Full STEM Ahead – Supporting congressional decisions in science and technology

From smartphones and internet-connected home devices to bioengineered life-sustaining vaccines, our daily lives are profoundly impacted by advances in science and technology.

Here at GAO, we explore the opportunities and challenges of new scientific and technological developments for Congress. From quantum computing and blockchain to the global semiconductor shortage, our work can influence national policy decisions.

Today’s WatchBlog post provides information about our work in these areas.

Focus on science and technology

Our STEM expertise allows us to support a variety of congress needs.

For example, in July 2022 we reported on options for dealing with risks in the semiconductor supply chain. Our nation faces supply chain bottlenecks in these microchips, which are critical to nearly all US industries and our national defense. This low supply resulted in 3 million fewer cars being produced in North America last year and a 12% increase in new car prices. Our report discussed a number of policies that could mitigate semiconductor supply chain risks and help mitigate future semiconductor shortages.

Similarly, in March we completed an assessment of blockchain technology. Blockchain can be used for a variety of financial and non-financial applications such as: B. Cryptocurrency and supply chain management. Blockchain is useful for some applications, but limited or even problematic for others. For example, because of its tamper resistance, it can be useful for applications involving many participants who do not necessarily trust each other. But it may be overly complex for some trusted users where traditional spreadsheets and databases may be more helpful. Blockchain can also pose security and privacy challenges and be energy intensive.

These are just two examples. Over the next year we will also look at a variety of other topics such as brain-computer interfaces, gene editing, energy innovation and federal investment in research infrastructure.

Discover new tools for tomorrow

Strategic moves are needed to help Congress move from today’s problems to tomorrow’s policy solutions.

We will continue to provide innovative ways to communicate with Congress and the federal science and technology community – whether through technical advice to Congress and its staff or expanded product options, such as: B. new data science products and training. For example:

Data Science Products. Over the next year, our Innovation Lab plans to prototype emerging technologies—including blockchain, robotic process automation, and extended reality—to learn more about their potential benefits in federal testing. Results from the lab are used to improve audit craft and inform accountability.

training courses To increase congress awareness of our science and technology topics, our experts have led multi-part training courses on complex topics such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. These training sessions—based on our insights and agency recommendations—reached hundreds of convention staffers in a format that encouraged real-time questioning and discussion.

With scientific advances growing exponentially, it is critical that policymakers and the public have access to timely and impartial analysis of complex science and technology issues. While we cannot predict the future, our STEM experts and policy analysts will continue to support Congress as it grapples with the opportunities and challenges presented by new science and technology.

Learn more in our new report on Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics at GAO.

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