Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Statement: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Approves Physical Science Report

    Following today's release by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of its Working Group Report on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, OSTP Director John P. Holdren released the following statement:

    Today the United States joined other member nations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in approving the Fifth IPCC Working Group Report on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change. 

    The IPCC’s report is the result of more than five years of intensive work by hundreds of expert scientists from the United States and partner nations to comprehensively assess the current state of scientific knowledge about climate change. 

    The report reflects a further strengthening of the already robust scientific consensus that the Earth’s climate is changing in ways not explainable by natural variability and that the primary cause is emission of heat-trapping substances by human activities. It also conveys scientists’ strengthened confidence in projections that the kinds of harm already being experienced from climate change will continue to worsen unless and until comprehensive and vigorous action to reduce emissions is undertaken worldwide.

    I applaud the collaborative efforts of the many scientists who contributed to this report, which represents the most comprehensive and authoritative synthesis of scientific knowledge about global climate change ever generated.

    Consistent with the Global Change Research Act of 1990—and across four Administrations—the Federal Government has supported gold-standard research to advance global-change science, including research to understand how humans are contributing to climate change; the impacts of climate change on people, communities, and ecosystems; and ways to address and minimize those impacts. U.S. Government investments enabled many of the peer-reviewed scientific findings that are at the core of the IPCC Working Group Report released today. In addition, scores of American scientists—including dozens of Federal researchers—served as contributing authors of the new report.

    The U.S. Government is committed to continued participation in IPCC activities and to the rigorous use of scientific information about climate change to support sound decision making, as outlined in the Climate Action Plan released by the President in June. The Administration looks forward to collaborating with international partners to finalize the remaining reports making up the IPCC Fifth Assessment, all of which are expected to be released in 2014.

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  • All Hands on Deck: Renewing the Call to Combat Human Trafficking

    One year ago today, President Obama announced the Administration’s commitment to lead the fight against human trafficking during a seminal speech at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. During his remarks, the President announced new initiatives from across the Administration to help redouble our efforts to combat trafficking both at home and abroad.   

    Over the past year, we’ve made great strides and increased our efforts in order to realize the President’s vision. However, we still have so much more to do.

    The President said in his remarks one year ago, “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery.”

    In an effort to build on the work the Administration has done over the past year, and to renew the President’s call to action, today we are participating in a discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on this issue and the Administration is announcing a series of new commitments to combat trafficking. Some of these new initiatives include:

    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today is launching a national initiative to strengthen screening, increase training, and develop data-driven solutions for health care workers to better identify trafficking victims and provide appropriate assistance;
    • The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council today are releasing a report  that summarizes existing research and evidence on the topic of child sex trafficking and recommends approaches for addressing these issues and guiding future studies in this field; 
    • The U.S. Department of State is hosting today in Cambodia the first in a series of anti-trafficking “TechCamps” to take place in locations around the world and designed to bring together expert technologists and civil society organizations that are working with victims on the ground to design low-cost, easy-to-implement tools to combat trafficking; and
    • Training programs are being introduced or expanded to strengthen awareness and response among law enforcement, industries including the travel industry and the global payment services industry, and government employees across various Federal agencies.

  • Building Equal Futures, Connecting Women and Girls to STEM Opportunities

    Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Equal Futures Partnership—a global collaboration aimed at advancing women’s and girls’ economic and political participation. The Partnership was launched on behalf of the United States by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Valerie Jarrett in September, 2012, in response to a call by President Obama challenging heads of state to break down barriers to the economic and political empowerment of women.

    For the United States, stepping up to this challenge has included important work to open doors to quality education and high-paying career opportunities for women and girls in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Since 2012, much progress has been made to advance women and girls in STEM and yesterday, new commitments were announced to advance the ball even further.

    Teaming up to help bring award-winning STEM education opportunities to girls across the country, Girls Inc. and Discovery Education are working together to provide girls access to Discovery Education’s STEM Camp – a dynamic series of STEM curricula built around the National Academy of Engineering's grand engineering challenges. This partnership will further Girls Inc.’s efforts to encourage girls’ participation and achievement in STEM fields. Additionally, this new effort will create opportunities for educators and mentors to participate in a series of Discovery Education professional development opportunities and receive training on best practices for implementing innovative STEM curricula.  

  • Expanding Access to Hands-On Science

    OSTP_TeklaLabs_2013

    Dr. Lina Nilsson, Tekla Labs Cofounder. (Photo credit: Make Magazine)

    Recently, I interviewed Lina Nilsson, the co-founder of Tekla Labs, a non-profit organization committed to lowering the cost of biological research in developing countries and expanding access to hands-on science learning in schools and colleges.  Lina was recently named one of MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators under 35.”

    What motivated you to start Tekla Labs?

    After I finished my PhD, I traveled for a year across Asia and South America on a Bonderman Travel Fellowship, designed to allow recipients “to come to know the world in new ways.” It worked. While traveling, I visited different science labs. Some had very limited resources, which got me thinking about globally open access to physical tools and infrastructure. I see this as the new horizon for democratizing science, beyond open data and open knowledge movements (such as open access science journals).

    Furthermore, as a scientist, I am deeply motivated by enabling hands-on science teaching. To this end, Tekla Labs is beginning to work on collaborative projects with U.S. colleges and schools.

  • Mobilizing Cities to Support STEM

    When students excel in math and science—when they see themselves as the builders, programmers, discoverers and inventors of our future—they help America compete for jobs and industries of the future.  To make that happen, it’s important to inspire more kids to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

    Recognizing that building awareness at the local level is critical to this effort, US2020, an independent initiative unveiled during this year’s White House Science Fair in support of the Administration’s Tech Inclusion efforts, has launched a competition that challenges cities across the country to use their convening power to bring together schools, non-profits, and private-sector and community leaders to spark mentoring movements within local communities.

    US2020 is a coalition of education nonprofits and U.S. technology companies that aims to make mentoring the new normal in the STEM professions, just as pro-bono work is common in the legal profession.  Specifically, participating companies are committing to have 20 percent of their STEM employees engage in at least 20 hours a year of mentoring or teaching by the year 2020, with the long-term goal of mobilizing 1 million STEM mentors annually by the year 2020.

    You can learn more here about the competition and the resources that US2020 aims to provide to participating cities.

    By providing mentors who can serve as positive role models, describe what it’s really like to work in science and technology, and help connect youth to internships and jobs, US2020 is just one promising outcome of this Administration’s call for an “all hands on deck” effort to spark kids’ imaginations so they see themselves as the inventors of our future.

    Learn more about White House initiatives in support of STEM education across the country, and get involved in building America’s future!

    Katie Dowd is Senior Advisor at OMB and Kumar Garg is Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director at OSTP

  • RFP-EZ 2.0: Expanding Opportunities for Small Businesses

    The RFP-EZ Marketplace is an online platform and built tools that make it easier for innovative small tech businesses to bid on government contracts, while also making it easier for federal agencies to identify the bids that offer the best value for taxpayers. RFP-EZ was launched by the U.S. Small Business Administration in January 2013 and was developed by the SBA and one of the inaugural Presidential Innovation Fellows teams.

    Before RFP-EZ was launched, most such Requests for Proposals contained highly specialized language that only seasoned government contractors understood.  By simplifying the language and streamlining the process, RFP-EZ has opened up the bidding process to hundreds of small businesses offering services at significantly lower prices.  RFP-EZ has yielded very promising results and is already saving taxpayer dollars, with prospects for even more savings going forward.

    Building on the early successes of the program, SBA recently announced that the new and improved RFP-EZ Marketplace is ready for business and another round of Federal procurement innovation is underway. The RFP-EZ Marketplace has been enhanced to include simplified bidding, simplified listings, and an expanded selection of opportunities such as web design, mobile application development, content management, and video production and transcription. Check out existing opportunities at https://rfpez.sba.gov/.

    Leveraging feedback we received from entrepreneurs and Federal contracting officers, the current class of Presidential Innovation Fellows will continue work to improve the platform, scale its initial results across the Federal Government, and add innovative new capabilities.

    If you’re interested in helping to move the ball forward on PIF projects, please get involved!  You can learn about current and future rounds of the PIF program at whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows, contribute code on GitHub, or visit Data.gov to help turn openly available government data into new products, services, and jobs.

    John Paul Farmer is a Senior Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy