Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon July 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM EST
One of the President’s first priorities after taking office in 2009 was to bring a government built for the 20th century into the 21st century. Over the last four years, we’ve made great progress to advance this goal, thanks in large part to the integration of new technologies and innovations across the Administration.
This morning, the President held a meeting with his Cabinet and senior officials to lay out his vision for building a better, smarter, faster government over the course of his second term. During the meeting, the President directed Cabinet members and key officials in his Administration to build on the progress made over the first term, and he challenged us to improve government even further.
To help members of the Cabinet and Administration officials find more innovative ways to deliver better results, the Administration recently welcomed a second class of Presidential Innovation Fellows – 43 highly talented and motivated individuals chosen out of more than 2,000 applicants. The first class of 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows worked hand-in-hand with top government innovators to develop solutions that are delivering smart-government solutions to taxpayers at a lower cost.
- Posted byon July 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM EST
At a time when sequestration is forcing science-funding agencies to cut millions of dollars from their research budgets and short-sighted budget-cutters feel free to mock grant proposals just because they seem obscure or don’t have obvious potential for immediate impact, the story of William H. Coulter can be instructive.
Coulter was a researcher and inventor who some fifty years ago was tasked with a seemingly mundane problem. The paint the Navy was using to protect its ships varied a bit from batch to batch in the number of suspended pigment particles it contained. Coulter got a grant from the Office of Naval Research to see if he could get a better measure of those particles so the paint could be made a bit more consistent.
The problem was not exactly one on which wars would be won or lost. In tight budgetary times like today’s it would be easy to imagine that grant money going to something “more important.”
But one night in 1947, when Coulter ran out of paint in his garage-based lab (turns out that MacIntosh computers and Google’s search algorithms were not the first things to get invented in garages) Coulter substituted the only other viscous fluid at his disposal—some of his own blood. That’s when he made the amazing discovery that his nascent technique of using alterations in electrical resistance to measure particles in paint could also measure the number of cells in a sample of blood.
Thus was born the Coulter Counter, a machine that, to this day, remains a standard means of automatically counting cells in blood samples for the diagnosis of anemia and a range of other blood disorders.
- Posted byon July 3, 2013 at 5:08 PM EST
President Obama launched the first U.S. Open Government National Action Plan in September 2011, as part of the Nation’s commitment to the principles of the global Open Government Partnership. The Plan laid out twenty-six concrete steps the United States would take to promote public participation in government, increase transparency in government, and manage public resources more effectively.
A year and a half later, we have fulfilled twenty-four of the Plan’s prescribed commitments—including launching the online We the People petition platform, which has been used by more than 9.6 million people, and unleashing thousands of government data resources as part of the Administration’s Open Data Initiatives.
We are proud of this progress, but recognize that there is always more work to be done to build a more efficient, effective, and transparent government. In that spirit, as part of our ongoing commitment to the international Open Government Partnership, the Obama Administration has committed to develop a second National Action Plan on Open Government.
To accomplish this task effectively, we’ll need all-hands-on-deck. That’s why we plan to solicit and incorporate your input as we develop the National Action Plan “2.0.”
We’ve already started the input-gathering process. Just two weeks ago, Syracuse University Professor Tina Nabatchi of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs convened a “Public Participation and Open Government Workshop.” At the workshop, experts from academia, civil society, and government exchanged ideas with the goal of developing best practices and metrics for public participation in policymaking. And leading up to the workshop, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation held an online dialogue to solicit ideas around public participation evaluation and metrics.
- Posted byon June 28, 2013 at 10:32 AM EST
“No one is born smart. No one is born knowing how to read, right? No one is born knowing how to do math, or no one is born knowing how to play the flute -- all of that comes with a lot of hard work… The only way you know how to read is that you keep trying.” -- First Lady Michelle Obama at Savoy Elementary School on May 24, 2013
Last month, a group of leading researchers, practitioners, and industry representatives convened to discuss how students’ beliefs about their academic abilities and learning potential can affect how much they learn in school and whether they persevere in the face of academic challenges. Research demonstrates that when students learn that their academic ability is not a fixed trait, like eye color, but instead is like a muscle that can grow and develop with hard work, they do better in school. The most dramatic improvements are typically seen in low-performing students, students of color, and females in STEM-related courses.
The purpose of the meeting, which was co-hosted by OSTP and the Department of Education and sponsored by the Raikes Foundation, was to accelerate research on “academic mindsets”—attitudes that learners have about their learning capacity. A fast-growing scientific literature suggests that by harnessing the power of academic mindsets, school can be made more equitable by reducing achievement gaps, more enjoyable by placing the focus on learning and improving rather than on demonstrating raw intelligence, and more efficient by enabling students to take better advantage of learning resources already available to them.
- Posted byon June 27, 2013 at 5:33 PM EST
As President Obama and the First Lady travel to Africa, the White House hosted a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout to talk with the creative minds harnessing their science, engineering, and entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of the global poor as well as a new breed of investors – both inside and outside government – sourcing, testing, and scaling cost-effective development innovations.
The participants in “We the Geeks:Innovation for Global Good” included:
- Vineet Bewtra, Director of Investments, Omidyar Network
- Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad, Co-founders, Mera Gao Power
- Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor, USAID
- Alix Zwane, Executive Director, Evidence Action
Mera Gao Power and the Dispensers for Safe Water Project at Innovations for Poverty Action/Evidence Action are investments in USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) portfolio. To learn more about DIV’s projects around the world, visit the newly released Investment Portfolio here and check out this video of DIV’s investments in action.
- Posted byon June 27, 2013 at 8:51 AM EST
Public service has taken on new forms in the digital age. Today, civic hackers—innovators applying their tech skills for civic good—are empowered by open government data to build tools, apps, and services that meet public needs at the national, state, and local levels.
Just this month, Mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, Baltimore, Louisville, Palo Alto, and other cities across the country participated in a National Day of Civic Hacking that drew more than 11,000 people participating in 95 open data hacking events. At the White House, we celebrated the day by welcoming more than 30 developers and designers to our second hackathon, setting them loose on the new API for We the People, the White House petitions platform. And just a few weeks ago, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama recognized two extraordinary civic hackers who harnessed their skills and troves of open data to build apps that inform women about the wage gap—important tools to help women as they negotiate starting pay, request promotions, or consider switching career paths.
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