Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • New Request for Information to Inform Strategy on Critical Materials

    A century ago, plentiful elements like iron, lead, and copper fueled our Nation’s transition to an industrial economy. Today, the next generation of natural resources — such as rare earths, indium, and lithium —  are just as essential to the industrial cutting-edge, yet many of these materials are not as naturally abundant or easy to access as their predecessors. The rapid expansion of materials-intensive industries like clean energy puts this new cohort of so-called “critical materials” at risk of unpredictable moments of short supply. As both criticality and dependency on materials shifts over time, studying early warning signs and underlying forces of material supply disruption can inform proactive policy development around the emerging critical materials that power economic growth and prosperity.

    Four years ago, the Administration chartered a new National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Critical and Strategic Minerals Supply Chains (CSMSC), which has maintained a responsibility for coordinating critical materials policy development and executing different elements of a mitigation strategy across twelve Federal agencies. The group has been responsible for a number of proactive steps since its establishment, including: the formation of the Department of Energy’s $120 million Critical Materials Institute; a successful revision to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission to increase the level of detail of rare earth trade data; and analytic support that contributed to the success of a World Trade Organization case, filed by the U.S. Trade Representative, Japan, and the European Union, addressing critical mineral export restrictions and market manipulation by China.

    To build on this momentum, the CSMSC is developing a methodology for identifying critical materials and monitoring changes in criticality, delivering “early warning” to policymakers and other stakeholders. Providing earlier awareness about materials that will be critical to the economy and industry enhances policymakers’ ability to plan for the future and to ensure continued growth. Several weeks ago, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published a request for information (RFI) soliciting feedback from industry and other stakeholders to inform the CSMSC’s characterization of anticipated future demand for critical materials. This new RFI gathers information about issues related to mining, demand, supply chain structure, market dynamics and mitigation. Data about which raw materials are of interest to the public are instrumental in safeguarding and preparing the American economy for the future. Today, the deadline for submission has been extended and OSTP will continue to accept responses until September 30, 2014.

    Click here to view the full RFI.

    Cyrus Wadia is Assistant Director, Clean Energy and Materials Research and Development at OSTP

  • More than 1,500 people participate in the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day

    Disaster Demo Day 7_29_14 panorama

    Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers speaks to technologists, entrepreneurs, and members of the disaster response community at the Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day in South Court Auditorium, July 29, 2014. (Credit: DHS Science and Technology)

    On Tuesday, more than 250 emergency managers, first responders, tech entrepreneurs, and local, state, and Federal officials came to the White House to participate in the Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day. The event was live-streamed to more than 1,250 people interested in leveraging tech and innovation to improve disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

    In the morning, participants attended six workshops to identify challenges where open data, social media, predictive analytics, sharing economy platforms, standards, and user-centered design can be applied to improve disaster preparedness, and disaster response and recovery efforts. Innovation facilitators from the Ideation Community of Practice, the global design firm IDEO, and several federal agencies led the workshop participants in drafting challenge statements — such as, “The Homeland Security Enterprise of over 3.5 Million first responders and emergency managers must make difficult decisions in the field to safeguard our nation, often triaging multiple streams of information.  How might we provide ‘Social Media, Unplugged’' — a means for response organizations to easily and securely extract emerging insights to better inform and coordinate disaster response?” The challenge statements will continue to be refined over the coming weeks with stakeholder input for inclusion in the upcoming site focusing on disaster response and recovery.

  • 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 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.