OSTP Issues Call for Input on S&T “Grand Challenges”

Posted on February 10, 2010. Filed under: innovation, science & technology | Tags: , , |

Another opportunity for public input to potential policy decisions …

One of the goals of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation is to harness science and technology to address the “grand challenges” of the 21st century.

 On February 4th the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Economic Council released a “request for information” (RFI) to collect input from the public regarding the grand challenges identified in the aforementioned innovation strategy, other grand challenges that should be considered, such as those identified by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and other factors.

There’s an April 15th response deadline, and RFI details can be found here.   The RFI calls for input on any of the grand challenges identified by President Obama, or by the NAE, or others.    There are 12 questions covering such topics as whether or not the US should make it a priority to achieve the specific grand challenge, what public or private sector activities could be leveraged to achieve the grand challenge, what metrics should be used to evaluate success, what economic, ethical, legal, societal, and/or policy issues , what partners or types of partners would need to collaborate to accomplish the specific grand challenge … and more.

The President’s grand challenges are:

  • Complete DNA sequencing of every case of cancer; smart anti-cancer therapeutics that kill cancer cells and leave their normal neighbors untouched; early detection of dozens of diseases from a saliva sample; nanotechnology that delivers drugs precisely to the desired tissue; personalized medicine that enables the prescription of the right dose of the right drug for the right person; a universal vaccine for influenza that will protect against all future strains; and regenerative medicine that can end the agonizing wait for an organ transplant.
  • Solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume.
  • A light-weight vest for soldiers and police officers that can stop an armor-piercing bullet.
  • Educational software that is as compelling as the best video game and as effective as a personal tutor; online courses that improve the more students use them; and a rich, interactive digital library at the fingertips of every child.
  • Intelligent prosthetics that will allow a veteran who has lost both of his arms to play the piano again.
  • Biological systems that can turn sunlight into carbon-neutral fuel, reduce the costs of producing anti-malarial drugs by a factor of 10, and quickly and inexpensively dispose of radioactive wastes and toxic chemicals.
  • An “exascale” supercomputer capable of a million trillion calculations per second – dramatically increasing our ability to understand the world around us through simulation and slashing the time needed to design complex products such as therapeutics, advanced materials, and highly-efficient autos and aircraft.
  • Automatic, highly accurate and real-time translation between the major languages of the world – greatly lowering the barriers to international commerce and collaboration.

 The NAE’s grand challenges are:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructures
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Which of the many grand challenges listed above shouldtake priority? What other grand challenges should the government consider tackling? How can it be done?  The OSTP RFI is an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

Need more information?  Perhaps I can help.


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