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Behind the Scenes Science Advice

Presidential science advisors don't get much of the limelight, but they can achieve a lot behind the scenes in the right situation, John Holdren, who has served as President Obama's science advisor, tells Wired.

He adds that it's best for the advisor and president to have a good relationship. In that way, "when the science advisor has something to say that the president doesn't want to hear, the president doesn't assume that it's wrong, doesn't assume that the science advisor made it up to make his life more difficult." Wired notes that President Richard Nixon had two science advisors, who both resigned, and Nixon got rid of the position because he didn't like what he was hearing from them.

Holdren also says that it's important for the science advisor to have "assistant to the president" in his or her title. That way, the advisor has direct access to the president and doesn't have to rely on other staff to get the president's ear.

While some of Holdren's successes as science advisor are unsung, Wired notes that he's been credited with shaping the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan. Holdren adds that some of the initiatives his office has started have had bipartisan support and could continue mostly unnoticed, like the 100Kin10 program to train 100,000 new STEM teachers within 10 years.