President Donald Trump’s reported pick to be nominated for the United States Department of Agriculture undersecretary for research, education and economics, a position that is described as a “chief scientist,” is not a scientist.
According to a report by ProPublica, the president’s rumored choice for the top USDA scientist position is Sam Clovis, who advised Trump on agriculture issues during the campaign. Clovis also currently serves as a top White House adviser within the USDA, a position described as Trump’s “eyes and ears” inside the government agency.
While Clovis had an extended career as a tenured professor at Morningside College teaching business and public policy, it does not appear that he has taken any graduate-level science courses.
Clovis is better known for his conservative talk radio show, “Impact with Sam Clovis,” that ran in Iowa, and his failed run for the Senate in 2014.
Trump’s reported choice is an odd one for the position considering it “requires strong expertise in biological science,” according to an article published by Forbes.
Catherine Woteki, who served in the position under President Barack Obama, told ProPublica that appointing a nonscientist to the position is akin to appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health.
“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,” she told the publication.
As the undersecretary for research, education and economics Clovis would be consulted on multiple scientific issues. Woteki, for example, was called on for advice on the Zika and Ebola outbreaks and food safety as related to homeland security.
Although Clovis holds several degrees, none of them pertain to science. He has a Bachelor of Science in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an MBA from Golden State University and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama. Clovis also doesn’t appear to have any scientific published works.
It is unclear why Trump is considering him for the position because, according to the 2008 Farm Bill, the position he is being considered for should be filled by choosing from “distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education and economics.”