Obama’s goal for research and development is 3% of our GDP:
I believe it is not in our American character to follow – but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.
I’m not much for patriotism rah-rah but it’s hard not to get fired up about this. I found the rest of his speech remarkable as well, listing specific technologies that emerged from basic research, too often overlooked:
The Apollo program itself produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers.
And the announcement of a new agency along the lines of DARPA:
And today, I am also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative – recommended by this organization – called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.
This is based on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik. It has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research. The precursor to the internet, known as ARPANET, stealth technology, and the Global Positioning System all owe a debt to the work of DARPA.
The speech, nearly 5000 words in total (did our former President spill that many words for science during eight years in office?) continues with more policy regarding research, investment, and education–all very exciting to read. But perhaps my most favorite line of all, when he said to the members of the National Academy of Sciences in attendance:
And so today I want to challenge you to use your love and knowledge of science to spark the same sense of wonder and excitement in a new generation.
Word on the street (where by “the street” I mean an email from Golan Levin), is that the Center for Responsive Politics has made available piles and piles of data:
The following data sets, along with a user guide, resource tables and other documentation, are now available in CSV format (comma-separated values, for easy importing) through OpenSecrets.org’s Action Center at http://www.opensecrets.org/action/data.php:
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: 195 million records dating to the 1989-1990 election cycle, tracking campaign fundraising and spending by candidates for federal office, as well as political parties and political action committees. CRP’s researchers add value to Federal Election Commission data by cleaning up and categorizing contribution records. This allows for easier totaling by industry and company or organization, to measure special-interest influence.
LOBBYING: 3.5 million records on federal lobbyists, their clients, their fees and the issues they reported working on, dating to 1998. Industry codes have been applied to this data, as well.
PERSONAL FINANCES: Reports from members of Congress and the executive branch that detail their personal assets, liabilities and transactions in 2004 through 2007. The reports covering 2008 will become available to the public in June, and the data will be available for download once CRP has keyed those reports.
527 ORGANIZATIONS: Electronically filed financial records beginning in the 2004 election cycle for the shadowy issue-advocacy groups known as 527s, which can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, labor unions and individuals.
The best thing here is that they’ve already tidied and scrubbed the data for you, just like Mom used to. The personal finance information alone has already led to startling revelations.
Spend your Saturday making clocks with code:
A code jam / party and programming competition
Part of the Boston Cyberarts Festival
Saturday, May 2, 2009 – MIT N52–390
265 Massachusetts Ave, 3rd Floor
- Compete individually or in pairs to design and develop beautiful programs in Processing
- Snack and refresh yourself
- Present completed projects to other participants and visitors at the end of the day
- Anyone (not just MIT students or community members) can compete, anyone can stop by to see presentations
- Meet the creators of Processing, Ben Fry (in person) and Casey Reas (via video), who will award prizes
- 12:30-01:00 pm: Check in
- 01:00-01:15 pm: Welcome
- 01:15-05:15 pm: Coding Session
- 05:15-06:45 pm: Presentations and Awards – Public welcome!
Register in advance, individually or in two-person teams, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with one or two participant names and a team name.
Processing Time is sponsored by MIT (Arts Initiatives at MIT, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Program in Writing & Humanistic Studies) and is part of the Boston Cyberarts Festival.
The Processing Time page, linked to a nifty poster, is at: burgess.mit.edu/pt