Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • A Renewed Commitment to Unleashing Open Data about the Earth

    Data about the Earth have long been vital to our Nation’s progress. Thomas Jefferson looked to Lewis and Clark to collect and bring back weather, water, and other data from their expeditions, and used those data to guide the development of frontier settlements and spur economic growth. 

    That tradition continues today on a global scale, as the United States and other nations collect and share high quality  data about the Earth that can help save lives and grow the economy. Data about weather systems, crops, and ecosystems, for example, help growers plan for planting and harvesting, help speed relief to disaster victims, and provide accurate information to decision makers and resource managers in every region of the country.

    Many nations around the world invest in the collection of data about the Earth, using a diverse array of sophisticated scientific instruments, and storing data that are collected in many different formats. Cooperation among partner nations is critically important to ensuring that scientists, researchers, decision makers, and innovators can extract the best value from these large and diverse datasets—wherever they may originate.

    The United States works to achieve this goal by collaborating closely with international partners as part of the Group on Earth Observations, or GEO. 

    Last week, at a series of meetings in Geneva, the United States marked its founding role in establishing GEO a decade ago—which today comprises 90 members and 77 participating organizations—and celebrated an important milestone as GEO’s charter was renewed for another 10 years.

  • Serving Up STEM at Aberdeen High

    Today, OSTP’s Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Patricia Falcone and Joining Forces Executive Director, Colonel Rich Morales, are visiting Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen, MD, celebrating that school’s designation by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) as NMSI’s “School of the Year.”

    Aberdeen High is one of the Nation’s many schools with a high proportion of students whose parents are in the military—in this case, serving at the U.S. Army base at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). These children often face unique academic challenges, in part because their parents tend to move so frequently. That’s why, in 2010, OSTP and the White House Joining Forces initiative worked with NMSI to bring NMSI’s Comprehensive Advanced Placement (AP) Program to schools that serve large numbers of military families. The Program provides enhanced teacher training and mentorship, extra time on-task for students, Saturday study sessions, and incentives for students and teachers, all aimed at boosting success in AP courses—which can give students a significant advantage as they head to college.

    NMSI’s Aberdeen program launched in the 2012-2013 school year and made an immediate, impressive impact. The average increase in passing scores on AP math, science, and English exams was 137 percent—19 times the average increase nationally—and helped earn the school NMSI’s coveted  “School of the Year” award.

    OSTP asked two students to briefly describe their experiences in the Aberdeen program. Some excerpts:

  • At White House College Opportunity Event, New Commitments Announced to Help Low-Income Students Succeed in STEM Fields

    At yesterday’s event on College Opportunity, the President and First Lady called for a sustained all-hands-on-deck effort to increase college opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged students in America. The event included remarks from the President, the First Lady, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as the announcement of more than 100 new commitments from college and university leaders, foundations, non-profits, and others in support of this critical goal.

     A key focus of yesterday’s College Opportunity event was the importance of helping more low-income and disadvantaged youth succeed in critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.  As noted in a 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), less than 40% of students who start college enrolled in a STEM field complete with a STEM degree. For low-income and disadvantaged students, the numbers are even lower.

  • 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).