[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 22 (Wednesday, February 3, 2010)]
[Pages 5634-5636]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-2012]



Grand Challenges of the 21st Century; Request for Information

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: On September 21, 2009, President Barack Obama released his 
``Strategy for American Innovation.'' The strategy outlines the 
Administration's plans to foster innovation for sustainable growth and 
the creation of high-quality jobs.
    One of the goals of the President's strategy is to harness science 
and technology to address the ``grand challenges'' of the 21st century. 
This Request for Information (RFI) is designed to collect input from 
the public regarding (1) The grand challenges that were identified in 
the strategy document; (2) other grand challenges that the 
Administration should consider, such as those identified by the 
National Academy of Engineering; (3) partners (e.g., companies, 
investors, foundations, social enterprises, non-profit organizations, 
philanthropists, research universities, consortia, etc.) that are 
interested in collaborating with each other and the Administration to 
achieve one or more of these goals, and (4) models for creating an 
``architecture of participation'' that allows many individuals and 
organizations to contribute to these grand challenges.
    RFI Guidelines: Responses to this RFI should be submitted by 11:59 
p.m. Eastern Time on April 15, 2010. Responses to this RFI must be 
delivered electronically as an attachment to an e-mail sent to 
    Responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by 
the Government to form a binding contract or issue a grant. Information 
obtained as a result of this RFI may be used by the government for 
program planning on a non-attribution basis. Do not include any 
information that might be considered proprietary or confidential.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Any questions about the content of 
this RFI should be sent to challenge@ostp.gov.
    Additional information regarding this RFI is at http://www.ostp.gov/grandchallenges/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Obama Administration believes that grand 
challenges should be an important organizing principle for America's 
science, technology and innovation policy. Grand challenges can address 
key national priorities, catalyze innovations that catalyze economic 
growth and quality jobs, spur the formation of multidisciplinary teams 
of researcher and multi-sector collaborators, bring new expertise to 
bear on important problems, strengthen the ``social contract'' between 
science and society, and inspire students to pursue careers in science, 
technology, engineering, and mathematics.
    There are multiple types of grand challenges. Some define important 
problems in a particular field of science and engineering. For example, 
in 1900, the German mathematics professor David Hilbert posed 23 

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puzzles'' which helped keep his contemporary and future colleagues busy 
for a century. Others pursue an advance in technological capability, 
such as the development of an exaflop supercomputer capable of one 
million trillion calculations per second. The focus of this RFI is on 
hard, unsolved scientific or engineering challenges that will have 
significant economic or societal impact and address an important 
national priority.
    The classic grand challenge is the ``moon shot.'' As President 
Kennedy said in his speech before a 1961 joint session of Congress, ``I 
believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, 
before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning 
him safely to the Earth.'' More recently, in the late 1980s, the United 
States launched an effort to sequence an entire human genome, which has 
transformed biomedical research and promises to improve healthcare.
    The Gates Foundation identified 14 grand challenges in global 
health in areas such as developing new or improved vaccines, 
controlling insect vectors, and creating low-cost diagnostics for 
global health conditions. Their goal is to radically improve in the 
developing world by ``engaging creative minds across scientific 
disciplines, including those who have not traditionally taken part in 
health research.'' See http://www.grandchallenges.org for additional 
    The National Academy of Engineering identified 14 engineering grand 
challenges associated with sustainability, health, security, and human 
empowerment, such as providing access to clean water, engineering 
better medicines, securing cyberspace, and restoring and improving 
urban infrastructure. These grand challenges are already beginning to 
have an impact on undergraduate education. Twenty-five universities 
have decided to participate in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. 
Undergraduate students at these campuses will be able to tackle these 
problems by integrating research, an interdisciplinary curriculum, 
entrepreneurship, international activities, and service learning. Some 
universities are also organizing campus-wide research initiatives 
around grand challenges. See http://www.engineeringchallenges.org for 
additional information.
    In his ``Strategy for American Innovation,'' President Obama 
identified the following grand challenges:
     Complete DNA sequencing of every case of cancer; smart 
anti-cancer therapeutics that kill cancer cells and leave their normal 
neighbors untouched; early detection of dozens of diseases from a 
saliva sample; nanotechnology that delivers drugs precisely to the 
desired tissue; personalized medicine that enables the prescription of 
the right dose of the right drug for the right person; a universal 
vaccine for influenza that will protect against all future strains; and 
regenerative medicine that can end the agonizing wait for an organ 
     Solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that 
produce all of the energy they consume.
     A lightweight vest for soldiers and police officers that 
can stop an armor-piercing bullet.
     Educational software that is as compelling as the best 
video game and as effective as a personal tutor; online courses that 
improve the more students use them; and a rich, interactive digital 
library at the fingertips of every child.
     Intelligent prosthetics that will allow a veteran who has 
lost both of his arms to play the piano again.
     Biological systems that can turn sunlight into carbon-
neutral fuel, reduce the costs of producing anti-malarial drugs by a 
factor of 10, and quickly and inexpensively dispose of radioactive 
wastes and toxic chemicals.
     An ``exascale'' supercomputer capable of a million 
trillion calculations per second--dramatically increasing our ability 
to understand the world around us through simulation and slashing the 
time needed to design complex products such as therapeutics, advanced 
materials, and highly efficient autos and aircraft.
     Automatic, highly accurate and real-time translation 
between the major languages of the world--greatly lowering the barriers 
to international commerce and collaboration.
    Clearly, support for addressing such specific challenges should be 
only one element of the federal government's overall R&D portfolio. The 
government also plays a critical role in supporting investigator-
initiated research and research that is motivated solely by an interest 
in expanding the frontiers of human knowledge.
    RFI Response Instructions: The White House Office of Science and 
Technology Policy and the National Economic Council are interested in 
responses that address one or more of the following topics:

Input Regarding Any of the Grand Challenges Identified by President 
Obama's Strategy for American Innovation

     Should the United States make it a priority to achieve 
this grand challenge? Why or why not?
     What existing activities in the public and private sector 
could the United States build on to achieve this challenge?
     What specific metrics or goals should the United States 
use to evaluate its progress towards this grand challenge? What roadmap 
would help inform decision-makers in the public and private sectors?
     What are the most important scientific and technical 
challenges that would need to be addressed to realize this challenge?
     What are the most important gaps in the nation's R&D 
portfolio that should be addressed? What kinds of R&D investments (e.g. 
supports for individual investigators, small teams, centers, research 
infrastructure, etc.) should the United States Government emphasize?
     What are the appropriate roles of the government, 
industry, academia and other stakeholders in achieving this challenge, 
and what new forms of collaboration should be explored? What are the 
appropriate roles for pre-competitive collaboration and market-based 
     What are the economic, ethical, legal, and societal issues 
raised by pursuit of this challenge? What roles are there for 
researchers and scholars in the humanities and the social and 
behavioral sciences?
     In addition to investment in R&D--what are other policies 
should the United States Government be considering to achieve this 
challenge and to realize the broader economic and societal benefits 
associated with related scientific and technological advances (e.g. 
procurement, incentive prizes, development or adoption of technical 
standards, international collaboration, targeted investment in 
education and workforce development, sponsorship of pilots or test 
beds, changes in legal, regulatory or other public policies)?

Identification of Additional Grand Challenges

     What are other grand challenges should the United States 
be considering, such as those identified by the National Academy of 
Engineering? Please provide input to one or more of the questions 
identified above.

[[Page 5636]]

Identification of Partners

    The Administration is interested in stimulating multi-sector 
collaborations to achieve these grand challenges that might involve 
companies, research universities, foundations, social enterprises, non-
profits, and other stakeholders.
     What partners or types of partners would need to 
collaborate to accomplish this goal?
     What specifically would your organization be willing to do 
to achieve this grand challenge?
     What models, institutions, technologies, and networks 
would enable broad participation by individuals and organizations in 
achieving these grand challenges?

M. David Hodge,
Operations Manager, OSTP.
[FR Doc. 2010-2012 Filed 2-2-10; 8:45 am]