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Former Obama Officials Operate Shadow Network to Push Science Agenda


An unofficial shadow office “stocked with Obama loyalists” is quietly working in Washington, D.C. to carry out the previous administration’s science agenda.

The group of science experts who left the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) after President Donald Trump took office “is informal yet organized,” according to a report from the health-oriented news website Stat.

Members of the new group—which numbers in the dozens—have provided counsel to Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill, consulted with scientific societies, and have held group-wide strategy sessions, according to Stat. They have also helped analyze the impact of White House budget proposals and policies, including the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.

The former officials have remained engaged out of a so-called “sense of necessity,” according to Stat. They view Trump as a threat to science, a stark contrast from the self-described “science geek,” former President Barack Obama. 

“There was no chance that this team was going to go work only in Silicon Valley or for lobbying firms,” a former staffer told Stat. “A lot of people feel a sense of personal responsibility to use what we learned for the greater good at a time when the federal government is averse to things we think are really important.”

The group’s members see themselves as the true purveyors of science in the face of the new administration waging what “feels like a frontal attack” on science, according to Stat. Tom Kalil, a former deputy director for technology and innovation at OSTP and a top science and technology adviser on former President Bill Clinton’s National Economic Council, argued how disagreeing with the Trump administration goes beyond partisan policy disagreements.

“I think there are just more instances in which there seems to be a willful disregard for the facts,” Kalil said.

The former OSTP staffers said they are “simply worried about the future of science policy,” noting Trump’s proposed budget cuts, Stat reported.

“What policy process resulted in the Trump administration thinking the NIH needed less money?” asked former OSTP staffer Kumar Garg. “Was OSTP at the table?”