Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • President Obama Celebrates Middle-School STEM Innovators

    POTUS Broadcomm MASTERS STEM Event

    President Barack Obama greets the 2013 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) finalists in the Rose Garden, Sept. 30, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) September 30, 2013.

    Last month in the Rose Garden, President Obama met with 30 of the Nation’s top scientists, engineers, and inventors—amazing middle schoolers who have paved the way for major breakthroughs in medicine, chemistry, computing, and more…but aren’t yet old enough to drive.

    These remarkable students have sequenced DNA to determine the genetic cause of a fatal lung condition; invented a cheaper, more efficient diagnostics test to detect dengue virus; and built a computer that emits smells—such as the scent of cinnamon—on cue.

    These 6 – 8th graders are finalists in the 2013 Broadcom MASTERS competition, which seeks out the most impressive middle school projects in math, applied science, technology, and engineering. The finalists were in Washington, DC for the last round of competitive judging of their research projects.

    President Obama has emphasized time and again today’s young inventors, creators, builders, and discoverers hold tomorrow’s promise for addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century.

    “When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future,” he said in an announcement of last year’s White House Science Fair.

    That’s why the President kicked off a national campaign to produce 100,000 exceptional new STEM teachers, and one million more STEM graduates in the next decade. And that’s why he is committed to recognizing and celebrating all-star STEM students at the White House, just as he congratulates championship athletes.

    Please join us in applauding these impressive students and join the conversation about inspiring today’s young STEM innovators by following @whitehouseostp on Twitter; and by visiting the White House Educate to Innovate website.

    Danielle Carnival is a Senior Policy Advisor at OSTP and Randy Paris is a Confidential Assistant at OSTP

  • Basic Research, Game Changing Benefits

    Last week, in Washington, DC, distinguished guests—including Members of Congress, scientists, and business-community leaders—gathered at the second annual Golden Goose Awards to honor six federally-funded researchers whose work has positively transformed technology, medicine, and countless lives. 

    The Golden Goose Award highlights basic scientific research supported by the Federal Government that might have seemed obscure at first, but ultimately benefited society in a significant way—by improving health or national security, leading to a breakthrough innovation, or helping to grow the economy. Awardees are selected by a committee of experts from leading scientific and research organizations across the country—and their incredible accomplishments show just how far Federal funding can go when good scientists put it to good use.

    This year, three of the winners—mathematicians David Gale and Lloyd Shapley and economist Alvin Roth—were honored for research that led to game-changing breakthroughs in now-widely-used “matching” systems. Backed by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation, these researchers developed the Gale-Shapley Deferred Choice Algorithm, which initially helped streamline the matching process for men and women to maximize marriage stability, but ultimately led to various practical market applications—including the pairing of new doctors with hospitals nationwide through the National Resident Matching Program. In addition, with funding from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Roth developed a kidney exchange system that today is used across the country to match thousands of kidney recipients with prospective kidney donors. Dr. Shapley and Dr. Roth both received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2012 for their extraordinary work.  

    With funding from the National Science Foundation, fellow Golden Goose honorees Dr. Thomas Brock and Dr. Hudson Freeze’s made discoveries that led to the field of biotechnology. Through their study and replication of DNA, they paved the way for a “genomics revolution”—including incredible developments in medical diagnostics, such as genetic tests. Biotechnologies that would not have been possible without their research have enabled targeted therapies, helping to ensure that patients are getting the right treatments that work for them specifically. 

  • 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.


  • 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


    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.