Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Welcoming New Ideas: Climate Data and Information for Resilient Development

    At the United Nations Climate Summit in September, President Obama announced a set of new initiatives aimed at strengthening global resilience to climate change, including a Public-Private Partnership on Climate Data and Information for Resilient Development. This partnership’s mission, which is being primarily supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) but with significant contributions from NOAA, NASA, USGS and other U.S. government agencies, is to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in developing countries by harnessing, creating, and providing timely climate data, information, tools, and services.  The partnership will draw on the strengths and resources of public, private, and non-governmental organizations, as well as academic communities from around the world.  

    To follow on this Presidential announcement, USAID has just released a Request for Information that solicits input from any interested parties on how best to achieve these goals. If you or your organization is interested in providing input or possibly participating in the public-private partnership itself, please respond to this newly-released Request for Information. Submissions from both U.S.-based and international organizations and experts are encouraged. 

    This new public-private partnership intends to make existing climate data, scientific information, outlooks, tools, and services more actionable and publicly accessible; identify and address targeted climate information and capacity gaps; create a global community of practice that links climate data, climate change adaptation efforts, mitigation, and international development; conduct joint research on how to address specific needs in developing countries, develop new products to support decision-making in climate-vulnerable countries, and advance the aims of the Global Framework for Climate Services.

  • President Obama Honors Extraordinary Young Entrepreneurs at the White House

    Young Entrepreneurs 2014

    President Barack Obama greets the winners of the 2014 National Youth Network Entrepreneurship Challenge, in the Oval Office of the White House, Nov. 18, 2014. The President greets from left: runner up Jesse Horine, 19, from Fort Mill, S.C.; first place winner Lily DeBell, 13, from Baltimore, Md., and Runner up Ambar Romero, 16, from Bridgeport, Conn. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Yesterday at the White House, President Obama marked National Entrepreneurs’ Day by congratulating three student winners of the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in the Oval Office. The Challenge, which is supported by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, focuses on teaching entrepreneurship skills to high school students and has worked with more than 500,000 young people from low-income communities across the United States and around the world. 

    This year, more than 50 semifinalists chosen from a field of over 20,000 traveled to Silicon Valley to meet with top business leaders and compete for a grand prize worth $25,000. In keeping with the President’s challenge to young people to “create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things,” today he recognized the following student Challenge winners:

    • First place winner Lily DeBell, 13, from Baltimore, MD. Lily is the CEO of Lily’s Legwarmers, focused on providing all-natural, hand-made, customizable dancewear for young dancers.
    • Runner up Ambar Romero, 16, from Bridgeport, CT.  Ambar’s business, Styles by Ambar, is an online consignment shop that collects and re-sells quality vintage clothing to benefit community organizations. 
    • Runner up Jesse Horine, 19, from Fort Mill, SC.  Jesse founded SouthernFly, a company that manufactures fishing flies and apparel. 

    These students’ exciting efforts offer a glimpse of the entrepreneurial potential of America’s next generation. And because every startup is an experiment with a chance to help change the world, the Administration is committed to lowering the cost of tinkering, experimenting, and starting up something new to ensure we are continually generateing new innovations that can improve our quality of life.

    That is why in 2011 the President launched Startup America, to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship nationwide, and that is also why, in 2012, he signed the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, making it easier for qualifying small firms to go public, and opening up new avenues for crowdfunding of promising business ideas. And this past June, the President hosted the first ever White House Maker Faire, showcasing a movement that democratizes the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything.

    Please join us in congratulating these young entrepreneurs!

    Dan Correa is a Senior Advisor for Innovation Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

  • Exploring Opportunities for Robotics to Aid in Disease Outbreaks

    Robots are working for us every day, in countless ways.  At home, at work, and on the battlefield, robots are increasingly lifting the burdens of tasks that are dull, dirty, or dangerous.

    But they could do even more, and that’s why President Obama launched the National Robotics Initiative in 2011 to explore and support the development of future robotics applications. Four agencies (the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the United States Department of Agriculture) are involved and issued a joint solicitation for next-generation robotics.

    Earlier this month, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy  convened a workshop at the National Science Foundation focused on applications of robotic technology to large-scale disease outbreaks like the current Ebola crisis. Workshop participants discussed the challenges faced by healthcare and aid workers in responding to the current Ebola crisis both domestically and internationally, to brainstorm ways in which robotic technology could yield short-term solutions, and to identify long-term challenges that can be addressed by National Robotics Initiative (NRI) research over the coming years.  Participants ranged across a number of academic, government, industry, and non-government organizations.

  • A Toolkit to Help Communities Respond to a Changing Climate

    It’s been a big week for the United States’ efforts on climate change. On November 12, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced historic actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Today, we’re announcing important steps that the Administration is taking here at home to help communities respond to and prepare for a changing climate.

    Today, the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience – a group of leaders from across the country who are working to boost resilience efforts in their communities – released recommendations on ways in which the federal government can support actions to address the impacts of climate change.

    In response to early input from the Task Force, the Administration has developed the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a website that provides centralized, authoritative, easy-to-use information, tools, and best practices to help communities prepare for and boost their resilience to the impacts of climate change.

    You can access the toolkit here: toolkit.climate.gov

  • Earth Observations Benefit Nations

    Last week, representatives from countries around the world met in Geneva, Switzerland, for the Eleventh Plenary Session of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-XI).  The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is a collaborative, multi-national organization created to help connect the thousands of technological tools around the world that measure, monitor, and predict the state of Earth’s land, waters, and atmosphere.

    Established in 2005, GEO comprises 95 governments and 77 organizations working together around a guiding principle of open data — a principle that President Obama committed the United States to upholding in a May 2013 Executive Order. This Executive Order calls on all Federal agencies to ensure that new data sets are released in open and machine-readable formats.

    Open, machine-readable, and interoperable Earth observation data collected and shared by GEO member nations and organizations is a valuable resource for governments, organizations, researchers, firms, and individuals around the world. Farmers benefit from improved weather systems and crop data, flood managers benefit from improved elevation data, and disaster relief managers benefit from improved mapping of rural landscapes and infrastructure.

    Since 2005, the U.S. has had an active leadership role as one of four permanent members of GEO’s Executive Committee.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) supports this leadership by working to maximize the public benefits of the Federal government’s investment in civil Earth observation activities. This work is carried out by the National Science and Technology Council’s U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO), an interagency body chaired by OSTP.

    USGEO assesses the impact of Earth observation systems, facilitates expanded data sharing, and supports the United States’ international engagement in GEO. USGEO also helps the Federal government maintain and improve its Earth observing systems in ways that help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security, and advance scientific research and public understanding. These activities are outlined in the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations, which establishes priorities and supporting actions for advancing the Nation’s civil Earth observations capabilities.

     

    For more information on activities supported by USGEO, click the image above or click here.

    Maximizing the value of the Earth observations collected by Federal agencies involves making observation data accessible to users worldwide.  In this spirit, President Obama announced at the recent United Nations Climate Summit that the United States would release elevation data for most of the Earth’s land surfaces. These data will improve understanding of environmental change and societal ecosystem and vulnerability in countries worldwide, and their release underscores the U.S. commitment to address the environmental impacts of extreme weather and climate change.

    The U.S. elevation data for most of the African continent were released in September 2014, a move that was welcomed by the international development community then and by GEO-XI delegates this month.  Additional regional data sets will be released periodically over the next year, and the entire global data set will be publicly available by September 2015. 

    Through U.S. and international GEO, the United States will work with its domestic and international partners to advance the practical, beneficial use of Earth observations.

    Timothy Stryker is Director of the U.S. Group on Earth Observations Program.

  • Giving Americans Easier Access to Their Own Data

    “Today, I’m announcing that we’re making even more government data available, and we’re making it easier for people to find and to use. And that’s going to help launch more start-ups. It’s going to help launch more businesses… It’s going to help more entrepreneurs come up with products and services that we haven’t even imagined yet.”

    – President Obama, May 9, 2013

    Over the past few years, the Obama Administration has launched a series of Open Data Initiatives, which, for the first time in history, have released troves of valuable data that were previously hard to access in areas such as health, energy, climate, education, public safety, finance, and global development. Entrepreneurs and businesses across the Nation are using open government data to build new products and services, launch new industries, and create jobs.

    In addition to open data efforts to make public information digital and easier to find and use, the Administration has also been working to make it easier for Americans to gain access to their own data. Beginning in 2010, the Obama Administration launched a series of My Data Initiatives to empower Americans with easy, secure, and useful access to their personal data -- and to increase citizens’ access to private-sector applications and services that can be used to analyze it. As discussed in the 2014 Big Data report, the My Data Initiatives help establish a strong model for personal data accessibility that the Administration hopes will become widely adopted in the private and public sectors. The ability to access one’s personal information will be increasingly important in the future, when more aspects of life will involve data transactions between individuals, companies, and institutions.

    One of the newest My Data efforts is the IRS tool, Get Transcript. Launched in 2014, Get Transcript allows taxpayers to securely view, print, and download a PDF record of the last three years of their IRS tax account. Get Transcript has produced over 17 million so-called tax transcripts, reducing phone, mail, or in-person requests by approximately 40% from last year. Secure access to your own tax data makes it easier to demonstrate your income with prospective lenders and employers, or help with tax preparation. What was a paper-based transcript process which took multiple days has been made instantaneous and easy for the American taxpayer.