumstance.” Indeed, the optimists among us can only hope with Rick Anthes of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research that he may be at least “a small voice of reason.”

Unfortunately, I do not see climate change among his priorities.

Also unfortunately, Science notes

OSTP is one of several federal agencies affected by the current partial government shutdown; it has only a handful of essential employees on board. Droegemeier has been spending time at OSTP as an adviser since the Senate committee voted on his nomination in early September 2018. But he returned to Oklahoma for the holidays before the shutdown began on 22 December 2018, and he’s awaiting word about when he can officially begin work [italics added].