Wednesday, July 1, 2009

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

By Geoff Rapoport

This summer, I'm interning at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The OSTP is a federal agency located within the Executive Office of the President and headed by the President's Science Advisor, Dr. Holdren. The two major functions of the office are providing science advice to the President and helping to develop the President's budget priorities for science activities.

One major perk of the job is the opportunity to meet and work with exceptional people. In my first month, I got a fist-pound from the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, talked one-on-one with the President's Science Advisor about the benefits of a cap-and-trade system over a carbon tax, and met the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. While I have not yet met Bo, on Tuesdays I volunteer in the White House Garden and I am hopeful that he will make an appearance on the South Lawn soon.

I've been doing most of my work for two people: Rachael Leonard, the Acting General Counsel of OSTP, and Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO for Open Government.

Almost all of my work for Rachael can be traced back to enabling the President to get science advice from the advisors he has chosen. This includes ensuring that the members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology are in compliance with all relevant financial disclosure laws and providing other employees of OSTP with advice on how to comply with the ethics laws that affect them.

For Beth, I have been reviewing some of the law around open government issues. Unfortunately, sometimes otherwise good law gets in the way of everyone's best intentions. Web 2.0 tools are very hard to reconcile with the Federal Records Act, which envisioned a world where everything that needed to be saved for future historians was already on paper. I am also looking at what is required for an agency to implement an innovation incentive prize program (like the Ansari X Prize).

I'm only halfway through, but it has been a special experience for which I'm very grateful, both to the EJF donors who are keeping a roof over my head and to the people at OSTP with whom I work.

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