Do scientists make good presidents? How five national leaders performed

Source: Nature

This week, Mexico elected its first female president, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo — a politician with a background in physics and environmental engineering. Despite her scientific pedigree, not all researchers are confident that she will have their interests at heart, given that her mentor and predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, cut science budgets and had a sometimes antagonistic relationship with the Mexican science community.

Speculation now abounds about whether Sheinbaum Pardo will prioritize evidence-based decision-making.

To get a view of what might come, Nature talked to historians and policy experts about how five other scientists-turned-world-leaders fared in office, and whether their backgrounds in science were a benefit — or a detriment.

Some say science expertise is a double-edged sword. Researchers “know very well how to gather information from various actors in society”, says Sayaka Oki, a historian of science at the University of Tokyo. But at the same time, if they rely too much on their own intellect instead of listening to constituents, they can get “trapped in their own self-righteousness”, she adds.