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Not Like It's Rocket Science

An article in the New York Times bemoans President Trump's science advisor-free status, particularly in light of an impending meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Trump heads into the denuclearization negotiations "without the help of a White House science advisor or senior counselor trained in nuclear physics," writes Coral Davenport, who notes that "people who have participated in past nuclear negotiations say the absence of such high-level expertise could put him at a tactical disadvantage in one of the weightiest diplomatic matters of his presidency."

The dearth of scientific expertise fits a pattern of relegating science to the sidelines, Davenport cautions in the Times. Among other concerns, she points to: vacant chief scientist posts at the State Department and the Department of Agriculture; shifts away from the use of scientific evidence at the Environmental Protection Agency; disbanded science advisory committees in the Interior Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Interior Department reassignments and resignations; and a move away from expert guidance documents by the Justice Department.

Commenting in the piece, Princeton geosciences and international affairs researcher Michael Oppenheimer says, "'I don’t believe there's ever been a time in the post-World War II period where issues as important as nuclear weapons are on the table, and there is no serious scientist there to help the president through the thicket.'"