The White House still doesn’t have an official scientific advisor. Still. However, it sounds like Trump remains on the lookout for one. Back in March, during their third ever meet-up, Trump asked Bill Gates whether he would be interested in a new job as his scientific advisor. Gates, however, was not interested in the offer.
In an interview with STAT, Gates talks about his recent 40-minute meeting in the Oval Office. He told Trump he should be considering filling the post of Science Advisor, prompting the President to ask him whether he would be interested in the role.
Gates replied: “that’s not a good use of my time."
“I didn’t put him to the test, whether that was a serious thing or not,” Gates told STAT. “He probably himself didn’t know if he was serious. It was a friendly thing. He was being friendly.”
Serious or not, someone needs to take up the job. It’s been 16 months since Trump moved into the White House and the role of Science Advisor to the President is yet to be filled. The Office of Science and Technology Policy has numerous vacant leadership roles and remains depleted of staff.
Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, is not a scientist per se, but his philanthropic work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is deeply involved in the intersection between science, technology, politics, and social policy. The charitable foundation has invested billions of dollars into some of the world’s biggest and most ambitious scientific initiatives, including malaria prevention, vaccinations, accessible healthcare programs, and literacy programs.
He might have the right credentials, but it’s unclear how Gates would fit into the politics of the Trump White House. For one thing, Gates is heavily involved in taking action against climate change, a problem that Trump has repeatedly shown indifference or even hostility towards. In regards to Trump pulling out of the Paris climate agreement last year, Gates posted on Facebook that he was “deeply concerned with the decision".
John Holdren, the last director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has had a few words to say about Trump and his decidedly anti-scientific rhetoric too, once saying “We appear to have a president now who resists facts". Speaking to CBS News in November 2017, Holdren also described Trump as a "science and technology talent repellent".
With a net worth of $90 billion, it probably wasn't worth the pocket money either.