Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon January 14, 2013 at 11:57 AM EDT
Materials are the basic building blocks of society. They make up the remarkably wide range of physical “stuff” that people depend on to live and thrive—batteries, cell phones, airplanes, and the seemingly infinite list of other tangibles used by so many of us each day.
Historically, access to materials and the ability to make usable stuff out of them has defined the frontiers of American industry. A century ago, plentiful elements like iron, lead, and copper fueled our Nation’s transition to an industrial economy. But today, many of the materials that characterize the industrial cutting-edge—such as rare earths, indium, and lithium—are not as naturally abundant or easy to access as their predecessors. When coupled with the rapid expansion of materials-intensive industries such as clean energy, this new cohort of so-called “critical materials” run the risk of falling into short supply. Continuing to push the innovation envelope in American industry while meeting our Nation’s array of growing needs in clean energy and other sectors will require not only more stable access to critical materials, but also the discovery of altogether new material alternatives.
Recognizing this important challenge, this Administration has taken a proactive approach to improve our domestic materials capabilities. A significant milestone in this effort was President Obama’s 2011 launch of the ambitious Materials Genome Initiative—a collaboration between government, private-sector, and academic leaders to discover and deploy new cutting-edge materials faster and cheaper than ever before.
- Posted byon January 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM EDT
Today, a committee of independent advisors to the U.S. Government released its first draft of a new National Climate Assessment (NCA)—a 400-page synthesis of scientists’ current understanding of climate change and its impacts in the United States. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 calls for an NCA to be produced at least every four years—the last came out in 2009. The draft NCA is a scientific document—not a policy document—and does not make recommendations regarding actions that might be taken in response to climate change. Today is the first time the Government has been presented with this draft and the administration will be one of a number of entities that will begin the process of reviewing it. When completed about a year from now, however—after considerable inputs from the public and expert reviewers—it will represent the most thorough, rigorous, and transparent assessment ever of climate change and its U.S. impacts.
The new NCA has been years in the making, with the draft version released today reflecting the efforts of more than 1,000 individuals from the public and private sectors and academia who have been compiling data since 2010. But that’s just the beginning of the process. Concurrent with our review of this document, the public, starting Monday, is also invited to comment on the draft, which will also be painstakingly reviewed by the National Academies. Ultimately, towards the end of this year, a final NCA will be presented to the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which coordinates global-change research activities across the Federal Government. USGCRP will use the Assessment to help pinpoint knowledge gaps and develop research priorities.
- Posted byon January 10, 2013 at 4:23 PM EDT
On Monday, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott launched a new software development competition for programs to help middle school students excel in math. The Gap App Challenge invites developers to submit applications, games, or other technology-based solutions that focus on middle school math and can be used by students, teachers, or parents. The winning solutions will be announced this June and will receive up to $104,000 in prizes and other services.
New York City’s inclusion of incentive prizes as part of their overall strategy makes good sense. Well-designed incentive prizes can yield a high return on the dollar and can reach beyond the usual suspects to increase the number of entrepreneurs and citizens tackling a problem. With such prizes, a purse is only paid to “solvers” upon proven performance against the targets set out in the prize’s rules and requirements. Incentive prizes are now a standard tool in every Federal agency’s toolbox to spur innovation and solve tough problems. With more than 200 prizes offered by over 45 Federal agencies so far, open innovation and incentive prizes are showing promise for catalyzing new solutions in the education sector.
- Posted byon January 7, 2013 at 5:44 PM EDT
This article is cross-posted on the White House Blog.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the engines of American innovation and our economic success, and President Obama is committed to helping them grow and prosper. Our nation’s small businesses employ over 60 million Americans, or half of the private sector workforce. Both small businesses and especially new businesses that are less than five years old are particularly important in job creation in the United States, with a relatively small number of rapidly growing companies generating an outsized share of new jobs – in every industry and across the country.
Last year, President Obama spoke with his Cabinet about how every Federal agency has a role to play in promoting the success of American entrepreneurs:
[What] we want to do is to make sure that every single agency, even as they’re tending to their energy initiatives or providing homeland security or transportation or defense, that we’re also thinking about how are we’re advancing the cause of giving small businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities to start creating the next Google or the next Apple or the next innovative company that’s going to create jobs and improve our economy.
- Posted byon January 3, 2013 at 3:00 PM EDT
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and US CTO Todd Park discuss the impact of Open Data on global development. Photo Credit: USAID
The possibilities are truly endless—it could be regional epidemiological statistics being made available to community health workers; or real-time weather information being made available to small-holder farmers; or loan information being made accessible to first-time borrowers. In these and countless other arenas, open data has the potential to not only improve transparency and coordination, but also dramatically accelerate progress in development.
In order to explore new ways of leveraging open data for development and to help strengthen our commitment to open data with others inside and outside of government, we joined with colleagues from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on December 10 for a DataJam at the White House.
- Posted byon December 20, 2012 at 12:38 PM EDT
On December 17, 2012, the White House hosted its first-ever Codeathon to support the "Equal Futures App Challenge" to create apps that inspire young women to become leaders in our democracy.
The goal of this event was to support the Equal Futures App Challenge, a challenge to create apps that inspire girls and young women to become leaders in our democracy. This challenge is in response to President Obama’s call to countries around the world to politically and economically empower women and girls. Seventeen girls from the Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., and the National Girls Collaborative Project worked with nineteen prominent women coders and designers (and one brave man!) to start developing and designing apps that inspire girls to run for office (either in school today or one day as adults), engage with their elected officials, learn how to become more effective leaders, and more.
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