Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Statement by OSTP Director John P. Holdren on House-Proposed Funding Cuts to NASA's Critical Earth Science and Space Technology Programs

    On May 1, 2015, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Dr. John P. Holdren issued the following statement on proposed funding cuts to NASA's critical Earth science and space technology programs:

    "If enacted, the NASA authorization bill headed to the House floor later this month would do serious damage to the Nation’s space program, as well as to Earth-observation and Earth-science programs essential for predicting, preparing for, and minimizing the damage from disasters both natural and human-induced.

    The bill’s cuts to space-technology development would not only risk continued U.S leadership in the space industry, but would also impede progress on precisely those technologies—on-orbit refueling, advanced space propulsion, radiation protection in deep space, and more—needed to make crewed missions to deep space a reality. In the absence of robust investments to bring these technologies into being, the goal of sending U.S. astronauts to Mars in the 2030s could be in jeopardy.

    The House bill would also gut the NASA “mission to planet Earth”—the satellite observations and related research that provide key measurements and insights relevant to forecasting and tracking hurricanes, fighting wildfires, observing the state of the world’s farms and forests, mapping the extent of droughts, measuring the stocks of groundwater, and monitoring the likelihood of landslides. The draconian cuts in the House bill would also delay advances in our ability to research and prepare for volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis and blind us to changes in the Earth’s oceans and ice sheets that can be discerned only from space.

    NASA’s mission to observe, understand, and explore the solar system and the cosmos beyond has long been matched in importance by its mission to use the unrivaled vantage point of Earth orbit for looking downward, to better understand the only home that humanity currently has. It is difficult to understand why, at this time of U.S. leadership in both the outward-facing and inward-facing facets of NASA’s operations in space, the Congress would want to undermine that leadership and sacrifice the panoply of benefits it brings to the Nation." 

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  • Unleashing Tech and Innovation for Disaster Preparedness

    In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Administration established The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative to find effective ways to use technology to empower disaster survivors, first responders, communities, and all levels of government with critical information and collaboration resources. From last year’s SafetyDatapaloozas to  Civic Hardware Hackathons to new apps and tools being made available on data.gov, the Initiative continues to expand, strengthening our Nation’s capacity for innovative disaster response and recovery along the way.

    After more than 1,500 people participated in the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day last July, the #DisasterTech community has continued to grow and answer the Administration’s call to Unleash Innovation. Building upon the  tools, services, and efforts showcased at Demo Day and the launch of the Initiative’s first major online presence, disasters.data.gov, we are excited to see technology and innovation teams from the public and private sectors continuing to step up by supporting America’s PrepareAthon! and today’s National Day of Action for disaster preparedness.

    A host of new technology and innovation commitments being shared today include efforts on new interactive mapping tools, free and open source hardware designs, improved smartphone alerts, and a series of disaster resilience technology exhibits at the upcoming National Maker Faire, during a dedicated Week of Making this June 12 - 18. From free platforms that connect more than 59,000 neighborhoods and 750 local agencies across the country, to a network of 3,000 volunteers that has made over 14 million changes and additions to OpenStreetMap data in Ebola-affected regions, the numbers show this community’s dedication and collaborative spirit.   

    Throughout the day today you can follow the stories of innovators, entrepreneurs, agencies, companies, neighborhoods, and volunteers taking action with #PrepareAthon and #DisasterTech, and read more about technology and innovation commitments in support of the National Day of Action HERE

    To see what's happening in your community, or to register your own PrepareAthon activity, visit ready.gov/prepare – on this Day of Action and any day of the year.   

    Tamara Dickinson is Principal Assistant Director for Environment and Energy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

    David Applegate is Associate Director for Natural Hazards at the US Geological Survey

  • Taking Action for America’s PrepareAthon!

    When a disaster hits, Americans often have to act fast to keep their families safe and protect their homes and businesses from harm. But responding to an emergency takes more than fast action. To ensure an effective response, Americans must prepare in advance to identify the risks they face, know which steps to take to prepare, and understand their community’s plan.

    That’s the idea behind America’s PrepareAthon! National Day of Action. As a nation, we’ve made great progress building and sustaining national preparedness, but we still face diverse threats that challenge our collective security and resilience. And today, individuals, families, and communities across the country are coming together to take action to prepare for some of those threats, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and winter storms.

  • Improving the Lives of Older Americans Through Science and Technology

    As the Obama Administration prepares to host the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, we have been engaging with older Americans, caregivers, families, researchers, leaders in the field of aging, and other stakeholders across the country to hear about their most important issues. These individual conversations have helped us identify some common themes, including:

    • Ensuring that older Americans are financially prepared for retirement
    • Maintaining individuals’ health as they age
    • Identifying services and supports that can help older adults live independently in their communities as they age and finding ways to support the caregivers who help them
    • Protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect

    Advances in science and technology hold much promise for helping older Americans remain healthy and prepare for their future across all of these themes. For example, technology may help older Americans to exercise, take medication on time, eat healthy meals, and connect with family and friends. It can also make it easier for them to travel, find volunteer/employment opportunities, prevent financial exploitation, and live independently in their homes. Advances in the neurosciences of memory and cognition may lead to engaging games and smartphone apps that could prevent or slow cognitive decline. Recognizing the promise and potential of advances in this domain, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is studying how technology can help people live at home while they age.

  • Growing the Network of Innovators in Government

    Participants in a variety of Federal fellowship programs bring enthusiasm, new ideas, and fresh perspectives to Federal departments and agencies every day. Last week, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) convened a workshop to teach 100 current participants in Federal fellowship programs how to apply creative 21st-century tools to their fellowship projects, and to use these tools to inspire and ignite innovation in government.

    100 current participants in almost a dozen Federal fellowship programs gathered at OSTP last week to learn more about innovation in government. (Photo credit: Noel Bakhtian)

  • OSTP and USPTO Welcome Game-Changing Innovators for the 2015 Patents for Humanity Ceremony

    On April 20, OSTP and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted the 2015 Patents for Humanity award winners for a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Patents for Humanity, which was launched at the White House in February 2012, is a USPTO program that recognizes innovators who use pioneering technology to confront humanitarian challenges.

    Under Secretary Michelle Lee with representatives of the 2015 Patents for Humanity award winners: American Standard Brands, Global Research Innovation & Technology (GRIT), Golden Rice, Novartis, Nutriset, Sanofi, and SunPower Corp. (Photo Credit: Jeff Isaacs, USPTO)

    OSTP has long recognized the promise of such pull mechanisms to help overcome market failures and catalyze potentially game-changing innovations through market incentives. The Administration’s efforts in this area focus on making the best use of the technological and scientific breakthroughs that are characteristic of America’s entrepreneurs, innovators, and researchers by expediting commercialization of inventions for humanitarian purposes and rewarding companies that use their patented technologies to solve societal challenges.