Sam Clovis, the nominee for the US agriculture department’s head scientist post, withdraws to the relief of scientists and science groups
President Trump’s pick to serve as the chief scientist and undersecretary for research at the US Department of Agriculture, Sam Clovis, withdrew himself from consideration earlier this month, much to the delight of the science community. The candidate – former talk radio host and co-chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign – had been heavily criticised for his lack of scientific qualifications, rejection of the scientific consensus on global climate change, and racist and homophobic comments. Last month, more than 3000 scientists and researchers wrote to the Senate agriculture committee that is charged with okaying Clovis before Senate approval and urged its members to reject the candidate.
‘The nomination of Clovis for USDA chief scientist reflects a lowering of the high standards that America’s farmers, ranchers, consumers, researchers and universities expect from a leader of scientific inquiry and public investment in science,’ the scientists wrote. They noted that the post in question controls a $3 billion (£2.3 billion) annual investment in USDA research and education grants, represents the US government in international agricultural science discussions and oversees the department’s scientific priorities and integrity. The letter arrived just as it emerged that Clovis was entangled in the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the presidential election.
Groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists celebrated Clovis’ departure as a triumph for ‘fact-based governance’. In addition, the top Democrat on the Senate agriculture committee, Debbie Stabenow, called Clovis’s decision to withdraw his nomination ‘a victory for science and our farmers who rely on agricultural research’.
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