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Our New “Science & Tech Spotlights”

Posted on October 03, 2019

GAO has launched a new line of science and tech quick reads, 2-pagers providing brief overviews of key topics in the field. To complement our more in-depth evaluations and assessments, these “Science & Tech Spotlights” summarize emerging innovations and the relevant policy context.

In today’s WatchBlog we provide a thumbnail sketch of the first 4, released in September.

Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies allow users to carry out digital transactions without the need for a centralized authority. These technologies could fundamentally change the way government and industry conduct business, but questions remain about how to mitigate fraud, money laundering, and excessive energy use.



Hypersonic weapons, once developed, would fly faster than 3,800 mph and be extremely difficult to defend against. Advances in hypersonic technologies have significant implications for national security, as well as for transportation and space systems. Research and development of offensive and defensive capabilities in hypersonics is and will remain critically important.


An Artist’s Rendering of the Experimental X-51A Waverider, Which Used a “Scramjet” to Reach Hypersonic Speeds.


Opioid vaccines are an emerging approach to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. More than 10 million people abused opioids in 2017, with more than 47,000 opioid-related deaths — a nearly 6-fold increase since 1999. Opioid vaccines could offer advantages over current treatment options.



Probabilistic genotyping software is a tool that could greatly facilitate criminal investigators involving contaminated or partly degraded DNA. However, the validity of the analyses being used and the implications for constitutional due process protections remain unsettled.


Photo Evidence on a Shelf

We are planning for a steady stream of Spotlights to meet the need for reliable information on this complex, constantly changing field. To see them as soon as they come out, subscribe to our Science and Technology email updates.

GAO Contacts

Timothy M. Persons
Chief Scientist

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About Watchblog

GAO's mission is to provide Congress with fact-based, nonpartisan information that can help improve federal government performance and ensure accountability for the benefit of the American people. GAO launched its WatchBlog in January, 2014, as part of its continuing effort to reach its audiences—Congress and the American people—where they are currently looking for information.

The blog format allows GAO to provide a little more context about its work than it can offer on its other social media platforms. Posts will tie GAO work to current events and the news; show how GAO’s work is affecting agencies or legislation; highlight reports, testimonies, and issue areas where GAO does work; and provide information about GAO itself, among other things.

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