Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • President Obama Welcomes America’s Nine New Nobel Laureates to the White House

    OSTP Nobel Laureates 2013 1

    President Barack Obama talks with 2013 American Nobel Laureates and their spouses in the Oval Office, Nov. 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today in the Oval Office, President Obama met with nine of the Nation’s foremost innovators, creative thinkers, and builders of the future—the American recipients of 2013 Nobel Prizes in natural sciences and economics. The President was joined in the meeting by OSTP Director John P. Holdren, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Jason Furman, Ambassador Björn Lyrvall of Sweden, Ambassador Kåre Aas of Norway; and a number of the Nobel Laureates’ family members.

    The nine newly minted laureates embody the spirit of ingenuity and discovery that have long made America great—and they exemplify the tremendous advancements that can be achieved when research, skill, and study in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math are applied to address real-world challenges. The American prize-winners have illuminated scientists’ understanding of how cells operate in the brain; enabled the simulation and modeling of complex sub-atomic-scale chemical reactions; and reshaped the way economists understand market prices and “bubbles.”

  • Equipping the Next Generation of Biomedical Innovators and Entrepreneurs

    This past September, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced  “Broadening Experience in Scientific Training” (BEST)—a $3.7 million awards program designed to help universities prepare graduate students and research fellows in the field of biomedical research for 21st century jobs, including those outside of the traditional academic tenure-track.

    BEST awards focus on enabling universities to create innovative pilot programs that increase student and trainee exposure to an array of research-related career options—including through coursework, workshops, and hands-on training experiences. This type of supplemental training is especially important in the biomedical sciences—where an estimated 77% of PhD students ultimately pursue careers outside of academia, such as in industry or government.

    The first set of ten BEST awards will provide about $250,000 per year, over five years, to support collaborative efforts between university departments and external partners that enrich graduate education and research experiences.

    The 2013 winners are already working to implement innovative programs that provide communications skills training; promote faculty and peer mentorship; guide career planning; provide industrial externship opportunities; and support student entrepreneurial leadership.  

    BEST awardees are also working to expose program participants to entrepreneurial thinking and provide training experiences for faculty mentors.

    For instance, a BEST-awarded program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University focuses on equipping faculty mentors to be effective “cheerleaders” for student participants in career-training programs—and on providing incentives to faculty members who are effective mentors.

  • Building a 21st Century Detroit

    Detroit Tech Team

    (Tech Team in front of Detroit City Hall: Brian Forde, Allen Square Jr., Gail Roper, John Tolva, Beth Niblock, Nigel Jacob, and Don Graves.)

    Last night, a team of top municipal-government technology officials from across the nation led by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) landed in Detroit to begin two days of work as a partner to support Detroit’s vision for economic revitalization.
    The officials participating in this “Tech Team” are:
    Nigel Jacob, Co-founder of the Office of New Urban Mechanics in the City of Boston, MA
    John Tolva, former Chief Technology Officer of the City of Chicago, IL
    Beth Niblock, Chief Information Officer of City of Louisville, KY
    Allen Square Jr., Chief Information Officer of the City of New Orleans, LA
    Gail Roper, Chief Information and Community Relations Officer for the City of Raleigh, NC
    These five individuals have led innovative efforts in Boston, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, and Raleigh that have created significant costs-savings for the local government and enabled the development of customer-facing tools that make government services easier to access. 
    For more information on the Tech Team, view a fact sheet here.
    Over the next two days, we will be facilitating meetings in Detroit with the Tech Team and city officials and local private-sector, non-profit, and civic innovators to collaborate and identify opportunities to leverage technology to help contribute to economic growth and dramatically improve services for city residents in high-impact sectors—in ways that are tailored to the needs of people in Detroit.  
    Building on work underway in Detroit, together, the Tech Team and the City will brainstorm solutions in several broad issue areas, including:
    Enabling Online Permitting: Identify ways for the city to offer the ability for local residents to apply and pay for business, safety, building, and other permits online;
    Evaluating IT Infrastructure:  Analyze existing IT infrastructure and software to identify opportunities for consolidation and cost savings in areas including software applications, data centers, and servers;
    Streamlining Payroll Systems: Review city payroll processes and identify opportunities to digitize manual processes and reduce costs and potential for errors;
    Opening Government Data: Identify opportunities to leverage new software to enable open government data to fuel entrepreneurs and innovation while ensuring privacy and security; and
    Creating a 311 System:  Recommend best practices for implementing a 311 system and decreasing non-emergency related service requests to emergency lines such as 911.

  • Toward a National Plan for Observing our Earth

    Today, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) took an important next step to maximize the value of the enormous amount of data collected every day about the Earth and its many environments: a call for public input to inform the development of a blueprint for future Federal investments in this increasingly important domain.

    The U.S. Government is the world’s largest single provider of Earth observations—including data and measurements collected from complex networks of satellites, ocean buoys, stream gauges, human surveys, and an array of other sophisticated tools and systems. Earth observations span land, air, sea, ice, ecosystems, and more—and address many of the multidimensional interactions among them. These observations provide information that is critical to the protection of human life and property; economic growth; national and homeland security; and scientific research. Earth-observations data that are openly shared also fuel job-creating companies and important services used across America every day, such as weather forecasts and analyses of crops and fisheries.

    In April 2013, the Obama Administration’s National Science and Technology Council released a National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations, setting a course to meet society’s most pressing Earth-data and information needs. Building on this Strategy, the call for input issued today will inform the development of a National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. The Plan will map out priority Federal Government activities to manage Earth-observation systems through routine assessments, improved data management, and coordinated planning. All of these activities will aim to enable stable, continuous, and coordinated Earth-observing capabilities for the benefit of society. 

  • We the Geeks: "Don’t Be Bored, Make Something"

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

    Have you ever considered what you might create with a state-of-the-art digital design studio? Have you ever thought about planning and printing a new pair of sneakers, instead of just buying some? Have you ever dreamt about what you would make if you had all the tools of industrial design at your fingertips?

    Well, those dreams may be closer than you think.

    A new generation of American pioneers is democratizing the tools of the industrial revolution and spreading them to students around the country. But these tools aren’t the rusty machines you might imagine – they’re 3-D printers, laser cutters, and water jets, and they give you the ability to make almost anything. Not only that, they may be coming soon to a school near you.

    Announcing the first ever White House Science Fair, the President called for an all hands on deck approach to grow a generation of Americans who are, “the makers of things, and not just the consumers of things.” And at the 2012 White House Science Fair, the President met student Joey Hudy and launched his marshmallow cannon, noting that Joey’s motto was, “Don’t be bored, make something.” Responding to that call, citizens, communities, and organizations are coming together to give students the tools to design with their minds and make with their hands.

    Join us and leading tinkerers, educators, and innovators on Friday, November 15that 1:00 pm ET for a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout, called “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something”.

  • Rooftop Solar Challenge: Empowering Innovators to Reach for the Sun

    This article was originally published on

    Today, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz kicked-off the latest round of the Rooftop Solar Challenge – an initiative that empowers local governments across the Nation to make it easier, cheaper, and faster for more Americans to go solar. The Rooftop Solar Challenge is spearheaded by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative – a national collaborative effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.

    Solar panels, inverters, and other hardware components that make up solar energy systems are more affordable than ever before. It is the “soft” costs of solar – including permitting for installation, interconnection, and maintenance fees – that represent an increasingly large portion of the cost of solar installations.

    To address this “soft” costs barrier, the Rooftop Solar Challenge brings together local officials, utilities, private industry, non-profits, and other stakeholders to simplify the solar installation process – from streamlining and standardizing solar permitting for area residents to digitizing many of the administrative steps required.

    During the competition’s first round, regional teams worked to dramatically reduce the soft costs of solar in 22 communities across the Nation – serving as models for other communities across the country. These efforts helped cut permitting time by 40 percent and reduce fees by over 10 percent – opening the door to make it faster and easier for more than 47 million Americans to install solar.