Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Launching the Police Data Initiative

    Today, the President is in Camden to talk about the promising progress that city is making in enhancing community policing. Last December, President Obama launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to better understand specific policing challenges and help communities identify actions they can take to improve law enforcement and enhance community engagement. Since that time, we have seen law enforcement agencies around the country working harder than ever to make the promise of community policing real.

    Many of the Task Force’s recommendations emphasize the opportunity for departments to better use data and technology to build community trust. As a response, the White House has launched the Police Data Initiative, which has mobilized 21 leading jurisdictions across the country to take fast action on concrete deliverables responding to these Task Force recommendations in the area of data and technology. Camden is one such jurisdiction. 

    By finding innovative work already underway in these diverse communities and bringing their leaders together with top technologists, researchers, data scientists and design experts, the Police Data Initiative is helping accelerate progress around data transparency and analysis, toward the goal of increased trust and impact. Through the Initiative, key stakeholders are establishing a community of practice that will allow for knowledge sharing, community-sourced problem solving, and the establishment of documented best practices that can serve as examples for police departments nationwide.

  • Hello, World

    Though it wasn’t true for President Obama when he became the first president to write a line of code back in December, it’s traditional for the first program a new coder writes to be one that prints out the message “Hello, world.”  From there, the next step for most people is to change the program to say something else, like “Hello, Ed,” and from there to something else.   Coding is exciting: you can decide what is supposed to happen, and the computer will do it…the only limit is your skill and imagination!  I have been coding for almost forty years, and I still can’t get over how cool it is that simple ideas, if combined cleverly, can lead to so many powerful applications.

  • Kids Serve, Too

    As we honor our service members and veterans during Military Appreciation Month this May, it’s important to remember that kids serve, too.

    It’s often not easy being the child of a military family, particularly when it comes to one’s education. Children of our nation’s service members attend six to nine different school systems on average, moving about every two years before they graduate from high school. Those transitions can make it hard to stay on track toward the goal of higher education. That is why Joining Forces, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, with support from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), is celebrating the work of organizations like the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), which is expanding support to military-connected students.

  • It Is Rocket Science! NASA Releases Abundance of Free Code

    This week, NASA released its second annual Software Catalog, a giant compendium of over 1,000 programs available for free to industry, government agencies, and the general public. The Software Catalog contains the actual advanced engineering and aeronautics codes NASA engineers purpose-built for their daily work.

    The Software Catalog stemmed from the October 28, 2011 Presidential Memorandum on accelerating the commercialization of Federal research in support of high-growth businesses, in which the President challenged all Federal agencies to find new ways to increase the efficiency and economic impact of their technology transfer activities.

    In response to this call to action, NASA developed a five-year plan for accelerating technology transfer with several high-level objectives, one of which was to locate, collect, and make accessible all of the agency’s software. The result was the Software Catalog, a comprehensive offering of all of NASA’s releasable software, including programs designated as open-source, codes-restricted, and government-use. The first edition of the Software Catalog, published in May 2014, has been downloaded over 100,000 times, and the Software Catalog website ( has received millions of visitors. With the release of the second edition of the Software Catalog, NASA remains the first and only agency to offer this comprehensive a collection of free software tools, and serves as an example for others to follow.

  • Engaging First-Year Students in STEM Research

    Investing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is critical to the Nation and its future. Projections indicate that by 2022, there will be 1 million fewer STEM college graduates than U.S. industries will need. We also rely on students and workers trained in STEM disciplines to address complex challenges now and in the future across areas as diverse as the environment, human health and wellbeing, and national security. One way to simultaneously train a robust STEM workforce and to tackle pressing science and technology issues is to provide undergraduate students with opportunities to perform authentic research early in their college careers.

  • Save the Date…the National Day of Civic Hacking is Coming June 6!

    I’m excited to let you know about the third annual National Day of Civic Hacking, coming June 6, 2015, to a city near you!  It’s a day when we’ll collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and the governments that serve them. Anyone can participate…you don’t have to be an expert in technology; you just have to care about your neighborhood and community.

    Lots of communities have existing frameworks for civic hacking events: events that provide opportunities for anyone who’s interested to collaborate to create services, apps, and websites that address social and civic issues that run the gamut from the environment to public accessibility to transit and housing. The National Day of Civic Hacking is a chance to connect and lift up these efforts to acknowledge the incredible impact that community collaboration, engagement, and volunteerism can have in our towns and cities.

    Participants gather at a civic hacking event in Asheville, NC last year. (Photo credit: Nick Skytland/NASA).

    I have to admit: this is one of those events that I just love. It brings together thousands of technologists, entrepreneurs, developers, designers, makers, organizers, scientists, and other citizens to improve their communities and the governments that represent them.