Memo sets Scientific Priorities in the Obama Administration

August 19, 2009

A memorandum jointly released by Peter R. Orszag and John P. Holdren – the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, respectively - on August 4 th has outlined the establishment of scientific priorities for the FY2011 budget.

The memorandum begins by defining scientific discovery and innovation as, “major engines for increasing productivity…promoting economic growth, safeguarding the environment, improving the health of the population and safeguarding our national security.” It directs agencies to develop a means by which they may redirect resources from, “lower-priority areas,” to scientific and technological activities that are designed to meet four identifiable, “practical challenges,” to administration priorities. The challenges are described in the memorandum as follows:

·          Applying science and technology strategies to drive economic recovery, job creation, and economic growth;

·          Promoting innovative energy technologies to reduce dependence on energy imports and mitigate the impact of climate-change while creating green jobs and new businesses;

·          Applying biomedical science and information technology to help Americans live longer, healthier lives while reducing health care costs;

·          Assuring we have the technologies needed to protect our troops, citizens, and national interests, including those needed to verify arms control and nonproliferation agreements essential to our security

The memo then offers four strategic goals designed to help agencies address the above challenges. These are described as:

·          Increasing the productivity of our research institutions, including our research universities and major public and private laboratories and research centers;

·          Strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at every level, from pre-college to post-graduate to lifelong learning;

·          Improving and protecting our information, communication, and transportation infrastructure, which is essential to our commerce, science, and security alike; and

·          Enhancing our capabilities in space, which are essential for communications, geopositioning, intelligence gathering, Earth observation, and national defense, as well as for increasing our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

The memorandum concludes by not only directing agencies to describe the expected outcomes of their budget proposals, but to ensure transparency in their requests and to provide, “quantitative metrics,” where at all possible to support their proposals as well. It further directs federal agencies to clearly illustrate how federal, “science and technology investments contribute to increased economic productivity and progress,” and how these goals and initiatives outlined in the memo are conducted with the, “highest standards of ethical and scientific integrity.”


Submitted by Peter Lougee, Policy Intern

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