Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • President Obama Congratulates American Recipients of the Kavli Prizes in Astrophysics and Neuroscience

    Kavli Oval Greet 2014

    President Barack Obama greets the 2014 Kavli Prize laureates in the Oval Office, July 31, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

     Yesterday, President Obama welcomed four American Kavli Prize laureates into the Oval Office to congratulate them and applaud their contributions to the scientific community.  The Kavli Prize, awarded in Oslo, Norway every two years, recognizes scientists in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. This year, nine scientists received the award, including four Americans: Alan H. Guth and Andrei D. Linde, who received the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for their work on the theory of cosmic inflation, and Marcus E. Raichle and John O’Keefe, who were awarded the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience for their discovery of specialized brain networks for memory and cognition.

    The Kavli Prize — a partnership between The Kavli Foundation, The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research — awards each recipient 1 million U.S. dollars to further their research goals. The late Fred Kavli founded the Kavli Foundation and established The Kavli Prize to advance science with a humanitarian impact and to increase awareness about the importance of scientific research.

  • How Low-cost Randomized Controlled Trials Can Drive Effective Social Spending

    The Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy convened leaders from the White House, Federal agencies, Congress, philanthropic foundations, and academia this week to explore an important development in the effort to build credible evidence about “what works” in social spending: low-cost randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The goal of the conference was to help advance a broader Administration effort to promote evidence-based policy, described in the evaluation chapter of the 2014 Economic Report of the President, and the Performance and Management section of the President’s budget.

    Large and rigorous RCTs are widely regarded as the most valid method of evaluating program effectiveness, but they are often perceived as too costly and burdensome for practical use in most contexts. The conference showcased a new paradigm: by measuring key outcomes using large administrative data sets already collected for other purposes – whether it be student test scores, hospitalization records, or employment and earnings data – sizeable RCTs can be conducted at low cost and low burden.

    The conference showcased a number of RCTs that were conducted for between $50,000 and $350,000 (a fraction of the usual multimillion dollar cost of such studies), yet produced valid evidence that informed important policy decisions.

  • Watch the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day

    Today we’re excited to host the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day. This event will bring together technologists, entrepreneurs, and members of the disaster response community to showcase tools that will make a tangible impact in the lives of survivors of large-scale emergencies. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative was launched by the Administration in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to find the most effective ways technology can empower survivors; first responders; and local, state, tribal, territorial, and Federal government with critical information and resources. The event will be webcast live today at 1:30PM ET from the White House, go to www.whitehouse.gov/live to tune in.

  • Crowdsourcing Ideas to Accelerate Economic Growth and Prosperity through a Strategy for American Innovation

    America’s future economic growth and international competitiveness depend crucially on our capacity to innovate. Creating the jobs and industries of the future will require making the right investments to unleash the unmatched creativity and imagination of the American people.  

    We want to gather bold ideas for how we as a nation can build on and extend into the future our historic strengths in innovation and discovery. Today we are calling on thinkers, doers, and entrepreneurs across the country to submit their proposals for promising new initiatives or pressing needs for renewed investment to be included in next year’s updated Strategy for American Innovation.

    What will the next Strategy for American Innovation accomplish? In part, it’s up to you. Your input will help guide the Administration’s efforts to catalyze the transformative innovation in products, processes, and services that is the hallmark of American ingenuity.

    Today, we released a set of questions for your comment, which you can access here and on Quora; an online platform that allows us to crowdsource ideas from the American people.

  • Thinking Outside the Box to Prepare Americans for Information Technology Jobs

    The Department of Labor projects that there will be 1.4 million new information technology jobs by 2020, and there simply may not be enough adequate training programs to prepare Americans for these jobs.

    Traditional workforce training programs are stepping up—expanding their IT programs and working with industry to develop curricula that better prepare Americans for today’s jobs. As part of his review of America’s training programs, the Vice President has highlighted innovative new examples of those programs in his report to the President.  

    The Administration is particularly committed to supporting a new accelerated model of intensive training, often called “coding bootcamps,” which has emerged in several cities around the country. Coding bootcamps teach participants with minimal to no IT backgrounds how to write computer code on an accelerated time frame (usually between 9 and 12 weeks) and regularly result in high paying jobs (frequently around $70,000).

    Recognizing the opportunity these accelerated learning programs present to quickly upskill workers, the Vice President has called on local leaders, federal agencies, non-profits, and industry to support more of these non-traditional training models.  Today, in response to that call, Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, together with the Wadhwani Foundation, have worked to create new public-private partnerships, collaborating with local IT employers and city leaders to help drive the expansion of coding bootcamps in their communities.

    These efforts build on the Vice President’s announcement yesterday that the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking key steps to support accelerated learning, including allocating $10 million through the VA Center to support coding bootcamps as well as issuing a letter to help existing coding bootcamps and accelerated programs understand how to qualify for funding under the GI Bill. 

  • Harnessing Observations and Data about our Earth

    Today, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) released a National Plan for Civil Earth Observations that aims to maximize the value of observations collected by Federal agencies of the Earth’s land surfaces, oceans, and atmosphere. The Plan is a blueprint for future Federal investments in and strategic partnerships to advance Earth observing systems that help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security, and advance scientific research and public understanding. 

    Americans and people around the world benefit from Earth-observations data every day. Have you ever used your smartphone to get a weather forecast?  Turned on the TV to check beach conditions?  Read a newspaper or magazine article describing the relationship of extreme weather events to climate change?  These services are driven by Earth-observations collected by the Federal Government, which are made routinely available to app-developers, news and weather organizations, mapping services, the scientific community, and the general public.

    The U.S. Government is among the world’s largest providers of Earth observations—including data and measurements collected from complex networks of satellites, ocean buoys, stream gauges, human surveys, and a host of other sophisticated systems.

    The Plan released today lays out Federal priorities and supporting actions to manage Earth observation systems through routine assessments, improved data management, interagency planning, and international collaboration. These steps will ensure continued provision of, and enhanced access to, high-impact Earth observation data to support public services, the monitoring of climate and land surface changes, and fundamental scientific research and technology innovation.