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Science and the Environment: Federal Research (2019-15)

Implementing leading practices for collaboration to better manage fragmentation could help agencies improve their research efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in quantum computing and synthetic biology.

Action:

As the Quantum Information Science Subcommittee moves forward, the Office of Science and Technology Policy co-chair, in coordination with other co-chairs and participating agency officials, should take steps to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration.

Progress:

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) agreed with GAO’s September 2018 recommendation despite expressing some concerns about required resources and, as of January 2020, had taken steps to work with the other co-chairs of the National Science and Technology Council’s Quantum Information Science (QIS) Subcommittee to begin implementing it. The QIS Subcommittee, created pursuant to the National Quantum Initiative Act, enacted in 2018, continues to be led by four co-chairs from the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation (NSF), and OSTP. The law requires, among other things, that the QIS Subcommittee develop a 5-year Strategic Plan by December 21, 2019.

In January 2020, an NSF official and OSTP staff reported that a draft strategic plan was under review. According to the NSF official, the strategic plan will include an assessment of actions the agencies are taking in support of QIS, and, in particular, the degree to which the agencies have developed mechanisms that enhance and sustain collaboration. The official said the draft plan will be submitted to the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, which conducts independent assessments of and advises the President and QIS Subcommittee on matters related to the National Quantum Initiative. The NSF official reported that the membership of the Advisory Committee will be announced in the spring 2020 timeframe, at which time it will begin its review of the draft strategic plan.

In addition to the development of a strategic plan, the National Quantum Initiative Act called for the establishment of a National Quantum Coordination Office to support the QIS Subcommittee, which OSTP formed in March 2019. Following this, in Oct. 2019, the QIS Subcommittee created three interagency working groups: (1) the science working group is working to coordinate the scientific and technical aspects of programs; (2) the workforce, infrastructure, and industry working group is working to identify workforce and technology needs; and (3) the end-user group is working to connect the nation’s research and development community, including academics and industry players, to potential early adopters in the federal government.

Taking this action will help to enhance and strengthen interagency collaboration and could help ensure that agencies effectively marshal their efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in quantum computing. When the strategic plan is finalized and we confirm what additional actions the QIS Subcommittee has taken to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration, we will provide updated information.

Implementing Entity:

Office of Science and Technology Policy

Action:

As the Quantum Information Science Subcommittee moves forward, the Department of Commerce co-chair, in coordination with other co-chairs and participating agency officials, should take steps to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration.

Progress:

The Department of Commerce agreed with GAO’s September 2018 recommendation and, as of January 2020, had taken steps to work with the other co-chairs of the National Science and Technology Council’s Quantum Information Science (QIS) Subcommittee to begin implementing it. The QIS Subcommittee, created pursuant to the National Quantum Initiative Act, enacted in 2018, continues to be led by four co-chairs from the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation (NSF), and OSTP. The law requires, among other things, that the QIS Subcommittee develop a 5-year Strategic Plan by December 21, 2019.

In January 2020, an NSF official and OSTP staff reported that a draft strategic plan was under review. According to the NSF official, the strategic plan will include an assessment of actions the agencies are taking in support of QIS, and, in particular, the degree to which the agencies have developed mechanisms that enhance and sustain collaboration. The official said the draft plan will be submitted to the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, which conducts independent assessments of and advises the President and QIS Subcommittee on matters related to the National Quantum Initiative. The NSF official reported that the membership of the Advisory Committee will be announced in the spring 2020 timeframe, at which time it will begin its review of the draft strategic plan.

In addition to the development of a strategic plan, the National Quantum Initiative Act called for the establishment of a National Quantum Coordination Office to support the QIS Subcommittee, which OSTP formed in March 2019. Following this, in Oct. 2019 the QIS Subcommittee created three interagency working groups: (1) the science working group is working to coordinate the scientific and technical aspects of programs; (2) the workforce, infrastructure, and industry working group is working to identify workforce and technology needs; and (3) the end-user group is working to connect the nation’s research and development community, including academics and industry players, to potential early adopters in the federal government.

Taking this action will help to enhance and strengthen interagency collaboration and could help ensure that agencies effectively marshal their efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in quantum computing. When the strategic plan is finalized and we confirm what additional actions the QIS Subcommittee has taken to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration, we will provide updated information.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Commerce

Action:

As the Quantum Information Science Subcommittee moves forward, the Department of Energy co-chair, in coordination with other co-chairs and participating agency officials, should take steps to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration.

Progress:

The Department of Energy agreed with GAO’s September 2018 recommendation and, as of January 2020, had taken steps to work with the other co-chairs of the National Science and Technology Council’s Quantum Information Science (QIS) Subcommittee to begin implementing it. The QIS Subcommittee, created pursuant to the National Quantum Initiative Act, enacted in 2018, continues to be led by four co-chairs from the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation (NSF), and OSTP. The law requires, among other things, that the QIS Subcommittee develop a 5-year Strategic Plan by December 21, 2019.

In January 2020, an NSF official and OSTP staff reported that a draft strategic plan was under review. According to the NSF official, the strategic plan will include an assessment of actions the agencies are taking in support of QIS, and, in particular, the degree to which the agencies have developed mechanisms that enhance and sustain collaboration. The official said the draft plan will be submitted to the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, which conducts independent assessments of and advises the President and QIS Subcommittee on matters related to the National Quantum Initiative. The NSF official reported that the membership of the Advisory Committee will be announced in the spring 2020 timeframe, at which time it will begin its review of the draft strategic plan.

In addition to the development of a strategic plan, the National Quantum Initiative Act called for the establishment of a National Quantum Coordination Office to support the QIS Subcommittee, which OSTP formed in March 2019. Following this, in Oct. 2019 the QIS Subcommittee created three interagency working groups: (1) the science working group is working to coordinate the scientific and technical aspects of programs; (2) the workforce, infrastructure, and industry working group is working to identify workforce and technology needs; and (3) the end-user group is working to connect the nation’s research and development community, including academics and industry players, to potential early adopters in the federal government.

Taking this action will help to enhance and strengthen interagency collaboration and could help ensure that agencies effectively marshal their efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in quantum computing. When the strategic plan is finalized and we confirm what additional actions the QIS Subcommittee has taken to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration, we will provide updated information.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Energy

Action:

As the Quantum Information Science Subcommittee moves forward, the National Science Foundation co-chair, in coordination with other co-chairs and participating agency officials, should take steps to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration.

Progress:

The National Science Foundation agreed with GAO’s September 2018 recommendation and, as of January 2020, had taken steps to work with the other co-chairs of the National Science and Technology Council’s Quantum Information Science (QIS) Subcommittee to begin implementing it. The QIS Subcommittee, created pursuant to the National Quantum Initiative Act, enacted in 2018, continues to be led by four co-chairs from the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation (NSF), and OSTP. The law requires, among other things, that the QIS Subcommittee develop a 5-year Strategic Plan by December 21, 2019.

In January 2020, an NSF official and OSTP staff reported that a draft strategic plan was under review. According to the NSF official, the strategic plan will include an assessment of actions the agencies are taking in support of QIS, and, in particular, the degree to which the agencies have developed mechanisms that enhance and sustain collaboration. The official said the draft plan will be submitted to the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, which conducts independent assessments of and advises the President and QIS Subcommittee on matters related to the National Quantum Initiative. The NSF official reported that the membership of the Advisory Committee will be announced in the spring 2020 timeframe, at which time it will begin its review of the draft strategic plan.

In addition to the development of a strategic plan, the National Quantum Initiative Act called for the establishment of a National Quantum Coordination Office to support the QIS Subcommittee, which OSTP formed in March 2019. Following this, in Oct. 2019 the QIS Subcommittee created three interagency working groups: (1) the science working group is working to coordinate the scientific and technical aspects of programs; (2) the workforce, infrastructure, and industry working group is working to identify workforce and technology needs; and (3) the end-user group is working to connect the nation’s research and development community, including academics and industry players, to potential early adopters in the federal government.

Taking this action will help to enhance and strengthen interagency collaboration and could help ensure that agencies effectively marshal their efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in quantum computing. When the strategic plan is finalized and we confirm what additional actions the QIS Subcommittee has taken to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration, we will provide updated information.

Implementing Entity:

National Science Foundation

Action:

As the Interagency Working Group on Synthetic Biology moves forward, the Director of the National Science Foundation, in coordination with participating agency officials, should take steps to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration.

Progress:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) agreed with GAO’s September 2018 recommendation and, as of January 2020, had taken some steps to implement it. In November 2018, the Interagency Working Group on Synthetic Biology was formally established under the Biological Sciences Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. The co-chairs of the Interagency Working Group on Synthetic Biology are officials from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NSF. The charter for the working group states that the group is to facilitate coordination and collaboration across 16 federal agencies.

In October 2019, the working group hosted an Interagency Synthetic Biology Workshop to examine a roadmap that included basic science, enabling technologies, infrastructure and workforce needs in the area of synthetic biology. The workshop included 100 participants across the federal government, academia and industry, according to NSF officials. On the final day of the workshop participants from federal agencies used the input from the workshop to prepare a list of priority areas for investment along with agencies interested in participating in those priority areas.

In January 2020, NSF officials reported that among the next steps for the working group was to develop a federal strategic roadmap for synthetic biology. Officials also reported that the working group is actively preparing a memorandum of understanding to create policies that will enable more sharing of information and collaboration.

Taking this action will help to enhance and strengthen interagency collaboration and could help ensure that agencies effectively marshal their efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in synthetic biology. When we confirm what additional actions the working group has taken to fully implement leading practices that enhance and sustain collaboration, we will provide updated information.

 

Implementing Entity:

National Science Foundation
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    • John Neumann
    • Managing Director, Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics
    • neumannj@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-6888