Advances in science and technology can quickly become indispensable in our daily lives and to the nation as a whole. Policymakers need reliable, timely information on science and technology topics as rapid developments increase complexity and affect the economy, national security, and more.
To meet the growing demand for this kind of information, GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team focuses on helping Congress understand and address some of the most sophisticated, dynamic, and interconnected challenges of our time. The team assesses emerging and evolving technologies, evaluates their application in government, and examines their impact on society.
We assess science and technology breakthroughs, along with the opportunities and risks they present to the nation. Our goal is to conduct in-depth analyses on emerging issues and provide policymakers with insight into key technologies, including context, status, benefits and challenges, and policy options. We communicate accurate, balanced, and timely information through two primary product types: two-page Spotlights and in-depth technology assessments. The trends we’ve studied include:
We evaluate science and technology to improve government performance, ensure transparency, and save money. Our oversight work helps to ensure that federal agencies effectively, efficiently, and equitably manage and fund their programs. This work covers the full lifecycle of discovery and innovation, from basic research to manufacturing and commercialization. We also address issues such as intellectual property protections and increasing global competitiveness. Through regular scanning and outreach, we are able to focus on the oversight areas of greatest interest to Congress and that best support the effectiveness of the federal government’s role in science and technology, including areas such as:
- Managing research and development. Scientific research and development are critical to keeping the government and the nation moving forward. This work is often costly and complex, and frequently involves large, multidisciplinary teams that need to manage federal money efficiently and effectively while accomplishing their work. Learn more about our work on federal research oversight.
- Supporting the innovation economy. We assess programs that promote innovation, such as advanced manufacturing, as well as federal policies and funding for the protection of intellectual property. We reported on intellectual property rights in biomedical research and small business assistance.
We help federal agencies improve management of their programs in order to achieve their goals, and we bolster the analytic capabilities of the federal accountability community. This work is especially geared toward government-wide research and development programs for complex, technically advanced systems.
- Best practices in government oversight. Our work provides agencies across the government with best practice guides to better understand whether government programs are as effective and efficient as possible. We have issued best practices guides on cost, schedule, agile software development, and technology readiness.
- Innovation Lab. We also continue to bring new digital capabilities and evidence-based policymaking techniques to GAO and Congress through our Innovation Lab. Our Innovation Lab fosters sophisticated technical work to address key oversight challenges and bolsters the advanced analytic capabilities of GAO. As the only entity of its kind within the legislative branch, the Lab has state-of-the-art capabilities to perform cloud-based experiments, allowing it to explore emerging technologies in areas such as AI, digital ledger technology (blockchain), cloud services, zero trust architectures, and extended reality. The Lab enhances evidence-based policy-making by combining data science and digital delivery, and has launched web-based resources such as GAO’s Antifraud Resource, and the ID Verification Controls Simulator.
We actively share information and create opportunities for diverse analysis of science and technology issues. This includes external collaborations on a wide range of joint products and other initiatives, such as policy-related trainings on complex topics, e.g., artificial intelligence and blockchain. To stay abreast of emerging issues and build awareness of our work with policymakers and the public, our scientists and technologists speak regularly at external events and we continue to expand our network of experts. STAA hosts annual meetings of the Polaris Council, an interdisciplinary group of leaders and key experts established to advise us on emerging science and technology issues facing Congress.