Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon May 16, 2013 at 9:46 AM EDT
Technology evolves rapidly, and it can be challenging for policy and its implementation to evolve at the same pace. Last week, President Obama launched the Administration’s new Open Data Policy and Executive Order aimed at ensuring that data released by the government will be as accessible and useful as possible. To make sure this tech-focused policy can keep up with the speed of innovation, we created Project Open Data.
Project Open Data is an online, public repository intended to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy. We wanted to foster a culture change in government where we embrace collaboration and where anyone can help us make open data work better. The project is published on GitHub, an open source platform that allows communities of developers to collaboratively share and enhance code. The resources and plug-and-play tools in Project Open Data can help accelerate the adoption of open data practices. For example, one tool instantly converts spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers. The idea is that anyone, from Federal agencies to state and local governments to private citizens, can freely use and adapt these open source tools—and that’s exactly what’s happening.
Within the first 24 hours after Project Open Data was published, more than two dozen contributions (or “pull requests” in GitHub speak) were submitted by the public. The submissions included everything from fixing broken links, to providing policy suggestions, to contributing new code and tools. One pull request even included new code that translates geographic data from locked formats into open data that is freely available for use by anyone.
These steps may seem small, but they represent a big shift. Behind these actions is recognition of the simple fact that, as a community, we can do more together than we can alone. Project Open Data leverages the ingenuity of innovators everywhere as partners to help the country realize the full benefit of open data.
- Posted byon May 15, 2013 at 4:26 PM EDT
Winners of the National Eye Institute Audacious Goals Challenge. (Photo by the National Institutes of Health)
To encourage the broadest possible range of ideas and participants in this Initiative, the NEI held a prize competition to identify “Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation,” open to submissions from August through November 2012. The winners were invited to present their ideas in February at an NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting—a gathering of more than 200 researchers and experts working to develop a set of bold goals that will guide vision research priorities for the NEI and other organizations going forward.
NEI’s approach makes good sense. Well-designed incentive prizes can harness the diverse expertise and perspectives of people who are not typically involved in a particular field. That’s why, with more than 250 prizes offered by more than 50 Federal agencies so far on Challenge.gov, incentive prizes are now a standard tool in every Federal agency’s toolbox to spur innovation and solve tough problems.
In addition, Grand Challenges like the audacious goals NEI plans to set forth are important elements of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. In fact, just last month, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing Grand Challenges of the 21st century.
Below, Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the NEI at the National Institutes of Health, answers questions about the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative.
- Posted byon May 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM EDT
America’s small information technology firms are some of the most innovative in the world. They are nimble, creative and can get the job done. And thanks to a new online government platform, it is getting easier for them to address some of the Federal Government’s most pressing IT needs. It’s a win-win: Small technology companies get easier access to the Federal Government’s nearly $77 billion information technology supply chain, providing a potentially critical revenue stream as they build their operations. And government agencies get to work with innovative small firms with solutions that can help make government agencies more efficient and streamlined.
The catalyst for these connections is an exciting new pilot project called RFP-EZ. And the results we are seeing from this program highlight what is possible when you unleash the power of American entrepreneurs.
RFP-EZ is a new and easy way for companies to learn about and compete for government contracts – in particular, small companies that lack the experience or administrative support generally needed to take full advantage of the Government’s Request for Proposals (RFP) process, the means by which many government contract offerings are presented to the business community. The RFP-EZ platform was developed jointly by Federal innovators working in the SBA and private-sector entrepreneurs serving temporary stints in the Federal Government through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, launched by the U.S Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer team last year. Sharing their private- and public-sector insights, the team developed RFP-EZ as a simplified platform aimed at opening up the Government marketplace to a wider range of companies and saving taxpayer money.
Applying agile development principles, the Fellows team designed RFP-EZ over a six-month period, publishing the platform’s code openly on GitHub. The team then launched the pilot by posting five relatively simple website development and database contract offerings, four of which were also announced via the standard government portal, FedBizOps. On a per-project basis, bids received through RFP-EZ were consistently lower than those received through FedBizOps—19% to 41% lower, and over 30% lower on average. Bids made through RFP-EZ also showed less overall variation. In addition, during the pilot period, RFP-EZ attracted more than 270 businesses that until now had never approached the world of Federal contracting.
- Posted byon May 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM EDT
On May 16th, the White House is kicking off “We the Geeks,” a new series of Google+ Hangouts to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. Topics such as commercial space exploration, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, turning science fiction to science fact, and others will be discussed with Administration officials and key private sector contributors.
The first "We the Geeks" Hangout will focus on Grand Challenges, ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. Grand Challenges are an important element of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. On April 2nd, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.
- Posted byon May 10, 2013 at 4:50 PM EDT
Yesterday, President Obama visited Austin, Texas, to kick off his Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour. At Capital Factory, a local start-up incubator, he met with technology entrepreneurs and innovative companies that are helping grow our economy and create jobs by building new products and services.
One of those companies, Stormpulse, uses freely available government weather data to help businesses protect themselves and their assets from potentially hazardous weather. Stormpulse CEO Matt Wensing has said that “open government data is one of the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Easier access to government data means growing companies like ours can offer significant value to citizens and enterprises.”
President Barack Obama watches CEO Matt Wensing demonstrate Stormpulse during a tour of Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, May 9, 2013. Capital Factory founder Josh Baer and Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, watch at right. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
- Posted byon May 10, 2013 at 3:19 PM EDT
Today, the Obama Administration released the first-ever National Strategy for the Arctic Region—an approach to protecting national security, promoting environmental stewardship, supporting native cultures, providing for appropriate economic development, and strengthening international cooperation in the Arctic region. The Strategy, which was developed by an interagency team of Administration experts with significant input from the State of Alaska and Alaska Native organizations, articulates several key objectives for Federal activity in the Arctic over the next decade—including increased scientific understanding of the region.
The Strategy is guided by the Nation’s interest in safeguarding peace and stability in the Arctic; ensuring that resource management decisions are based on the best available information; strengthening and forging public-private and international partnerships; and coordinating Arctic-based efforts with Alaska Natives. It also serves to focus our national efforts in the Arctic at a time when the region is undergoing rapid environmental change.
Fast-melting ice on land and at sea has important implications for natural Arctic environments, human well-being, national security, transportation, and economic development. For instance, in addition to contributing to further global warming, diminishing sea-ice changes the distribution of species found in regional ocean waters, which in turn can have profound effects on local economies. Waning sea-ice also changes ocean circulation patterns and navigation pathways, with significant impacts for commercial and military navigation.
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