Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon December 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM EDT
Today OSTP released its second annual comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by Federal agencies to spur innovation and solve Grand Challenges. Those efforts have expanded in the last two years under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which granted all Federal agencies the authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions.
This year’s report details the remarkable benefits the Federal Government reaped in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 from more than 45 prize competitions across 10 agencies. To date, nearly 300 prize competitions have been implemented by 45 agencies through the website Challenge.gov.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has taken important steps to make prizes a standard tool in every agency’s toolbox. In his September 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, President Obama called on all Federal agencies to increase their use of prizes to address some of our Nation’s most pressing challenges. In March 2010, the Office of Management and Budget issued a policy framework to guide agencies in using prizes to mobilize American ingenuity and advance their respective core missions. Then, in September 2010, the Administration launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prize competitions.
The prize authority in COMPETES is a key piece of this effort. By giving agencies a clear legal path and expanded authority to deploy competitions and challenges, the legislation makes it dramatically easier for agencies to enlist this powerful approach to problem-solving and to pursue ambitious prizes with robust incentives.
As the report released today makes clear, agencies made big strides in the challenge arena in FY 2012. In FY 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began establishing strategies to expand its use of the new prize authority – and by FY 2012, HHS emerged as a leader in implementing prize programs, offering 18 prize competitions, many conducted through public-private partnerships. Also in FY 2012, the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration issued challenges focused on leveraging open government data to benefit entrepreneurs, job-seekers, and small businesses.
To support these ongoing efforts, the General Services Administration continues to train agencies about resources and vendors available to help them administer prize competitions. In addition, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) provides other agencies with a full suite of services for incentive prize pilots – from prize design, through implementation, to post-prize evaluation.
- Posted byon December 13, 2013 at 4:44 PM EDT
I’m calling for investments in educational technology that will help create. . . educational software that’s as compelling as the best video game. I want you guys to be stuck on a video game that’s teaching you something other than just blowing something up. -- President Obama, March 2011
Computers and computer science are becoming ever more important to the future careers of today’s students. That’s one reason OSTP is interested in exploring the use of “games for impact” to address important societal challenges and opportunities—including in the realm of education. Games for impact (sometimes called “serious games”) are designed to be at once entertaining and engaging, and also something more: educational, enlightening, and perhaps even designed to motivate action.
Just as books and films can be used to inform and educate as well as entertain, so can games. Topics that may be challenging to understand through traditional “linear” media can sometimes be easier to grasp when conveyed in an interactive manner. Games can enable students to explore a subject at their own pace, allowing them to try – and potentially to fail – repeatedly, until a concept is mastered, without external consequence. Through games, students can learn to navigate the rule-set and world created by a game designer, which can be built around almost any task—from stealthily outwitting enemies to solving algebraic equations.
Many current state-of-the-art games focus on entertainment more than education, but games show promise as powerful teaching and learning tools. Recent work utilizing adaptive learning games has demonstrated that such games can be effective tools for teaching children mathematics. Neuroscience research is increasingly identifying ways in which games can have a powerful positive impact on the brain.
Across the Government, agencies are already beginning to explore and develop games for impact. Events such as the White House Apps for Healthy Kids Challenge and the National STEM Video Game Challenge are helping encourage the development of apps and games designed to teach. Some recently developed games for impact created in cooperation with Federal agencies include the State Department’s “Trace Effects”, NASA’s “Moonbase Alpha,” and Filament Games’ “Reach for the Sun” (which was supported by an SBIR grant from the Department of Education).
- Posted byon December 13, 2013 at 2:57 PM EDT
Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math -- the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future. -- President Obama, 2013 State of the Union
Last month, President Obama announced a new $100 million competition launched by the U.S. Department of Labor to help American high schools prepare students for college and for careers in a 21st century economy.
Computer Science Education Week is a perfect time to highlight this new Administration effort—called Youth CareerConnect—to inspire and prepare girls and boys in communities across the country to be the designers, programmers, engineers, and innovators of the future through increasing their access to hands-on, real-world-relevant education and skills.
Through Youth CareerConnect, up to 40 grants will be awarded to partnerships between local schools systems, employers, community colleges or universities, and others that are committed to strengthening America’s talent pipeline and providing students with industry-relevant education to prepare them for college and careers.
Schools and their partners will be challenged to focus on addressing key shortages in “H-1B fields”—occupations tied to the H1-B temporary-visa program, which are predominantly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
This is an exciting investment that will prepare more American students to be the innovators, researchers, engineers, and entrepreneurs of the future. This initiative also, in part, answers a call by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in its 2010 report on STEM K-12 Education, Prepare and Inspire, to increase the number of STEM-focused schools across the country.
Applicants will be judged on their efforts to serve a diverse student population, which will ensure access to preparation and training in the STEM fields for girls and minority groups currently underrepresented in many of these careers.
- Posted byon December 12, 2013 at 4:04 PM EDT
Today, we congratulate the biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and the voluntary-patent-licensing organization the Medicines Patent Pool on their newly-announced agreement to increase access to the critical HIV treatment, atazanavir, in developing countries.
The announcement continues a steady drumbeat of positive steps by Gilead Sciences, ViiV Healthcare (a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Shionogi), and Roche to partner with the Medicines Patent Pool to lower the price of HIV medicines for use in developing nations. The Medicines Patent Pool is a UN-backed initiative that negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to come to voluntary licensing agreements that speed the production of affordable generic medicines. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) became the first patent holder to share patents with the Medicines Patent pool in 2010.
Atazanavir is an important HIV treatment recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use as patients develop resistance to first-line regimens. The WHO estimates there will be more than 1 million people on second-line treatment by 2016, and many more will need access to second-line medicines. The Medicine Patent Pool’s agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb will make atazanavir more affordable in 110 developing countries, where nearly 90% of people living with HIV reside.
The United States leads the world in funding HIV treatment in developing countries, helping not only to keep people alive and able to take care of their families, but also to reduce new infections and contribute to economic growth. By decreasing the cost of atazanavir and other HIV medicines, the Medicines Patent Pool is helping to ensure that the funds committed to create an AIDS-free generation are used as effectively as possible.
- Posted byon December 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM EDTFinding ways to use wireless spectrum more efficiently is a critical part of President Obama’s ambitious strategy for expanding the availability of spectrum for innovative and flexible commercial uses, including for broadband services, to drive innovation, expand consumer services, and create jobs.This past summer, President Obama issued a memorandum directing Federal agencies to take a number of steps to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and accelerate shared access to spectrum for consumer services and applications, including by advancing collaboration and information sharing with the private sector and other stakeholders, developing the necessary technology innovations to support spectrum sharing, and providing agencies with incentives to relocate from or share spectrum in a timely and cost-effective manner.Balancing the growing needs of both commercial and Federal spectrum users presents opportunities for increased efficiency and economic growth, but also poses challenges. In particular, commercial wireless providers must learn how to operate their systems in spectrum bands that will be shared by Federal agencies using that same spectrum for operations such as conducting military training exercises, maintaining air safety, or tracking criminal activity.That’s why it is absolutely essential to enhance collaboration and information sharing between Federal agencies and private-sector wireless technology companies. And we already know that it can work.For example, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently approved a Defense Department proposal to share with non-Federal users, by auction, a 25-megahertz band of spectrum—known as the “1755 band.” This band has been long coveted by the wireless industry for its appealing propagation characteristics and because it can be paired with another swath of spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission is required to license via auction by early 2015. However, because the 1755 band will not be vacated entirely, mechanisms must be in place for the band to be shared so that it maximizes its commercial value while also protecting essential government functions. For this to happen, bidders must be able to access technical details about the spectrum they may bid on, without jeopardizing sensitive Federal operations. To address these challenges, industry-agency working groups collaborated intensively, ahead of time, to help identify details about what kinds of Federal systems already operate in the 1755 megahertz band, which ones would be relocated and which would remain, and how commercial networks could successfully move into the band. The success of the process so far is a testament to the Defense Department’s commitment not just to protecting our nation militarily, but also to strengthening it economically.
- Posted byon December 11, 2013 at 12:27 PM EDT
This week, we’re celebrating Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week), which highlights the importance of computer science in our education system. To recognize CS Ed Week this year, we encourage everyone to participate in the Hour of Code. It’s an easy way for anyone to learn computer science and see that it’s fun, creative, and challenging.
Advances in computer science—which includes problem solving, creativity, abstraction and programming—have transformed the way we live, work, learn, play and communicate; they are actually changing the world. Whether designing artificial limbs, developing algorithms for self-driving cars, analyzing medical data to develop more effective treatments, creating simulations to better explore and understand complex scientific phenomena, or creating multimedia art—just about anything you can think of—computational skills are empowering.
Computer science also leads to great jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Further, Information Technology (IT) workers have been estimated to earn 74 percent more than the average worker. Even beyond IT jobs, computational skills will make you more valuable to employers.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), with its long legacy of nurturing communities of research and education practitioners, is leading a transformation in CS education and learning at the national scale. NSF’s CS 10K Project aims to build the foundation needed to get engaging, rigorous academic computer science courses into 10,000 schools taught by 10,000 well-prepared teachers. To begin this, NSF has funded the development and implementation of two new computer science courses—CS Principles (to be a new College Board Advanced Placement course starting in the Fall of 2016) and Exploring Computer Science. Both courses are designed to teach the fundamental concepts and big ideas of computing along with coding, and to inspire kids about computer science’s creative potential to transform society. These courses were designed to be accessible and engaging for all students, with the particular goal of increasing inclusion of women and other groups that are significantly underrepresented in computing.
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