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AAAS CEO Holt Urges President Trump to Name Science Adviser

Rush Holt


AAAS’ Holt presses new administration to use scientific evidence in policy making through the help of a science adviser. | Chet Susslin/National Journal

AAAS CEO Rush Holt called on President Donald Trump to appoint a respected scientist or engineer to assist the new administration in dealing with pressing policy issues and coping with unpredictable events requiring scientific and technical expertise.

A science adviser would provide guidance on diverse and important topics such as infrastructure development, advanced manufacturing, energy and economic issues, Holt said in a statement issued following Trump taking the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States and delivering his inaugural address on 20 January.

“We continue to urge President Trump to promptly name a respected leader of the scientific community to serve as science adviser to the president,” said Holt, who also serves as the executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “It is imperative that President Trump — in keeping with U.S. presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 — appoint a science adviser to facilitate the greatest use of science into decision-making at the highest levels of government.”

Holt also echoed his call for Trump to appoint a science adviser during a special hour-long “Science Friday program following the inauguration ceremony. Holt said the benefit of scientific expertise is invaluable in helping administration officials respond in moments of crises and in shaping all forms of policy.

“Whether it’s an oil well blowout or an emerging disease, you don’t want to get up to speed then,” said Holt. “You want somebody at the table with the national security adviser, with the domestic policy adviser, who can tell you what is known about this subject or that subject, who can bring in the expertise.”

The statement and the radio appearance are part of a series of outreach efforts AAAS has made to encourage the new administration to leverage scientific evidence and fact-finding in forging policy prescriptions to address challenges from climate change to infrastructure improvements that it confronts.

“We hope the Trump administration will employ scientific evidence when considering policy options,” Holt added in his statement, saying that as the largest general scientific organization in the world, AAAS is prepared to summon science to help the new administration.

AAAS is providing an online resource – “First 100 Days” – with regular updates on Cabinet confirmation hearings and other federal government activities of interest to the scientific community. The organization held a public panel discussion and hosted a post-election webinar that drew 3,081 scientists, engineers, policymakers, academics and journalists on science policies facing the new administration.

The organization also joined 28 other top scientific and higher-education organizations in urging the then president-elect Trump to tap a senior-level science adviser as assistant to the president for science and technology – to ensure scientific knowledge informs and assists the development of policy solutions.

Economists have long documented that advancements in science, technology and innovation accounted for approximately half of U.S. economic growth over the last fifty years, a point AAAS and the 28 other organizations made in the 23 November letter.

Before the election, Holt also joined Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and others in calling on the new administration to appoint a top-level science adviser to assist in the development of science related recommendations and contribute to the administration’s decision-making process.

Holt again reached out to the new administration following the inauguration, stressing in his statement the importance of using the scaffolding of science to strengthen decision and policy making.

“AAAS stands ready to assist the Trump administration in applying science to tackle major national challenges,” said Holt.

[Associated image: Credit: IIP PhotoArchive/Flickr CC BY NC 2.0]


Anne Q. Hoy