Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon September 14, 2012 at 6:51 PM EDT
Yesterday, Members of Congress, representatives of the academic, scientific, and business communities, and other luminaries gathered to honor seven federally-funded researchers whose work has transformed technology, medicine, and countless lives. The researchers are the first-ever recipients of the Golden Goose Award, which highlights the unpredictable nature of basic scientific research and the fact that some of the most important scientific discoveries come from federally funded research that may once have been viewed as unusual, odd, or obscure.
This project is coordinated by some leading advocates for science and research in the country: the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Science Coalition, The Task Force on American Innovation, and United for Medical Research, with support from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Chemical Society, and the American Mathematical Society.
One of the winning projects – the study of glowing jellyfish – led to innovative advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as new breakthroughs in AIDS research. Another – the study of tropical coral – sped the development of game-changing ceramics for bone grafts and prosthetic eyes. When I think of jellyfish, I don’t think of cancer research. But that is precisely the wonder of research: it changes the way we think, and the way we live.
Government funded research is all around us. Even when we don’t see it, or don’t think of it in that way, researchers across the country are looking for ways to find it.
The final winner of the Golden Goose Award was Charles Townes, the inventor of laser technology. Laser is the foundation of countless technologies we use each day: the Internet, digital media, computer hard drives, satellite broadcasting, laser eye surgery, and laser cancer treatment. Dr. Townes was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Navy, but many of his peers and supervisors were skeptical of his work.
“Many people didn’t think it would work,” Dr. Townes explained. “In fact the head of the Department and the previous head of the Department, both of whom got Nobel Prizes so they weren’t stupid, came to my lab and said, ‘Look, that’s not going to work, we know it’s not going to work, and you know it’s not going to work, so stop, you are wasting the Department’s money.’ And about 4 months later, we had it working.”
“With the support of general science you can learn a lot of things, and every once in a while something has terrific applications and it helps our industry a great deal and it helps the economy a great deal,” Dr. Townes later went on to say.
Dr. Townes is 97 years old, and is hoping to continue doing research until he turns 100. “Life is such fun I’d like to keep going! I want to learn new things and discover new things.”
It is this quest for discovery that our researchers embark on each day. The journey may not always fall into our idea of what science should look like or sound like on paper, but their paths lead to some of the most vital foundations of our economy, our livelihood, and our hope for the future.
We congratulate the Golden Goose Award recipients, and look forward to their future life changing discoveries.
Bess Evans is a Policy Analyst at OSTP
- Posted byon September 14, 2012 at 10:18 AM EDT
Today, four federal agencies announced $40 million in grants to university researchers across the country to advance the National Robotics Initiative, unveiled by President Obama at Carnegie Mellon University on June 24, 2011.
The initiative, led by the National Science Foundation, is also supported by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture. These agencies have also issued a new joint solicitation to fund an additional 25-40 awards.
The research projects that are being funded vividly illustrate the broad potential of robotics to help achieve important national goals, such as:
- Improving search and rescue operations in large-scale disasters;
- Helping infants at risk of developing Cerebral Palsy learn how to walk and move;
- Increasing the productivity of America’s manufacturing workers; and
- Developing new capabilities for future planetary rovers.
Other agency announcements related to robotics that that have been made since the President’s speech include Department of Defense’s support for equipment for university robotics research, the opening of the Navy’s cutting-edge Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research, and DARPA’s Robotics Challenge to improve disaster response operations.
The Administration decided to launch the National Robotics Initiative because:
- Robotics can address a broad range of national needs such as advanced manufacturing, logistics, services, transportation, homeland security, defense, medicine, healthcare, space exploration, environmental monitoring, and agriculture;
- Robotics technology is reaching a “tipping point” and is poised for explosive growth because of improvements in core technologies such as microprocessors, sensors, and algorithms;
- Robotics can play an important role in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education because it encourages hands-on learning and the integration of science, engineering, and creative thinking; and
- Members of the research community such as the Computing Community Consortium and program managers in key science agencies have developed a shared vision and an ambitious technical agenda for developing next-generation robotic systems that can safely work with humans and augment human capabilities.
Congratulations to the researchers that will be conducting this important research, and to the agencies that are providing the funding that will keep the United States at the cutting-edge of robotics technology.
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at OSTP
- Posted byon September 7, 2012 at 4:35 PM EDT
Typically when you think of government, the word “innovation” isn’t the first word that comes to mind. Well it’s time to change that! The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proud to announce that for the first time ever, the public will have the opportunity to vote on the finalists of the HHSinnovates Program. That means, your vote will help determine which project will be selected as the winner of the “People’s Choice”.
Now it its fifth round, the HHSinnovates Program seeks not only to recognize and reward good ideas but also to facilitate the exchange of innovative ideas throughout the Department and beyond. These new approaches are created to help carry out the Department’s mission: to enhance the health and well-being of Americans by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering strong, sustained advances in the sciences, underlying medicine, public health, and social services. Employees use the innovation-conducive environment to create new solutions to solve critical problems in these areas.
With over 450 great projects submitted over five rounds since the HHSinnovates Program launched in 2010, the establishment of the “People’s Choice” will give the public a view of the innovative projects being adopted in government and health care, and also a say in what project best embodies innovative spirit, is scalable and replicable.
From an initial 60 projects submitted this round, we have chosen the top six. But now we need your help in deciding which project you feel has the ability to be the most innovative and impactful – in other words, to be the “People’s Choice”.
Public voting is open until September 14, 2012. See two projects that are worthy of your vote? Feel like you just can’t decide which project is the best? Let us know by voting.
The awards ceremony will be held on September 24th from 11 – 11:30 AM and will be telecast.
For more information on the HHSinnovates Program, visit: HHSinnovates.
Bryan Sivak is Chief Technology Officer at HHS
- Posted byon September 5, 2012 at 2:36 PM EDT
Two years after the Obama Administration created Challenge.gov, the first online listing of incentive prizes offered or supported by Federal agencies, the innovative site has hit an impressive milestone: its 200th listing of a challenge in search of a solution by the American public. Launched on September 7, 2010, the site has hosted challenges posted by 45 departments and agencies; more than 16,000 citizen “solvers” have participated in these competitions directly on Challenge.gov, with additional entrants joining the competitions through other sources.
This benchmark shows the impact made by the Administration’s efforts to make incentive prizes a tool in Federal agency toolkits for seeking innovative solutions to address agency mission and solve tough problems. Well-designed incentive prizes enable Federal agencies to establish ambitious goals, pay only for success, reach beyond the “usual suspects” to increase the number of minds tackling a problem, and bring out-of-discipline perspectives to bear. New public-sector prizes and challenges continue to be launched.
- Posted byon August 21, 2012 at 5:26 PM EDT
President Obama strongly believes that inspiring boys and girls to excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is critical to our Nation’s future. Just last week, the President called the Mars Science Lab Team and a “special Mohawk guy” and pointed out how their work on Curiosity was inspiring the next generation.
As the President said, “My Administration has put a big focus on improving science and technology, engineering and math education. And this is the kind of thing that inspires kids across the country. They’re telling their moms and dads they want to be part of a Mars mission -- maybe even the first person to walk on Mars. And that kind of inspiration is the byproduct of work of the sort that you guys have done.”
The Curiosity team is emblematic of the powerful asset that the Federal science and technology workforce can be in the all-hands-on-deck challenge to improve STEM education.
That’s why President Obama has called upon the 200,000 Federal employees working in STEM fields to bring their passion and expertise to their communities and schools in support of STEM education, and help “stoke that same curiosity in students which had perhaps led them to pursue a career in science.” As the President has said, there are so many creative ways to engage young people in STEM fields – everything from science festivals, robotics competitions, Maker Faires, mentoring opportunities and more.
- Posted byon August 14, 2012 at 3:24 PM EDT
The interactive website for the PBS series “Design Squad Nation” took home an Emmy in June for “outstanding new approaches” in children’s daytime television. An extension into broadband media by the producers of the WGBH TV show, the website serves as a destination for creative ‘tweens and teens that encourages youth to “dream big,” be creative, solve problems and make things that help people.
On the site, which was funded in large part by the National Science Foundation, kids work alongside the show’s co-hosts—dynamic twenty-somethings and genuine engineers Judy Lee and Adam Vollmer—to post real-life solutions to real-life problems and respond to challenges by sketching and building their own prototypes. Designs have included a cake with moving parts, flying machines, home-made skateboards, pollution solutions, and exploring the three dimensions of fabric to create new fashions.
“Be creative, take risks and make a difference in people’s lives,” says Vollmer in one of the site’s short videos. Indeed, the show celebrates both the fun and the failures that are a part of the design process.
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