Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • President Obama Welcomes 2013 Fermi Award Winners to the White House

    Fermi Award Greet

    President Barack Obama meets with 2013 Fermi Award recipients Professor Allen J. Bard, left, and Dr. Andrew Sessler in the Oval Office, Feb. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, President Obama and the US Department of Energy honored two exceptional scientists whose long and productive research careers earned them one of the Nation’s oldest and most prestigious honors for scientific achievement: the Enrico Fermi Award.

    Bestowed annually upon a select few of the Nation’s most outstanding scientists, the Fermi Award recognizes individuals for their distinguished leadership, accomplishments, and service related to science and research supported by the Energy Department. Established in 1956, the award is named in honor of the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist who in 1942 achieved the first nuclear chain reaction, initiating the atomic age.

    This afternoon, President Obama greeted the latest winners: Dr. Allen J. Bard, of The University of Texas at Austin, and Dr. Andrew Sessler of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  OSTP Director John Holdren introduced the winners in the Oval Office, along with Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz. Later in the day, the awardees were honored at a formal ceremony at the Energy Department headquarters.

    Dr. Bard, known by many as the “father of modern electrochemistry,” helped lay the groundwork for critical advances in batteries, fuel cells, and solar photoelectrochemistry—work that has emerged as having great importance in the modern field of renewable energy. Dr. Bard’s scientific achievements previously earned him the National Medal of Science, the American Chemical Society’s Priestly Medal, the Welch Foundation Award in Chemistry, and the Wolf Foundation Prize. His research has led to the publication of more than 850 peer-reviewed papers, 75 book chapters, and 23 patents, and he has served as a mentor and collaborator to 83 Ph.D. students, 18 M.S. students, 190 postdoctoral associates, and many more young scientists.

    Dr. Sessler has worked extensively to promote energy efficiency and sustainable energy research and was a pioneer in the development and use of atomic particle accelerators as powerful tools of scientific discovery. Dr. Sessler’s advocacy in the field of energy efficiency research dates back to the 1950s and 1960s at the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Department; later, as the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he established new divisions for energy and environmental research. He is widely recognized for his fierce advocacy in support of scientific freedom and for human rights of scientists around the globe.

    In a landscape shifting and evolving as rapidly as the energy sector is today, it is vitally important that the United States continues to lead in energy-related scientific research and innovation. OSTP salutes these two Fermi Award winners, not only for the remarkable impacts they have had in their respective fields but also for the influence they have had—and the inspiration they have showered—on countless other scientists.

    Fae Jencks is a Confidential Assistant at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy 

  • National Commission Begins Work to Strengthen Forensic Science

    This morning, the National Forensic Science Commission , a new Federal Advisory Committee jointly chaired by the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, is meeting for the first time to begin its important work of strengthening the forensic sciences.  OSTP Director John Holdren will welcome the Commission to underscore the White House’s support for this important effort and to encourage the group to take full advantage of its unique opportunity to make a difference in this challenging arena of science and policy.

    The standing up of the Commission is one of a series of efforts this Administration has undertaken to improve the forensic sciences, which span across a wide range of disciplines from DNA and fingerprints, to tire and tread marks, to ballistics, handwriting, and trace-chemical analyses.  This morning, OSTP released a progress report on some of Administration’s achievements in the domains of forensic science research, practice, and policy that promise to undergird and complement the Commission’s work. 

    The Commission’s members—an  impressive array of stakeholders with a breadth of expertise and experience—are  well poised to take on the challenging tasks outlined in the Commission’s Charter, which include providing recommendations and advice to the Department of Justice concerning strategies for strengthening the validity and reliability of the forensic sciences, enhancing quality assurance and quality control in forensic labs, and identifying and recommending protocols for evidence collection, analysis, and reporting. 

  • STEM...and the Super Bowl!

    President Obama has stressed time and again that the health and longevity of America’s economy and environment depends in large part on the acceleration of the kinds of innovations that lead to new breakthrough technologies, inspire new industries, and safeguard our communities. 

    In his State of the Union Address just last week, the President said:

    “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.  This is an edge America cannot surrender.”

    That’s why the Obama Administration is taking steps to ensure that the Nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is equipped with the education and skills to discover, create, and invent. And the Federal Government isn’t acting alone. Partners in the private sector, non-profit organizations, philanthropies, colleges and universities, and in State and local governments are stepping up across the country to do their part—by developing mentorship programs, leading extra-curricular activities, and contributing their time, resources, and talents to help get kids inspired and engaged in all things STEM.

    Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, I had a chance to catch up with one such partner, who is harnessing his football fame to highlight the importance of STEM education: New York Giants wide-receiver Victor Cruz.  Here’s what he had to say:

  • Second Annual White House Safety Datapalooza

    Earlier this month, more than 300 public safety stakeholders from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors participated in the Second Annual White House Safety Datapalooza. The event showcased innovators who have utilized freely available government data to build products, services, and apps aimed at empowering Americans with information to make smarter, safer choices— from the vehicles we drive to patterns of crime in our neighborhoods to the products we buy and the food we eat.

    At the event, top officials from across the Administration discussed how Federal agencies are working to tap into the power of open data to advance public safety in creative and powerful ways. Announcements and new commitments from the public and private sector included:

    • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs highlighted a new Application Programming Interface (API) that allows developers to integrate Travel Warning and Travel Alert datasets into websites and mobile applications, including tourism guides and online travel websites, so that U.S. citizens have information about international travel risks—such as health alerts, ongoing crime and violence, or frequent terrorist attacks.
    • The White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Energy launched standardized hashtags (#PowerLineDown #NoFuel and #GotFuel ) to enable citizens to report important emergency information, such as downed power lines or whether a gas station has fuel, across social media platforms during a disaster. The Weather Channel has committed to publicizing these hashtags to its 100 million+ web visitors and TV viewers. Geofeedia, a social media monitoring service, committed to offering a free version of their service to first responders, disaster survivors, utility companies, and Federal, state, and local governments.

  • Robots, Spaceflight, and America’s Open-Data Treasure Chest addressed at White House “State of STEM” Event for Kids

    Today, two people who have slept in outer space, two young STEM prodigies, eight astronauts-in-training, one roboticist, and three of President Obama’s top science, technology, and innovation officials walked into a room…

    SoSTEM Hudy JPH

    Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, left, smiles along with 16-year-old Joey Hudy, a former White House Science Fair participant and self-described “Maker” at the annual White House State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (SoSTEM) address, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls)

    Then, so did nearly 100 inquisitive DC-area middle- and high-schoolers and five kid-reporters from Time Magazine for Kids, National Geographic for Kids, and Montgomery Blair High School’s Silver Chips online newspaper. Together, this cadre comprised the second-ever State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – or “SoSTEM ” –  event at the White House.

    Yes, this morning, in celebration of President Obama’s passionate STEM-centric messages at last night’s State of the Union address, the White House convened a portion of the Nation’s geeky brain trust, along with America’s next generation of innovators and budding reporters to discuss steps the Administration is taking to continue the tradition of scientific breakthroughs and discoveries that has long made our country great.

  • Brainstorming New Ways to Bolster America’s STEM Workforce

    STEM Workforce Data Jam

    On January 23, 2014, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and Office of Personnel Management jointly hosted a STEM Workforce Data Jam in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC. (Photo by OPM)

    Last week, more than 60 innovators, entrepreneurs, technologists, and data geeks gathered at the White House for a “Data Jam” to brainstorm new ways of using data to strengthen the Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce. The event, which was hosted by OSTP and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), also included representatives from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the General Services Administration, and a number of other Government agencies.

    Today, the U.S. Government’s STEM workforce is more than 300,000 strong and includes an array of experts from diverse technical fields—including scientists researching cancer cures at the National Institutes of Health; NASA astronauts and satellite technicians; managers of complex research programs at NSF and DARPA; and many more. Every day, these public servants harness their extraordinary STEM skills to benefit the Nation. The Federal Government relies on these individuals to help assess and monitor our environment; enhance our Nation’s technical infrastructure; track and analyze data; translate research results into informed policy decisions; and more.