GAO provides Congress with thorough and balanced analysis of technological and scientific developments that affect our society, environment, and economy. To enhance our ability to do this, we established the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team in January 2019. Our new team will expand our support to Congress by:
Conducting technology assessments and providing technical services
Auditing science and technology programs and initiatives to assist in oversight of federal investments in research, development, and advanced manufacturing
Compiling and utilizing best practices in engineering sciences, including cost, schedule, and technology readiness assessments
Establishing an audit innovation lab to explore, pilot, and deploy new advanced analytic capabilities, conduct research in information assurance, and explore emerging technologies that will impact future audit practices
Announcing GAO's new Science, Technology Assessments, and Analytics team.
For a more detailed look at the new team, see the plan and timeline sent to Congress (PDF, 32 pages). This document summarizes relevant trends, explains the new team’s structure, and describes the team’s operations and areas it will cover. Additionally, our Information Technology and Cybersecurity team will continue to work on technology and science issues related to cybersecurity.
Science & Tech Spotlights
The Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team is publishing "Science & Tech Spotlights," 2-page quick reads for policy makers and the public. Each Spotlight gives an overview of an emerging development in science and technology, the opportunities and challenges it brings, and the relevant policy context. Our Spotlights include:
GAO Chief Scientist tests a disease prevention
technology at a firm in Menlo Park, CA
GAO has published a number of technology assessments on established and emerging technology. We also continue to provide evidence-based analysis to assist policymakers with the privacy and security implications of technology, as well as the management of federal investments in technology and science. In October 2020, we established the Polaris Council, a body of interdisciplinary science and technology policy experts, to advise us on emerging science & technology issues facing Congress and the nation.
Our technology assessments explain the consequences that certain technology will have on the federal government—and on society as a whole.
Economic competiveness. Our work has covered a range of topics including artificial intelligence, connectivity and the Internet of Things, innovation in data analytics, chemical innovation, and 3D printing.
Energy and the environment. We’ve reported on topics like protecting the electric grid, addressing municipal freshwater scarcity, reducing freshwater use in thermoelectric power plant cooling, and climate engineering.
Health care. We’ve evaluated enabling rapid diagnoses of infectious diseases, the implications of nanomanufacturing on human health, and the use of artificial intelligence in drug discovery and development. We are currently investigating artificial intelligence technologies to augment patient care.
Homeland security. We’ve examined explosive detection technologies to protect passenger trains, biometrics for border security, and law enforcement use of forensic algorithms.
Federal agencies and the nation’s critical infrastructures—such as energy, transportation systems, communications, and financial services—are dependent on cyber information systems and electronic data to carry out operations and to process, maintain, and report essential information.
Our work in cybersecurity includes:
Critical infrastructure protection. We work on how to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure—including financial markets, telecommunications, the national airspace system, electricity grid, and oil and gas pipeline sector.
Federal information systems. We evaluate the cybersecurity of key federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
Privacy. We evaluate federal efforts to ensure the privacy of individuals in response to emerging technologies (such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence), the collection and use of personal information in the private sector through social media, and privacy in government programs (e.g., federal student aid and Medicare).
Management of Federal Technology and Science Programs
We assess the management and coordination of federal research and development efforts,
including investments in scientific facilities (such as telescopes and research vessels)
and emerging technologies (like synthetic biology and quantum computing).
Defense. We evaluate the technology readiness assessments and overall project execution for complex weapons systems, such as the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine, military space systems, and border security technology.
Space. We assess federal military and civilian satellite programs and efforts to support and oversee telecommunications in the public interest.
Energy and the environment. We evaluate developing and deployed technologies in a range of activities, including renewable energy, civilian nuclear power, and cleanup of hazardous waste sites.
Nuclear. We assess programs, infrastructure, technology readiness, and operations for the maintenance and management of nuclear weapons and missiles, as well as the aircraft and ships designed to carry and deliver them.
Health care. We assess new technologies for emerging infectious diseases, such as technologies that can simultaneously test for multiple infectious diseases at or near the site of patient care, and the impacts of new technology on human health, disease prevention, and the delivery of health care.
Science and innovation. We assess programs to promote innovation (such as federal support for advanced manufacturing institutes), as well as federal policies and funding for the protection of intellectual property.
We have also identified, in our Strategic Plan,
five emerging technologies and scientific advances that could potentially transform society.
We will consider these factors in our future work.
In six steps, this animation depicts the changes that have occurred over time to the global carbon cycle, including the amount of carbon existing in and moving between the planet's major carbon reservoirs before and after 1800. Excerpted from: GAO-11-71.
In eight steps, this animation depicts the path of sunlight that enters the planet's atmosphere, illustrating how that radiation is reflected, absorbed, and emitted as heat energy. Excerpted from: GAO-11-71.
The internet has gone well beyond computers to
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to our baby monitors to our…toasters. The Watchdog
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