Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Request for Information: Advancing Learning Technology through Pull Mechanisms

    Yesterday, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a Request for Information to give the public an opportunity to inform the Administration’s approaches to supporting the development and use of learning technologies.

    Advances in the science of how learning happens—and in technology to enhance learning—have  the potential to transform education, not only in K-12 but in higher education, life-long learning, and workforce development.  Imagine, for example, if learners in the United States had access to technologies that:

    • Dramatically reduced the large and persistent gap in vocabulary size between children from wealthy and poor households;
    • Helped middle- and high-school students outperform their international peers in math and science;
    • Gave non-college-bound students an industry skills certification or set of cognitive skills (e.g., literacy, numeracy, or the ability to understand and use charts, graphs, and diagrams) that are a ticket to a middle-class job, increasing their employability and their annual incomes by $10,000 to $20,000 or more in less than a year; and
    • Were as effective as a personal tutor and as engaging as the best video game, and improved the more students used them.

  • White House Safety Datapalooza

    Ed. note: This event has now concluded.

    Today we’re excited to host the Second Annual White House Safety Datapalooza with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This exciting event will highlight innovators from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors who are using freely available government data to build products, services, and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways. Top officials from across the Administration will highlight safety-data efforts in the areas of transportation, food, and occupational and consumer product safety, as well as tools to improve disaster preparedness and emergency response.

    After the ‘palooza, attendees from technology, public safety, government, and business communities will participate in breakout datajams with Federal agency representatives to brainstorm new ways to foster the development of ultra-high speed applications for law enforcement officers; leverage technology to improve disaster response and recovery; increase consumer product safety awareness; and reduce exposure to occupational hazardous-noise.

    You can watch today’s Safety Datapalooza online from 9am EST – to 12pm EST and follow the conversation on twitter @safetydatagov and using #safetydata.

    View the event agenda here.

  • What You Missed in We the Geeks: “Weather is Your Mood and Climate is Your Personality”

    Want to get the latest updates on We the Geeks? Sign up here for email updates and share your ideas for future topics.

    Summing up the distinction between short-term changes in the weather and long term climate trends in today’s "We the Geeks" Hangout, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, President of the American Meteorological Society, used nine simple words: "weather is your mood and climate is your personality." He later highlighted a need among scientists to correct the misperception that cold snaps disprove climate change, comparing it to the rationale: “because its night time, the sun went away.”

    Those insights and more were shared at today’s "We the Geeks" Google+ Hangout on the "Polar Vortex" and Extreme Weather.

    The live discussion kicked off with an explanation of the mechanics of the polar vortex phenomenon by leading National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Arctic Researcher Jim Overland, who said the shape of the circulating vortex of cold air—when it’s stable—is actually "just like the vortex going out of your bathtub." (You can watch a two-minute explainer video of the Polar Vortex by President Obama’s Science Advisor John P. Holdren, here).

  • Strengthening the Intersection of Science and Justice

    Today the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) named the inaugural members of their jointly created National Commission on Forensic Science—an expert advisory committee that will provide independent advice to the Justice Department in the important domain of forensic science.

    Contrary to the widespread public impression generated by “CSI” and other popular crime programs, many forensic science disciplines are still maturing and all are subject to degrees of uncertainty and misinterpretation. The reliability of forensic techniques and practices—some of which are more than a century old and others of which are still in early stages of development in research labs—varies widely. And as a seminal report by the National Research Council of the National Academies concluded in 2009, there is considerable variation in the standards for forensic disciplines, and the skill levels of professionals working in the field.

  • New Steps to Strengthen the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure

    This article is cross-posted from

    Today, President Obama signed a memorandum establishing the federal government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process, fulfilling an important commitment from his Climate Action Plan and ensuring that federal energy policies continue to meet the nation’s economic, environmental, and security goals. Over the next four years, the QER will provide a comprehensive review of these policies in the context of a changing energy landscape.

    The ways that this country produces and uses energy are changing in ways that few people could have predicted a decade ago. As an Administration we've pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and, as a result, we are now more energy secure than at any time in recent history, and we have cut our carbon pollution in the process. We have more than doubled our production of electricity from wind and solar since the President took office, and we have set a goal to double it again by 2020. 

    We are also producing more of our own conventional fuels. The United States is now the number one natural gas producer in the world, and, for the first time in decades, the United States is now producing more oil at home than it imports from abroad. These are important steps to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and responsibly leverage our nation’s home-grown energy resources.

  • Obama Administration Extends International Space Station until at Least 2024

    As more than 30 heads of space agencies from around the world prepare to gather in Washington January 9-10 for an unprecedented summit on the future of space exploration, we are pleased to announce that the Obama Administration has approved an extension of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2024.  We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade.  

    The extension of ISS operation will allow NASA and the international space community to accomplish a number of important goals. 

    First, it will allow NASA to complete necessary research activities aboard the ISS in support of planned long-duration human missions beyond low-Earth orbit—including our planned human mission to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.  NASA has determined that research on ISS is necessary to mitigate fully 21 of the 32 human-health risks anticipated on long-duration missions.  A related critical function of ISS is testing the technologies and spacecraft systems necessary for humans to safely and productively operate in deep space.  Extending ISS until 2024 will give us the necessary time to bring these systems to maturity.

    Second, ISS extension will extend the broader flow of societal benefits from research on the Station.  Research conducted on the ISS has already resulted in a number of discoveries with significant medical and industrial implications.  Medical examples include potential vaccines for Salmonella and antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, and a microencapsulation technique for delivering cancer treatment drugs to tumors without affecting healthy cells. Additionally, technologies advanced by the ISS have led to robotic surgical techniques that are opening the door to successful removal of tumors that were previously considered inoperable.