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Donald Trump’s expected pick for top scientist job is not a scientist

Sam Clovis is a former Trump campaign aide and business professor

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Saturday 13 May 2017 21:02 BST
Donald Trump to appoint Sam Clovis as top scientist in US Department of Agriculture
Donald Trump to appoint Sam Clovis as top scientist in US Department of Agriculture (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is set to appoint a former business professor for a position that is supposed to serve as the top scientist of the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sam Clovis currently serves as the senior White House advisor for USDA and was a Trump campaign aide.

He worked as a public policy and business professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and has said that climate change is “simply a mechanism for transferring wealth from one group of people to another."

"We need more science" on climate change before doing anything to combat it, Mr Clovis said. However ProPublica reports that he "has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change."

President Obama’s undersecretary for USDA research, Catherine Woteki, said Mr Clovis' appointment is akin to "appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health," ProPublica reports.

Ms Woteki, who holds a PhD in human nutrition and also worked for President Clinton's administration in food safety, said “this position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there."

In her position as undersecretary for research she was tasked with everything from assisting local farmers and agricultural workers to address severe drought, flooding, and shifting weather patterns, Zika, Ebola, and had the USDA create “Climate Hubs” across the country to develop local solutions to combating climate change.

Mr Clovis holds a PhD from the University of Alabama, however his writing concerned federalism and counter-terrorism. He also has a conservative radio programme, “Impact with Sam Clovis.”

He also told E&E News during the 2016 campaign that under Mr Trump's USDA would not focus on the damage being done by climate change at all, but direct resources to lightening regulations and increasing agricultural trade.

There is no word when Mr Trump will announce Mr Clovis' appointment or what impacts will be felt by career federal employees working in the agency's research and climate change programmes.

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