Can the United States top the first moon walk, or the sequencing of the human genome?
The White House’s effort to reach scientists and engineers will culminate with AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society, leading an unprecedented call to action that urges scientists and engineers to offer input on science and technology priorities for the next generation.
The sweeping call for collective wisdom—leveraging Twitter, Facebook, and a new, open-source technology called ThinkTank—also will reach all members of AAAS.
President Barack Obama and the Office of Science and Technology Policy are exploring new ways of tapping public expertise, particularly to gather feedback on the grand scientific and technological challenges that will help drive innovation, create jobs, improve education, and inspire future innovators. Toward that end, AAAS and its new Expert Labs initiative will implement an e-mail and social media campaign next week to help encourage scientists and engineers to contribute their ideas.
Expert Labs—directed at AAAS by social media gurus Anil Dash and Gina Trapani and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—is an independent effort to enhance the policymaking process. ThinkTank, the team’s first mechanism for achieving that goal, developed by Trapani in collaboration with dozens of volunteer programmers, is a free, installable Web application that makes it possible to broadly tap expertise via Twitter and Facebook.
“ThinkTank lets us connect feedback and responses across many networks, rather than just one network, and that’s definitively a new and ambitious concept,” Dash explained. He will be discussing the effort at Twitter’s first-ever developer conference on 14 April.
What grand challenges face the scientific community? When Obama released his “Strategy for American Innovation” on 21 September 2009, he had offered the following examples of future challenges:
- Complete DNA sequencing of every case of cancer;
- A universal vaccine for influenza to protect against all future strains;
- Solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that produce all the energy that they consume;
- A lightweight vest for soldiers and police officers that can stop an armor-piercing bullet;
- Educational software as compelling as the best video game and as effective as a personal tutor; and
- 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, inexpensively dispose of radioactive wastes and toxic chemicals.
The White House is eager for ideas to help shape the federal government’s current and future scientific priorities. To submit ideas, log onto www.expertlabs.org.
Learn more about Expert Labs.
See a video interview with Expert Labs Director Anil Dash, done last fall when the Expert Labs initiative was first announced. Or read a transcript of the interview.
Learn more about Expert Labs.