Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • President Obama’s Science Advisor Kicks-Off USA Science & Engineering Festival

    Holdren X-STEM 2014

    White House Office of Science & Technology Policy Director Dr. John P. Holdren kicked off the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Washington Convention Center on April 24, 2014, in Washington, DC.

    Today in Washington, DC, OSTP Director John P. Holdren helped launch what promises to be one of the geekiest events to land inside the Beltway – the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival, a massive celebration of science, innovation, and imagination.

    Before an audience of hundreds of DC-area high school students at the Washington Convention Center, Holdren kicked off three-days of public activities, exhibits, and events by calling on students to “think big” about how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be used to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. He reminded students that pursing STEM studies can open doors to some of the most fulfilling, high-paying, and impactful career opportunities around and spoke on behalf of President Obama about the importance of STEM to keeping America on the cutting edge of innovation and discovery.

    This weekend, on April 26th and 27th at the Washington Convention Center, students, families, and geeks of all ages can come get inspired to research, innovate, and make at the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival. The free expo will include more than 3,000 hands-on activities and 150 live stage performances – all focused the power and promise of STEM.

    Exhibits at the Festival will address such questions as: What is the universe made of? What does science have to do with extreme sports? And how would you survive a zombie invasion?

    It will feature well-known STEM superstars, as well as explorers, astronauts, athletes, and experts in fields like robotics, genomics, advanced manufacturing, and 3D printing.

    And the Obama Administration is getting in on the STEM action too. In addition to participation by Dr. Holdren, NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan, NIH Director Francis Collins, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and leading scientists from more than 50 government agencies and Federal labs will participate in the Festival. And Federal agencies will share their wares by demonstration the impressive STEM they use in service of ensuring the health, prosperity, and sustainability of our Nation. Federal exhibitors include:

    • At the Health & Medicine Pavilion with the National Institutes of Health find out how researchers are advancing science with new 3-D printers that transform digital files into physical objects, see your brain in action, measure your lung capacity, or become a forensic detective.
    • At the National Defense Pavilion you can defy gravity, learn about night vision goggles, design bridges, or discover prosthetics with the U.S. Army, design boats and airgliders with the Navy, or explore telescopes with the Air Force.
    • Learn how the State Department keeps us safe with visual recognition technology, biometrics, or drug testing to identify counterfeit medicines.
    • Explore underwater remote-controlled vehicles or simulate a hurricane with NOAA.
    • Discover a wearable technology fashion show, meet extreme weather chasers, or check out some “animal selfies” with National Science Foundation-funded scientists.

    And we at the White House couldn’t resist getting in on this excitement: a special feature at the NASA booth will feature the White House Pastry Chef, Bill Yosses, who will connect cooking to space, inspired by NASA's Kepler mission to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars!

    The Festival’s co-founder, Larry Bock, explained, “Science is amazing…that’s our message to kids and adults attending the Festival. Staying competitive as a nation means we have to encourage more kids to think about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).”

    We couldn’t agree more.

    To learn more about the USA Science & Engineering Festival, visit or watch the video at

    Our Federal STEM experts and many others, look forward to seeing you this weekend!

    Danielle Carnival is a Senior Policy Advisor at OSTP

  • We the Geeks: Extreme Science

    Our nation is built upon a legacy of discovery, innovation, and ingenuity – forged over centuries by creative minds, inventors, and thinkers who inspire American citizens, and especially young people, to discover and solve problems in the world around them.

    Throughout history, these STEM all-stars have gone to great lengths—including to the heights of Earth’s atmosphere; the depths of our oceans, and into the far reaches of space—in order to unlock new discoveries and expand the frontiers of knowledge. These “extreme” scientists and engineers conduct their work atop mountains and volcanoes, in frigid temperatures, at high speeds, and on the ocean floor – all in pursuit of new insights that will push the boundaries of science and technology.

  • Protecting Students from Sexual Assault: Building Tools to Keep Students Safe and Informed

    The prevalence of rape and sexual assault at our Nation's institutions of higher education is deeply troubling. Studies show that students experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault—with nearly one in five women having been a victim sexual violence while in college and a substantial amount of men experience sexual violence during college. The need for action could not be more urgent. 

    That is why in January, President Obama established a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  The Taskforce is charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors.

    As part of this effort, more than 60 innovators, technologists, students, policy experts, and survivors of sexual assault gathered last week at the White House for a “Data Jam” to brainstorm new ways to address the alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, including through prevention, more effective and transparent responses to incidents, and opportunities to better support survivors on their journey to recovery.

    The event was co-hosted with the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a future free of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and whose mission is to heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual violence. Presenters, including Nancy Schwartzman, creator of the Circle of 6 anti-violence application and the winner of the White House Apps Against Abuse Challenge, and Henry Lieberman and Karthik Dinakar of the website A Thin Line, kicked off the day by demonstrating ways that technology and data could be applied to educating and protecting students from sexual assault.

    Included among the responsibilities of the President’s Task Force a charge to increase transparency around sexual assault reporting, school response to claimants’ reports, and their compliance with Title IX obligations. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of the Vice President both recognize that improving access to relevant data is critical to fulfilling this goal, helping students and their families access this key information, and allowing innovators to leverage this data to support these efforts.

    As a key step, last week Federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Justice, Interior, and Health & Human Services, made publicly available 103 datasets that included non-sensitive information related to higher education and sexual assault reporting. These data were posted on and used by participants during last week’s Data Jam to inform their work to combat sexual assault.

    Later, participants broke out into groups and developed a number of interesting ideas about how open data can be used effectively to combat sexual assault, including:

    PocketAdvocate-  a mobile app that would provide information about local resources for survivors of sexual assault, such as geo-tagged information on location and hours of crisis centers, health resources,  advocacy organizations, and more;

    Stories Like Mine- a site where survivors of sexual assault can anonymously share their stories and see the stories of other survivors who may have had a similar experience, helping them realize that they are not alone, offering them links to resources and support, and helping to build awareness and prevention.

    Campus Count- an incidence mapping tool that identifies where sexual violence took place and where formal complaints have been filed against an institution, to help create a feedback loop where students can effectively communicate their concerns and suggestions about campus policies and response to sexual assault.

    We know that the great ideas and impactful data aren’t limited to the people that joined us last week. If you are a student, an advocate, a survivor, a technologist, or just a person with a passion for using technology to solve big problems, we need your help.  If you’re interested in contributing your own ideas or suggesting valuable datasets that can be used to combat sexual assault and inform these efforts, please email:

    Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

    Vivian Graubard is an Advisor the United States Chief Technology Officer


  • Celebrating the Second Annual National Day of Civic Hacking

    Next month, for the second year in a row, civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs around the world will gather together for the National Day of Civic Hacking. By combining their expertise with new technologies and publicly released data, participants hope to build tools that help others in their own neighborhoods and across the globe.

    We’re excited to support this event which will take place on May 31 – June 1, 2014.

    The National Day of Civic Hacking is an opportunity for software developers, technologists, and entrepreneurs to collaborate and create innovative solutions—using publicly-released data, code, and technologies—to tackle pressing challenges and improve our communities and the governments that serve them.

    Last year more than 11,000 innovators from the private-sector, non-profits, and Federal, State and local governments worked together to hack on projects—95 civic hacking events took place in 83 cities including Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Louisville, New Orleans, San Francisco, and even here at the White House. Several of these projects were recognized by the White House at a Champions of Change for Civic Hacking event, including:

    • Technology-Enabled Volunteers Curbing Hunger and Food Waste: In Austin, Texas, the founder of Keep Austin Fed worked with a team developers at a National Day of Civic Hacking event to create a website and electronic volunteer management system that allows its program to distribute food in Austin to those in need.
    • Crowd-Powered Conflict Mediation: In New Orleans, Louisiana, “Stop Beef” was built as a conflict-resolution app to connect mediators to resolve street conflicts without violence, ultimately seeking to reduce the number of murders in the city. 
    •  Search and Rescue App for Disaster Relief: In Tulsa, Oklahoma the Open Search and Rescue web app was developed by civic hackers to help improve the effectiveness of urban search and rescue operations through an online search area tracker and task force notification system to prevent duplication of efforts and help first responders identify areas of most need in the wake of a disaster. 

    As President Obama has said, “In this democracy, we the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it’s up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better… We all have a stake in government success—because the government is us."

    The Federal Government also has some great resources that participants in the National Civic Day of Hacking can use, including:

    •, the central site to find U.S. government data, which has thousands of data sets across topics such as health, energy, education, public safety, and more.
    •, the central site to find important government challenges for public collaboration.

    We encourage you to join the movement and participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking. If you’re a local civic innovator, rally your community group to host a hackathon. The White House will be hosting our own hackathon around the We the People petitions API later this year.

    If you’re a policymaker, identify which goals could be addressed with open data and technology tools. If you’re a local government official, don’t miss out on this opportunity to make a positive impact on your town or city.

    You can learn more about the National Day of Civic Hacking at:

    Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Mobile and Data Innovation

  • Request for Information: Exploring the Use of APIs to Improve Access to Education Resources

    Ed. Note: This article is posted in full on the U.S. Department of Education website and is authored by Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Education David Soo.
    Despite the growing amount of information about higher education, many students and families still need access to clear, helpful resources to make informed decisions about going to – and paying for – college.  President Obama has called for innovation in college access, including by making sure all students have easy-to-understand information.
    Now, the U.S. Department of Education needs your input on specific ways that we can increase innovation, transparency, and access to data.  In particular, we are interested in how APIs (application programming interfaces) could make our data and processes more open and efficient.

  • Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators: President Obama Honors the Nation's Cutting-Edge Scientists and Engineers

    A group of leading researchers were honored yesterday at the White House as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

    After receiving their awards in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture with agency officials, friends, and relatives—a ceremony keynoted by OSTP Director John Holdren—the group of 102 ambitious scientists and engineers were greeted at the White House by President Obama who thanked them for their outstanding achievements.

    PECASE April 14, 2014

    President Barack Obama talks with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipients in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo)

    The PECASE recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Intelligence Community, which join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.