Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Improving Transparency and Ensuring Continued Safety in Biotechnology

    In 1986, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, which outlined a comprehensive Federal regulatory policy for ensuring the safety of biotechnology products. The Framework was updated in 1992.  While the current regulatory system for biotechnology products effectively protects health and the environment, advances in science and technology since 1992 have been altering the product landscape.  In addition, the complexity of the array of regulations and guidance documents developed by the three Federal agencies with jurisdiction over biotechnology products can make it difficult for the public to understand how the safety of biotechnology products is evaluated, and navigating the regulatory process for these products can be unduly challenging, especially for small companies.

    These circumstances call for revisiting the Coordinated Framework once more.  Accordingly, today the White House is issuing a memorandum directing the three Federal agencies that have oversight responsibilities for these products—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA)— to update the Coordinated Framework, develop a long-term strategy to ensure that the system is prepared for the future products of biotechnology, and commission an expert analysis of the future landscape of biotechnology products to support this effort.

  • Seven Days of Making!

    Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (first from left), and Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of OSTP (second from left), examine Open ROV, an open-source, underwater robot at the 2015 National Maker Faire. (Photo credit: Meredith Lee).

    This week, Americans of all ages and backgrounds celebrated a National Week of Making, which President Obama proclaimed for June 12-18. The week coincided with the one-year anniversary of the first-ever White House Maker Faire, when the President issued a call to action for individuals and organizations to “lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” The Week was an opportunity for communities nationwide to highlight local examples of innovation and hands-on learning of STEM, arts, and design. Makers nationwide are using these skills to develop and scale up creative new products and solutions to solve local and global challenges.

    Read on to learn more about how the National Week of Making was celebrated here at the White House, in our Nation’s capital, and beyond.

  • We The Geeks: Made With Pride

    Last week, the White House celebrated a National Week of Making to honor those who lift up makers and builders across the country. This year, the Week of Making coincided with the White House’s celebrations of LGBT Pride Month.  

    To recognize the accomplishments of makers and LGBT people in tech, we’ll be hosting our latest episode of We The Geeks, featuring:

    • Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States
    • Alexis Lewis, a teen inventor and patent-holder
    • Leanne Pittsford, Founder of Lesbians Who Tech
    • Alex Surasky-Ysasi; Social Innovator & Engineer at Satellite Shelter

    Hear from these amazing innovators and join us for “We The Geeks: Made With Pride” on Wednesday, June 24 at 1:00 p.m. ET by joining us at www.whitehouse.gov/we-the-geeks.

    Got questions? Ask them using the hashtag #WeTheGeeks on Twitter and on Google+ and we'll answer some of them during the live hangout.

  • Honoring Outstanding Mentors in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

    When I was in 10th grade, my biology teacher, Mr. Postiglione, gave me a newspaper clipping about breeding corn to increase its nutritional value as a staple food. Mr. P. knew that I wanted to study plants and instinctively recognized that I would be interested in the global application of plant genetics described in the article. Little did he know that I was so inspired by the article (which, by the way, was posted over my desk for more than a decade) that it initiated my lifelong passion for agriculture and determined my professional trajectory. Mr. P. was a mentor of the best kind – he thought about my interests, never imposing his own hopes on me. And at a time when others discouraged girls from pursuing science, Mr. P. showed his faith in me by thoughtfully, over his morning coffee and newspaper, finding just the right spark to ignite my imagination and impel me toward many goals throughout my scientific career, even today.

    So I know firsthand just how powerful the impact of mentoring can be for students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). And I couldn’t be happier to work for a President who appreciates the importance of STEM mentoring as well.

    Yesterday, President Obama met with 14 scientists and engineers and the representatives of a STEM mentoring organization who exemplify what it means to be an effective STEM mentor. They are the latest winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), an award presented by the White House to individuals and organizations to recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students and young professionals in STEM – particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

    President Obama meets with PAESMEM awardees in the Oval Office on June 17, 2015. (Official White House photo)

  • Unleashing Climate Data and Tools to Empower America’s Transportation Sector

    Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative and the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Obama Administration is providing data and tools that will help ensure our nation’s transportation systems are more resilient to the effects of climate change.

    In the United States, transportation systems are designed to withstand local weather and climate. Transportation engineers typically refer to historical records of climate, especially extreme weather events, when designing transportation systems. For example, bridges are often designed to withstand storms that have a probability of occurring only once or twice every 100 years.

    However, due to climate change, historical climate is no longer a reliable predictor of future impacts.

    The impacts of climate change – including more intense storms and storm surge damage, more severe droughts and heat waves, and sea-level rise – can increase the risk of delays, disruptions, damage, and failure across our land-based, air, and marine transportation systems. This is particularly important considering the interconnectivity of these systems. Actionable science, data, information, and tools can empower planners and decision makers to account for these impacts in the transportation sector, potentially helping avoid disruptions to operations and costly repairs, and helping ensure that major investments into infrastructure intended to last many decades is not put at risk prematurely.

  • A Call for Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenges

    Today, June 17, the Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking suggestions for Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenges for the Next Decade. A Grand Challenge is an ambitious but achievable goal that requires advances in science and technology to achieve, and that has the potential to capture the public’s imagination.

    Under the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), scientists, engineers, and educators are building a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry. The collective effort of this community to achieve the vision of the NNI has greatly accelerated the discovery, development, and deployment of nanotechnology to address broad national needs.