Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • We the Geeks: Innovation for Global Good

    Ed. note: This event has concluded. Watch the full hangout below.

    Geeks have had a lasting positive impact on the lives of millions of people in the developing world—from the innovations and insights that fueled the Green Revolution, to the historic scientific achievements that have marked the “Beginning of the End of AIDS.” Today, geeks are playing a central role in building technologies, making discoveries, building businesses, and engineering solutions that benefit people and communities around the world.

    As President Obama and the First Lady travel to Africa this week, the White House will host a “We The Geeks” Google+ Hangout this Thursday, June 27 at 1:00 pm EST to discuss innovation for global good with some of the creative minds making it happen. These individuals are harnessing their science, engineering, and entrepreneurial skills to answer the President’s call to eradicate extreme poverty in the next two decades. The Hangout will be moderated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation, Tom Kalil. Speakers include:

    • Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad, Co-founders, Mera Gao Power (MGP);
    • Vineet Bewtra, Director of Investments, Omidyar Network;
    • Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor, U.S. Agency for International Development; and
    • Alix Zwane, Executive Director, Evidence Action.

    Hangout participants will hear from leaders within and outside government, who are working together to spur game-changing innovations in global development. USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, for example, is seeding, testing, and scaling the next generation of powerful innovations in development from geeks the world over.

  • Two Years Later, Bold New Steps for the Materials Genome Initiative

    Two years ago today, President Obama launched the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), a collaborative endeavor of the public and private sectors designed to double the pace of innovation, manufacture, and deployment of high-tech materials in America.

    During its first two years, the MGI has come a long way. 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. 

    Today, universities, companies, Federal agencies, and other materials science stakeholders announced more than twenty new commitments to kick-start an ambitious third year for the MGI, including:

    • The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is committing $25 million over 5 years to form a Center of Excellence on Advanced Materials.
    • The University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the Georgia Institute of Technology are creating new Institutes in materials innovation with collective investments totaling roughly $15 million, and will join with the University of Michigan to launch a materials innovation accelerator network
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Intermolecular, Inc., are working together to better predict materials behavior with software tools made openly available by LBNL to thousands of users.
    • Harvard University and IBM are releasing a freely available and open database describing 2.3 million new materials for potential use in solar cells—the largest open-access effort of its kind; and
    • MIT is launching a new massive open online course (MOOC) focusing on innovation and commercialization with new materials, and half-a-dozen other institutions are announcing new educational efforts around the MGI that include curricula development, new graduate degrees, and research opportunities.

    The materials community is mobilizing.

  • Celebrating “Open Science” Champions of Change at the White House


    On June 20, 2013, thirteen Champions of Change were honored at the White House for their extraordinary leadership in "open science." From left to right: First row: Jack Andraka, David Altshuler, M.D., Ph.D., Rebecca Moore, Kathy Giusti, Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Eric Kansa, Ph.D., Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D., and David J. Lipman, M.D.; Second row: Drew Endy, Ph.D., Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D., John Quackenbush, Ph.D., William Noel, Ph.D., and Stephen Friend, M.D., Ph.D.

    Yesterday at the White House, Obama Administration officials honored 13 extraordinary leaders and organizations selected as “Champions of Change” for their work using and promoting open scientific data and publications to grow our economy and improve our world.

    A call for nominations issued last month resulted in hundreds of extraordinary candidates across a wide range of scientific disciplines—from biomedicine, archeology, astronomy and medieval writings. Of the nominees, 13 were selected based on their outstanding contributions to a growing open science movement that is unleashing scientific data and information for use by innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs.

    At the event, the Champions were invited to highlight projects and initiatives that are helping make “open” the default for scientific research results, and several made additional exciting announcements about how they will continue to promote open science going forward.

    In remarks, John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, congratulated the new Champions for their outstanding efforts “to generate, promote, and use open scientific data as fuel for new products, successful businesses, and game-changing scientific insights.” Holdren also emphasized the power and potential benefits of unleashing scientific information for broad use, explaining that “the proposition behind open science is a simple one: more value is derived from scientific results when more people can access and use them.”

  • We the Geeks: Building a 21st Century Resume

    Ed. note: This event has concluded. Watch the full hangout below.

    Watch "We the Geeks" on a 21st Century Resume live on Thursday, June 20th, at 2:00 p.m. EDT at Join the conversation and ask your questions with the hashtag #WeTheGeeks. Sign up to get email updates about future hangouts.

    In the same way that “merit badges” have been used by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and medals have been used by the military to demonstrate achievement, a growing number of foundations, government agencies, companies and non-profits are exploring “digital badges” as the 21st century equivalent of a resume-builder that students and workers can use to showcase their skills, encourage their peers, and find meaningful educational and employment opportunities. 

  • Open Data Going Global

    Open Data took another leap forward at this week’s G8 Summit in Long Erne, Northern Ireland, as member countries signed an Open Data Charter to spur the release and use of government-held data to advance economic opportunity, spur innovation, and increase accountability around the world. 

    The Open Data Charter outlines principles that member countries—the US, UK, France, Canada, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Japan–will act on, including an expectation that all government data will be published openly by default, and that signatories will work to increase the quality, quantity, and re-use of released data. 

    The G8 Open Data charter builds upon recent historic steps the US has taken domestically. On May 9, 2013, President Obama signed Executive Order 13462, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, directing efforts to make government-held data more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs and others as fuel for innovation and economic growth.

    When the Federal Government decided years ago to make weather data from satellites and ground stations public, it gave rise to an entire economic sector that has contributed billions to the economy and today includes weather newscasts, weather apps, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options—in addition to the vast public benefits derived from those activities. And more recently, as demonstrated by the fourth annual Health Datapalooza, we have seen entrepreneurs using open health data to power applications and services that help people throughout the country make informed healthcare decisions. Open government data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other agencies is central to the data-powered revolution underway in health care today.

  • Nominate a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion

    Do you remember a moment when a mentor, teacher, or friend opened up your eyes to something that changed your life? Do you remember a wide-eyed moment when the impossible became possible and it put you on a path of discovery and maybe even helped put you on the career path you are on today?

    Heroes across the country help create these incredible moments every day. Many are working hard to connect and spark young minds to get excited about technology through mentoring; many others are dreaming up the technology tools themselves that can spark imagination and wonder.   These champions are inspiring students to get excited about becoming the developers, engineers, and innovators who will create solutions to some of our toughest challenges.

    This July, the White House will host a “Champions of Change” event on Tech Inclusion. This event will celebrate and honor local change-agents who are making these moments of wonder and discovery happen for kids – specifically those making a difference for kids from communities underrepresented in technology, like girls and minorities. 

    And today, we’re asking you to help us identify these standout local leaders by nominating a Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion by July 1st.