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10/11/2012
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White House Wants Ideas For Next Moonshot

Think big: The Office of Science and Technology Policy and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are looking for the next 'grand challenge.'

14 Amazing DARPA Technologies On Tap
14 Amazing DARPA Technologies On Tap
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are looking for groundbreaking achievements. Not just any new ideas, but "grand challenges for the 21st Century," in line with the lunar landing and sequencing of the human genome. And they want your help.

The White House and DOD on Tuesday released a request for information seeking suggestions on grand challenges that will require significant advances in science and technology, and seeking those suggestions "from a wide variety of diverse perspectives--young and old, scientist and layperson, domestic and international."

In particular, the request for information asks submitters to send presentations of their ideas to DARPA by January 1, 2013. Submissions will need to discuss what the idea is, how it will "capture the public's imagination," success metrics, what trends and technology support the idea that the goal is feasible, what breakthroughs will be needed to achieve it, and what organizations or people could come together to participate in the effort to achieve the goals.

[ Is fear of failure holding back government innovation? See Fix The Fear Factor In Government Innovation. ]

While the White House and DOD say they are seeking widespread participation, they chose to announce their request on the relatively lightly trafficked FedBizOpps.gov government procurement website rather than highlighting it on a more heavily used platform such as the White House's own website.

This isn't the first time that the Obama White House has sought ideas for "grand challenges." The administration first called for the pursuit of such efforts in its 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, and in February 2010, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council released a request for information similar to the one released this week by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and DARPA.

The 2010 request sought help with the grand challenges that the Obama Administration identified in its Strategy for American Innovation, information on other grand challenges the administration should consider, partners interested in working to achieve these goals, and models for allowing many people to participate in the challenges.

More recently, the Office of Science and Technology Policy announced that it planned to hold a conference on grand challenges and made the effort to spark more grand challenges a core piece of its open government strategy. Then, in its fiscal 2014 science and tech policy budget guidance sent to agencies in June, the White House instructed agencies to "identify and pursues 'grand challenges'" as part of their research efforts.

Cybersecurity, continuity planning, and data records management top the list in our latest Federal IT Priorities Survey. Also in the new, all-digital Focus On The Foundation issue of InformationWeek Government: The FBI's next-gen digital case management system, Sentinel, is finally up and running. (Free registration required.)

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