Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon December 9, 2013 at 3:28 PM EDT
This week is Computer Science Education Week, or “CSEdWeek,” an annual campaign highlighting the importance of learning computer science. CSEdWeek is held in recognition of the birthday of computer science pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, widely known for popularizing the idea of “debugging” a computer—a phrase inspired by her team’s removal of an actual moth from a relay in a Harvard Mark II computer in 1947. (Its remains can be found in the group’s log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.) This year, non-profit group Code.org is driving CSEdWeek activities in more than 150 countries around the world and sponsoring an “Hour of Code” campaign that encourages all students to devote an hour this week to getting a taste of computer programming.
The ability to write computer software—to code—is an important skill. It moves people from being consumers of technology to creators of it. An understanding of coding helps people learn new strategies for solving problems and harness the power of computers to realize their own visions, whatever they may be. Everyone—scientists, fashion designers, doctors, journalists, lawyers, musicians, students—can benefit from a greater understanding of how to use computing.
Computer literacy is important for success in today’s digital economy, yet many American schools still view computer science education as an exotic elective. Only a handful of states allow computer science courses to count as math or science credits toward high school graduation requirements. AP Computer Science is taught in just 10% of our high schools, whereas the UK recently added computer science to its curriculum, teaching CS to all students from ages 5 to 17. China teaches all of its students one year of computer science. The CS 10K Initiative, supported by the National Science Foundation, is working to build curricula and course materials to support educators’ needs so they can more effectively teach computer science.
- Posted byon December 6, 2013 at 11:32 AM EDT
One of the goals of President Obama’s innovation strategy is to accelerate the rate at which new inventions that result from federally funded research at the Nation’s universities and national labs move from the lab to the marketplace. Speeding that transition spurs the creation of new industries and jobs while addressing pressing challenges such as the need for clean sources of energy and treatments for debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Federal agencies have already developed a number of initiatives to increase the economic and societal impact of federally funded research. As part of the President’s Startup America Initiative, for example, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy have made it much easier and less expensive for entrepreneurs to license intellectual property. Using curricula such as Steve Blank’s Lean Launch Pad, NSF’s I-Corps program is preparing more faculty and students to focus on the issues that are critical to the success of an early-stage venture.
Companies and universities are also taking important steps to “partner at the speed of business.” For example, earlier this year, Google/Motorola Mobility negotiated a Multi-University Research Agreement with eight leading public and private research universities: California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Tech University. The agreement deals with often contentious issues such as academic freedom to publish and intellectual property.
The impetus for the agreement came from Regina Dugan and Kaigham Gabriel, who served, respectively, as Director and Deputy Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) before launching a private-sector version of DARPA at Motorola Mobility called the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. They discovered that ATAP could, in a matter of days and weeks, contract with individuals and companies, but that it could take several months to negotiate an agreement with a university. These negotiations would have to be repeated with each additional university they wanted to work with, making multi-university collaborations particularly difficult. With the agreement in place, ATAP has dramatically lowered the time and hassle factor associated with university collaborations, and are now much more likely to collaborate on specific projects.
- Posted byon December 6, 2013 at 11:30 AM EDT
Since his first full day in office, President Obama has prioritized making government more open and accountable and has taken substantial steps to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government. Today, the Obama Administration released the second U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, announcing 23 new or expanded open-government commitments that will advance these efforts even further.
In September 2010, President Obama challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. In two short years, the OGP has grown from eight to more than 60 member-nations that have collectively made more than 1,000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the globe.
Then, in September 2011, the United States released its first Open Government National Action Plan, setting a series of ambitious goals to create a more open government. The United States has continued to implement and improve upon the open-government commitments set forth in the first Plan, along with many more efforts underway across government, including implementing individual Federal agency Open Government Plans. The second Plan builds on these efforts, in part through a series of key commitments highlighted in a preview report issued by the White House in October 2013, in conjunction with the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London.
- Posted byon December 5, 2013 at 11:31 AM EDT
Today, President Obama issued a memorandum directing Federal agencies to redouble efforts to use renewable energy and manage their energy usage more efficiently and effectively. In addition to setting an ambitious new target for Federal agencies to increase their consumption of renewable energy to 20% of their total amount of electric energy use by 2020, the memorandum instructs agencies to incorporate the “Green Button” data standard into their energy management practices.
The Green Button Initiative is an industry-led response to a White House call-to-action to provide utility customers with easy and secure access to their own energy usage information in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format. Today, 48 utilities and electricity suppliers serving more than 59 million homes and businesses have committed to enable their customers with “Green Button” access to help them save energy and shrink their bills. Of these, over 42 million household and business customers (reaching well over 100 million Americans) already have access to their Green Button energy data.
Following the President’s direction, the Federal Government is committing to use the Green Button data standard—an industry-developed consensus-driven method for accessing and transmitting energy-consumption information—within its own operations and facilities, making it easier for building managers to use innovative analytical tools, apps, and services related to energy usage, and helping Federal agencies to better manage their own energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Specifically, GSA, DOE and EPA will create and initiate a pilot to use Green Button at Federal facilities. Based on the outcomes of this pilot, these agencies will issue guidance for other facilities to follow suit by, where feasible, incorporating Green Button into reporting, data analytics and automation, and processes in consultation with their local utilities. The end goal will be to enter data into EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager for benchmarking and reduce energy costs and usage across the Federal Government.
Dozens of electric utilities have already embraced the Green Button data standard, making it easier for customers to securely download and transmit their own energy-usage data. Building on the President’s memorandum issued today, we’re excited by recent decisions by utilities to adopt or further expand their support for Green Button.
- Posted byon December 4, 2013 at 3:06 PM EDT
November was National Entrepreneurship Month and in this year’s proclamation designating it as such, President Obama called on all Americans to “come together and help aspiring entrepreneurs take a chance on themselves and their visions for a brighter future.”
In that spirit, throughout the month of November, OSTP highlighted the inspiring stories of students across America who are rolling up their sleeves, pursuing bright ideas, and starting companies—as well as many of the new tools, services, and programs that are emerging to help even more students blaze entrepreneurial paths to the future.
In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of how we celebrated National Entrepreneurship Month in November:
- At the top of the month, the Department of Commerce released The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University, a new report cataloging more than 50 promising ways to promote cultures of entrepreneurship on university campuses across America.
- Meanwhile, an independent team of undergraduates launched UniversityInnovation.org, a public knowledge-sharing platform where students can help each other catalyze even more entrepreneurship-focused programs.
- On National Entrepreneurs’ Day (November 22), President Obama met with five teenage finalists of the 2013 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, all of whom started companies while completing high school. (Check out their cameo in West Wing Week!)
- That same day, I sat down with these young entrepreneurs and other startup founders who launched companies while in college or grad school for a “We the Geeks: Student Startups” Google+ Hangout. Two of our guests were finalists of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (part of Global Entrepreneurship Week) and we were also joined by Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John, two successful entrepreneurs featured on the popular TV show Shark Tank. (Watch a video of the Hangout here).
- Throughout November, we also featured candid advice from successful student entrepreneurs on our blog, including success stories from the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition (“Turning What Stinks into What Sticks”), the Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) competition (“Embrace Your Chutzpah”), and the National Science Foundation-supported University Innovation Fellows program (“Be Fearless and Experiment”).
- And finally, we highlighted ways the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners are helping social entrepreneurs tackle global development challenges, and how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is helping train grad students to pursue entrepreneurial pathways in the biomedical sciences.
- Posted byon December 3, 2013 at 12:53 PM EDT
Officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today an award of $25 million over five years to a Chicago-based consortium that will build a new center of excellence in advanced materials research. The new Center for Hierarchical Materials Design will support the Administration’s Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), and is led by Northwestern University (NU), the University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory with partners QuesTek Innovations, a small business spin-off of NU; ASM International, a well-known professional society of materials scientists; and Fayetteville State University.
President Obama launched the MGI two years ago as public-private collaboration designed to double the pace of innovation, manufacture, and deployment of high-tech materials in America. What started out as a modest investment of roughly $63 million by four Federal agencies has since expanded into a multi-stakeholder endeavor valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars and involving universities, companies, professional societies, and scientists and engineers from across the country—all working together to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the realm of materials science and innovation.
Support for the creation of a new NIST center was first announced in coordination with a celebration of the MGI’s two-year anniversary, and NIST received an overwhelming response of strong applications. The winning team will focus on developing the next generation of computational tools, databases and experimental techniques, including databases of material properties and computer simulations. The new computational capabilities will significantly speed up the process for creating and testing materials by optimizing the materials properties and design in silico, thereby reducing the need for repeated time- and cost-intensive experimental steps.
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