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Ex-WH science advisers concerned as Trump enters second year with post unfilled

Ex-WH science advisers concerned as Trump enters second year with post unfilled
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Former top science advisers to previous presidents are raising concerns as President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE heads into his second year without a science adviser.

John Holdren, science adviser to former President Obama, told The Boston Globe that Trump not filling the position is “mind-boggling.”

“It’s vital for the president to get the best science advice, and right now, he isn’t getting that,” Holdren said. “His decisions are being made without the benefit of science.”

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Holdren served as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy under Obama and led the office’s 135-person staff in advising on a number of topics and events, including climate change, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Neal Lane, a physicist who served as a top science adviser to former President Clinton, told the Globe that the empty position should be “a cause for alarm.”

“History tells us that President Trump will face decisions in future times of crisis and many of those will require technical advice,” Lane told the Globe. “Who can he depend on when that happens?”

Trump became the first president in four decades to not appoint a science adviser, according to a report published last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Less than a third of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is full, with only 38 of 130 total positions filled. 

The report also found in January that Trump had only filled 20 out of 77 positions designated as “scientists appointees” by the National Academy of Sciences. At the same point during their presidencies, Obama had filled 62 positions and former President George W. Bush had filled 51.

A White House official told the Globe that while Trump has received advice and guidance on science-related matters from Cabinet officials, he does intend to appoint a director to lead the science office.

“It’s my understanding that there will be a director appointed,” the official told the Globe.

The number of science advisory committee meetings in 2017 also decreased by 20 percent compared to 2016, the study found. The drop was most notable at the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, which met less often in 2017 than any year since 1997.