Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Citizen Cartographers Unite: Report from the First White House Mapathon

    Last week, citizen cartographers joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Digital Strategy for the first-ever White House Mapathon.

    In just three hours, more than 80 mappers edited more than 400 roads and 1,000 buildings in OpenStreetMap, and collected power outage info on 152 power utilities. The mapathon focused on three main projects: humanitarian mapping efforts, mapping U.S. parks, and power outage mapping. 

    Benson Wilder describes the Nepal mapping project in the wake of the April 2015 earthquake

    Benson Wilder, of the State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit, describes the Nepal mapping project in the wake of the April 2015 earthquake.

  • A Note on Genome Editing

    Last week, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and its National Academy of Medicine (NAM) announced that they will convene an international meeting this fall at which researchers, ethicists, and other experts will discuss the implications of human germline gene-editing technologies in both research and clinical applications.

    The White House applauds NAS and NAM for convening this dialogue and fully supports a robust review of the ethical issues associated with using gene-editing technology to alter the human germline. The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.

  • National Museum and Library Medal Winners Inspire “Makers” Across America

    Earlier this week, First Lady Michelle Obama presented the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to ten museums and libraries that are extraordinary agents of change in their communities. The medal, an award of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, recognizes the many ways these community institutions enhance civic engagement, promote economic vitality, and connect visitors to 21st-century teaching and learning. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, a Federal agency, is the primary source of Federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums.

    Libraries and museums have long been centers for self-directed and participatory lifelong teaching and learning. Today, this often includes providing visitors with tools, technologies, and spaces to make and innovate, and to explore the diverse applications of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

  • What's Next for the Microbiome?

    Advances in gene-sequencing technology have expanded our knowledge of microorganisms, revealing new species in every environment from the upper atmosphere — an extreme environment not before known to harbor life — to the human lung, formerly thought to be sterile. Vast networks of microbial communities are found frequently in places as familiar as the human gut and the soil beneath our feet. These communities contribute to essential life processes, sometimes in unanticipated ways. For example, bacteria have been shown to clean up waterways after oil spills, help people digest foods such as seaweed, and contribute to global nitrogen and carbon cycling.

    Knowing these communities exist is just the first step — now researchers are applying this knowledge to benefit human health and the planet. Addressing fundamental questions common across the study of communities of microorganisms, or “microbiomes,” can help propel the field forward toward practical applications in areas as diverse as environmental remediation, food production and nutrition, and medical research.

  • New Initiatives to Accelerate the Commercialization of Nanotechnology

    Today, May 20, the National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy held a forum at the White House to discuss opportunities to accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology.

    Participants in the White House Forum on Small Business Challenges to Commercializing Nanotechnology. (Photo credit: Lloyd Whitman)

    Over the last fifteen years, the Federal government has invested over $20 billion in nanotechnology R&D as part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), working towards breakthroughs such as smart anticancer therapeutics that will destroy tumors while leaving healthy cells untouched, and lighter, thinner body armor that could save the lives of America’s soldiers.

    A recent review of the NNI by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) concluded that:

    “…the nanotechnology field is at a critical transition point and has entered its second era, which we call NNI 2.0.  This next technological generation will see the evolution from nanoscale components to interdisciplinary nanosystems and the movement from a foundational researchbased initiative to one that also provides the necessary focus to ensure rapid commercialization of nanotechnology.”

    In recognition of the importance of nanotechnology R&D, representatives from companies, government agencies, colleges and universities, and non-profits are announcing a series of new and expanded public and private initiatives that complement the Administration’s efforts to accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology and expand the nanotechnology workforce:

  • You Had Me At Hello: Brainteaser Solution

    Thanks to everyone who emailed and tweeted about my “Hello, World” blog post and brainteaser! Following in the footsteps of my fellow Deputy CTO DJ Patil, I’m bringing you the brainteaser solution with a little “back-of-the-napkin” math:

    Too easy for you? Let’s kick it up a notch.