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Jason Richwine’s new job comes courtesy of Wilbur Ross, who leads the Department of Commerce.

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Proponent of using IQ tests to screen immigrants named to senior NIST post

An advocate for using IQ tests to select who is allowed to legally immigrate to the United States has been given a high-ranking position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

ScienceInsider has learned that Jason Richwine, an independent public policy analyst, has been appointed as deputy undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology and could start work as soon as today. It’s a new position reporting to the NIST director, Walter Copan, who also holds the title of undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology.

Richwine did not return several messages from ScienceInsider. A NIST spokesperson referred inquiries to the Department of Commerce, of which NIST is one component. The department has not responded to questions about Richwine’s status or the scope of his duties.

This year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has installed several people at technical agencies under his jurisdiction who have raised the hackles of researchers. In the summer Ross appointed three people to new, high-level policy positions at the Census Bureau, the nation’s premier statistical agency, without the prior knowledge of Census Director Steven Dillingham. None had any prior experience with the agency and at least one had no apparent qualifications for the job.

In September, Ross named David Legates, a climate scientist at the University of Delaware, Newark, to a new post as deputy to the acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Neil Jacobs. Legates has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus on the role of human activity in climate change. One week later, Ross named meteorologist Ryan Maue, who rejects linking extreme weather events to climate change, as chief scientist at NOAA.

Controversial history

Richwine, 38, earned a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University and then joined the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has been influential in shaping the immigration policies of the Trump administration. In 2013 he authored a study claiming immigrants are a massive drain on the U.S. economy. The report was widely criticized, and Richwine lost his job.

The controversy was fueled by media coverage of his 2009 doctoral thesis, which maintained that Mexican and Hispanic immigrants have IQs below those of white people and that “the difference is likely to persist over several generations,” suggesting a genetic component to those lower scores. He asserted that selecting high-IQ immigrants would prevent what he termed “underclass behavior … while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.” In recent years Richwine has co-authored several studies with staff from the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates for more restrictive immigration policies.

Arden Bement, who served as NIST director under former President George W. Bush, said Richwine “appears to have no credentials that would qualify him for the position of deputy undersecretary of commerce for science and technology.” Emphasizing that he has no direct knowledge of the appointment, Bement added that filling such a position “should be reserved for the forthcoming Biden administration.”

As a political appointee, Richwine is required to submit his resignation to President-elect Joe Biden, a letter the new administration would presumably be happy to accept. One political observer speculated that the lame-duck appointment was based on the assumption President Donald Trump would win the 3 November election and Richwine would then continue to serve during a second Trump term.