Category Archives: News

The NAP Guide to the 2016 State of the Union Address

sotu-2016This year’s State of the Union address focused on topics including energy, education, climate change, and cancer care. The National Academies Press provides resources directly related to these issues. Below, we’ve annotated the complete text of the President’s State of the Union speech with relevant reports from the National Academies that provide authoritative, independent guidance on these issues.

State of the Union 2016

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.

I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low. Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.

I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation – our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law – these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer – regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody. We’ve made progress. But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree.

Making Value for America: Embracing the Future of Manufacturing, Technology, and Work

Globalization, developments in technology, and new business models are transforming the way products and services are conceived, designed, made, and distributed in the U.S. and around the world. These forces present challenges – lower wages and … [more]

Educate to Innovate: Factors That Influence Innovation: Based on Input from Innovators and Stakeholders

Robust innovation in the United States is key to a strong and competitive industry and workforce. Efforts to improve the capacity of individuals and organizations to innovate must be a high national priority to ensure that the United States … [more]

Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5

In the face of so many daunting near-term challenges, U.S. government and industry are letting the crucial strategic issues of U.S. competitiveness slip below the surface. Five years ago, the National Academies prepared Rising Above the … [more]

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research

STEM Integration in K-12 Education examines current efforts to connect the STEM disciplines in K-12 education. This report identifies and characterizes existing approaches to integrated STEM education, both in formal and after- and … [more]

Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States

Next Generation Science Standards identifies the science all K-12 students should know. These new standards are based on the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The National Research Council, the … [more]

Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century

Americans have long recognized that investments in public education contribute to the common good, enhancing national prosperity and supporting stable families, neighborhoods, and communities. Education is even more critical today, in the face of … [more]

Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings

More and more young people are learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in a wide variety of afterschool, summer, and informal programs. At the same time, there has been increasing awareness of the value of such … [more]

And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.

Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.

Aging and the Macroeconomy: Long-Term Implications of an Older Population

The United States is in the midst of a major demographic shift. In the coming decades, people aged 65 and over will make up an increasingly large percentage of the population: The ratio of people aged 65+ to people aged 20-64 will rise by 80%. … [more]

The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Implications for Federal Programs and Policy Responses

The U.S. population is aging. Social Security projections suggest that between 2013 and 2050, the population aged 65 and over will almost double, from 45 million to 86 million. One key driver of population aging is ongoing increases in life … [more]

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage. Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far. Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Population Health Implications of the Affordable Care Act: Workshop Summary

Population Health Implications of the Affordable Care Act is the summary of a workshop convened in June 2013 by the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Population Health Improvement to explore the likely impact on population health … [more]

Achieving Health Equity via the Affordable Care Act: Promises, Provisions, and Making Reform a Reality for Diverse Patients: Workshop Summary

Since its creation by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2007, the Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities has been fostering dialogue on racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care, … [more]

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job – we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.

But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years – namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. And here, the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.

In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative. This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country: how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.

That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.

We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.

But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis

In the United States, approximately 14 million people have had cancer and more than 1.6 million new cases are diagnosed each year. However, more than a decade after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) first studied the quality of cancer care, the … [more]

Appropriate Use of Advanced Technologies for Radiation Therapy and Surgery in Oncology: Workshop Summary

In recent years, the field of oncology has witnessed a number of technological advances, including more precise radiation therapy and minimally invasive surgical techniques. Three-dimensional (3D), stereotactic, and proton-beam radiation therapy, … [more]

The Role of Clinical Studies for Pets with Naturally Occurring Tumors in Translational Cancer Research: Workshop Summary

Traditional preclinical mouse models of cancer have been very useful for studying the biology of cancer, however they often lack key characteristics of human cancers. As a result, many novel drug candidates fail in human clinical trials despite … [more]

Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises

Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that … [more]

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes is a jointly produced publication of The US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society. Written by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists and reviewed by climate scientists and others, the … [more]

Enhancing Participation in the U.S. Global Change Research Program

The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is a collection of 13 Federal entities charged by law to assist the United States and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change. As … [more]

But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels

For a century, almost all light-duty vehicles (LDVs) have been powered by internal combustion engines operating on petroleum fuels. Energy security concerns about petroleum imports and the effect of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on global … [more]

Cost, Effectiveness, and Deployment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Light-Duty Vehicles

The light-duty vehicle fleet is expected to undergo substantial technological changes over the next several decades. New powertrain designs, alternative fuels, advanced materials and significant changes to the vehicle body are being driven by … [more]

Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States

Biofuels made from algae are gaining attention as a domestic source of renewable fuel. However, with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable … [more]

None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve – that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us.

As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition. Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria – states they see slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

Intelligence Analysis: Behavioral and Social Scientific Foundations

The U.S. intelligence community (IC) is a complex human enterprise whose success depends on how well the people in it perform their work. Although often aided by sophisticated technologies, these people ultimately rely on their own intellect to … [more]

Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow: Advances from the Behavioral and Social Sciences

The intelligence community (IC) plays an essential role in the national security of the United States. Decision makers rely on IC analyses and predictions to reduce uncertainty and to provide warnings about everything from international … [more]

It’s up to us to help remake that system. And that means we have to set priorities.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.

That’s exactly what we are doing. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.

Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq – and we should have learned it by now.

Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.

Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo.

American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change – that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria – something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

International Infectious Disease Emergencies and Domestic Implications for the Public Health and Health Care Sectors: Workshop in Brief

Emerging infectious disease events present a threat to U.S. national security, and we need improved efforts to coordinate a response both domestically and with global partners. The most recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa is … [more]

Evaluation of PEPFAR

The U.S. government supports programs to combat global HIV/AIDS through an initiative that is known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This initiative was originally authorized in the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, … [more]

Investing in Global Health Systems: Sustaining Gains, Transforming Lives

The United States has been a generous sponsor of global health programs for the past 25 years or more. This investment has contributed to meaningful changes, especially for women and children, who suffer the brunt of the world’s disease and … [more]

That’s strength. That’s leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.

That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.

“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task – or any President’s – alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.

But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process – in not just who gets elected but how they get elected – that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.

It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over – and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ‘til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

The Institute of Medicine on the US Measles Outbreak

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Photo credit: KidRisk.org

MMR – measles, mumps, rubella – vaccination is again in the news as an outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland before Christmas has spread to six states. As of last Friday, 70 people have been diagnosed with measles, and hundreds more have been exposed at schools, doctor’s offices, hospitals, shopping malls and other places visited by infected patients. Arizona reported its first case of measles related to Disneyland when a woman in her 50s was diagnosed. The outbreak has spread to Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and across the border to Mexico. The Institute of Medicine has produced a number of reports on the safety and importance of vaccination. We asked Kathleen Stratton, an Institute of Medicine Scholar and Study Director of several notable IOM reports on vaccines, for her thoughts on vaccination and public health.

“Vaccines save lives. That’s a fact. We need vaccines developed against some very serious infectious diseases, like respiratory syncytial virus, and we need everyone to heed advice regarding existing vaccines, like the measles vaccine.”

The reports below and others on the subject of vaccination are free to download from our website.

The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies

Vaccines are among the most safe and effective public health interventions to prevent serious disease and death. Because of the success of vaccines, most Americans today have no firsthand experience with such devastating illnesses as polio or …

[more]

Infectious Disease Movement in a Borderless World: Workshop Summary

Modern transportation allows people, animals, and plants–and the pathogens they carry–to travel more easily than ever before. The ease and speed of travel, tourism, and international trade connect once-remote areas with one another, eliminating …

[more]

What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease

About a quarter of deaths worldwide–many of them children–are caused by infectious organisms. The World Health Organization reports that new infectious diseases are continuing to emerge and familiar ones are appearing in new locations around …

[more]

Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality

In 1900, for every 1,000 babies born in the United States, 100 would die before their first birthday, often due to infectious diseases. Today, vaccines exist for many viral and bacterial diseases. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, passed …

[more]

Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism

This eighth and final report of the Immunization Safety Review Committee examines the hypothesis that vaccines, specifically the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines, are causally associated with autism. The …

[more]

The NAP Guide to the 2015 State of the Union Address

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are 15 years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families (2013)


ISBN 978-0-309-26427-3

As of December 2012, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq have resulted in the deployment of about 2.2 million troops; there have been 2,222 US fatalities in OEF and Operation New Dawn (OND)1 …

[more]

Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Preliminary Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-14763-7

Nearly 1.9 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since October 2001. Many service members and veterans face serious challenges in readjusting to normal life after returning home. This initial book presents findings on …

[more]

America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades to come.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another? Or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas. So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy. Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way. They were young and in love in America. And it doesn’t get much better than that. “If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans and enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job and then a raise. Ben is back in construction — and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.” We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and sacrificed and retooled. You are the reason that I ran for this office. You are the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it has been your resilience, your effort that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.

The Future of Photovoltaic Manufacturing in the United States (2011)


ISBN 978-0-309-14214-4

Technological innovation and growth are critical to U.S. competitiveness in a global economy. One means of facilitating growth and improving competitiveness is to foster more robust innovation ecosystems through the development of public-private …

[more]

Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States (2012)


ISBN 978-0-309-26032-9

Biofuels made from algae are gaining attention as a domestic source of renewable fuel. However, with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable …

[more]

Electricity from Renewable Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-13708-9

A component in the America’s Energy Future study, Electricity from Renewable Resources examines the technical potential for electric power generation with alternative sources such as wind, solar-photovoltaic, geothermal, solar-thermal, …

[more]

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news, people.

Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-14723-1

A mismatch between the federal government’s revenues and spending, now and in the foreseeable future, requires heavy borrowing, leading to a large and increasing federal debt. That increasing debt raises a serious challenge to all of the goals …

[more]

So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing: Those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t screw things up; that government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but they’ve had to forego vacations and a new car so that they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Friday night pizza, that’s a big splurge. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

And in fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the Internet — tools they needed to go as far as their effort and their dreams will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success, we want everyone to contribute to our success.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First, middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement. And my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority — so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.

It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example. Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave — 43 million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

Now, these ideas won’t make everybody rich, won’t relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. To give working families a fair shot, we still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice.

But you know, things like childcare and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage — these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That’s a fact. And that’s what all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, were sent here to do.

Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills. America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, trained the best workforce in the world. We were ahead of the curve. But other countries caught on. And in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to up our game. We need to do more.

Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century (2012)


ISBN 978-0-309-25649-0

Americans have long recognized that investments in public education contribute to the common good, enhancing national prosperity and supporting stable families, neighborhoods, and communities. Education is even more critical today, in the face of …

[more]

Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop (2011)


ISBN 978-0-309-21790-3

The routine jobs of yesterday are being replaced by technology and/or shipped off-shore. In their place, job categories that require knowledge management, abstract reasoning, and personal services seem to be growing. The modern workplace requires …

[more]

Envisioning A 21st Century Science and Engineering Workforce for the United States: Tasks for University, Industry, and Government (2003)


ISBN 978-0-309-08856-5

At the request of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR), Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, presents in this brief paper her views of the challenges of the 21st century for the science and …

[more]

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education — two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s sure not smart for our future. That’s why I’m sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.

Keep in mind 40 percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.

Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. Let’s stay ahead of the curve. And I want to work with this Congress to make sure those already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

Community Colleges in the Evolving STEM Education Landscape: Summary of a Summit (2012)


ISBN 978-0-309-25654-4

The National Research Council (NRC) and National Academy of Engineering (NAE) have released a new report, Community Colleges in the Evolving STEM Education Landscape: Summary of a Summit. Based on a national summit that was supported by …

[more]

Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers (2005)


ISBN 978-0-309-09534-1

Community colleges play an important role in starting students on the road to engineering careers, but students often face obstacles in transferring to four-year educational institutions to continue their education. Enhancing the Community …

[more]

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need. And we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. And Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden — thank you, Michelle; thank you, Jill — has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a new job. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done and done right, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill. Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.

Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago — jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. We know that. And that’s why the third part of middle-class economics is all about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy (2012)


ISBN 978-0-309-26448-8

Manufacturing is in a period of dramatic transformation. But in the United States, public and political dialogue is simplistically focused almost entirely on the movement of certain manufacturing jobs overseas to low-wage countries. The true …

[more]

Making Things: 21st Century Manufacturing and Design: Summary of a Forum (2012)


ISBN 978-0-309-22559-5

More than two decades ago, a commission of 17 MIT scientists and economists released a report, Made in America, which opened with the memorable phrase, “To live well, a nation must produce well.” Is that still true? Or can the United …

[more]

Envisioning A 21st Century Science and Engineering Workforce for the United States: Tasks for University, Industry, and Government (2003)


ISBN 978-0-309-08856-5

At the request of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR), Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, presents in this brief paper her views of the challenges of the 21st century for the science and …

[more]

Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come. Let’s do it. Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.

Twenty-first century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are also fair. It’s the right thing to do.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders. We can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. So let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation (2013)


ISBN 978-0-309-26377-1

Optics and photonics technologies are ubiquitous: they are responsible for the displays on smart phones and computing devices, optical fiber that carries the information in the internet, advanced precision manufacturing, enhanced defense …

[more]

Assessment of Advanced Solid State Lighting (2013)


ISBN 978-0-309-27011-3

The standard incandescent light bulb, which still works mainly as Thomas Edison invented it, converts more than 90% of the consumed electricity into heat. Given the availability of newer lighting technologies that convert a greater percentage of …

[more]

The Flexible Electronics Opportunity (2014)


ISBN 978-0-309-30591-4

Flexible electronics describes circuits that can bend and stretch, enabling significant versatility in applications and the prospect of low-cost manufacturing processes. They represent an important technological advance, in terms of their …

[more]

Twenty-first century businesses will rely on American science and technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.

In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. So tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier. We can do this.

Toward Precision Medicine: Building a Knowledge Network for Biomedical Research and a New Taxonomy of Disease (2011)


ISBN 978-0-309-22222-8

Motivated by the explosion of molecular data on humans-particularly data associated with individual patients-and the sense that there are large, as-yet-untapped opportunities to use this data to improve health outcomes, Toward Precision …

[more]

I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community — and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids again. Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a reenergized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. And in two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. So good luck, Captain. Make sure to Instagram it. We’re proud of you.

Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration (2014)


ISBN 978-0-309-30507-5

The United States has publicly funded its human spaceflight program on a continuous basis for more than a half-century, through three wars and a half-dozen recessions, from the early Mercury and Gemini suborbital and Earth orbital missions, to …

[more]

Research for a Future in Space: The Role of Life and Physical Sciences (2012)


ISBN 978-0-309-30507-5

During its more than 50-year history, NASA’s success in human space exploration has depended on the agency’s ability to effectively address a wide range of biomedical, engineering, physical sciences, and related obstacles. This achievement is …

[more]

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways that the super-rich don’t need, while denying a break to middle-class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest here in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and to make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together. We can achieve it together.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions of growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, 15 years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5 (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-16097-1

In the face of so many daunting near-term challenges, U.S. government and industry are letting the crucial strategic issues of U.S. competitiveness slip below the surface. Five years ago, the National Academies prepared Rising Above the …

[more]

Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2007)


ISBN 978-0-309-18758-9

In a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to …

[more]

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work here at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now. And around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who have been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last 13 years. Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who have now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America.

In Iraq and Syria, American leadership — including our military power — is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.

Now, this effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL. We need that authority.

Second, we’re demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.

Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with frontline states, Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new. And our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere. It removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba. It stands up for democratic values, and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.

As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan. We’re glad you’re here.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies — including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us only to go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century. No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. So we’re making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.

And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. That should be a bipartisan effort.

Toward a Safer and More Secure Cyberspace (2007)


ISBN 978-0-309-10395-4

Given the growing importance of cyberspace to nearly all aspects of national life, a secure cyberspace is vitally important to the nation, but cyberspace is far from secure today. The United States faces the real risk that adversaries will exploit …

[more]

At the Nexus of Cybersecurity and Public Policy: Some Basic Concepts and Issues (2014)


ISBN 978-0-309-30318-7

We depend on information and information technology (IT) to make many of our day-to-day tasks easier and more convenient. Computers play key roles in transportation, health care, banking, and energy. Businesses use IT for payroll and accounting, …

[more]

Proceedings of a Workshop on Deterring Cyberattacks: Informing Strategies and Developing Options for U.S. Policy (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-16035-3

In a world of increasing dependence on information technology, the prevention of cyberattacks on a nation’s important computer and communications systems and networks is a problem that looms large. Given the demonstrated limitations of passive …

[more]

Technology, Policy, Law, and Ethics Regarding U.S. Acquisition and Use of Cyberattack Capabilities (2009)


ISBN 978-0-309-13850-5

The United States is increasingly dependent on information and information technology for both civilian and military purposes, as are many other nations. Although there is a substantial literature on the potential impact of a cyberattack on the …

[more]

If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses, our health care workers are rolling back Ebola — saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I could not be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done, and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

Research Priorities to Inform Public Health and Medical Practice for Ebola Virus Disease: Workshop in Brief (2014)

The 2014 epidemic of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), caused by a filovirus, has affected multiple countries in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal), along with Spain and the United States, becoming the worst EVD outbreak …

[more]

The Emergence of Zoonotic Diseases: Understanding the Impact on Animal and Human Health – Workshop Summary (2002)


ISBN 978-0-309-08327-0

Zoonotic diseases represent one of the leading causes of illness and death from infectious disease. Defined by the World Health Organization, zoonoses are those diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and …

[more]

Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases (2009)


ISBN 978-0-309-13734-8

H1N1 (“swine flu”), SARS, mad cow disease, and HIV/AIDS are a few examples of zoonotic diseases-diseases transmitted between humans and animals. Zoonotic diseases are a growing concern given multiple factors: their often novel and unpredictable …

[more]

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules — in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes: Set of 5 Booklets (2014)


ISBN 978-0-309-30199-2

Climate Change: Evidence and Causes is a jointly produced publication of The US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society. Written by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists and reviewed by climate scientists and others, the …

[more]

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises (2013)


ISBN 978-0-309-28773-9

Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that …

[more]

Advancing the Science of Climate Change (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-14588-6

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for–and in many cases is already affecting–a broad range of human and natural systems. The compelling case for these conclusions is provided in …

[more]

And that’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure that American leadership drives international action.

In Beijing, we made a historic announcement: The United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution. And China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that this year the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels (2013)


ISBN 978-0-309-26852-3

For a century, almost all light-duty vehicles (LDVs) have been powered by internal combustion engines operating on petroleum fuels. Energy security concerns about petroleum imports and the effect of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on global …

[more]

Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States (2010)


ISBN 978-0-309-13716-4

America’s economy and lifestyles have been shaped by the low prices and availability of energy. In the last decade, however, the prices of oil, natural gas, and coal have increased dramatically, leaving consumers and the industrial and service …

[more]

America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation (2009)


ISBN 978-0-309-11602-2

For multi-user PDF licensing, please contact customer service.

Energy touches our lives in countless ways and its costs are felt when we fill up at the gas pump, pay our home heating …

[more]

And there’s one last pillar of our leadership, and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I have prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice. So it makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of Gitmo in half. Now it is time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It is not who we are. It’s time to close Gitmo.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties, and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Bulk Collection of Signals Intelligence: Technical Options (2015)


ISBN 978-0-309-32520-2

The Bulk Collection of Signals Intelligence: Technical Options study is a result of an activity called for in Presidential Policy Directive 28, issued by President Obama in January 2014, to evaluate U.S. signals intelligence practices. …

[more]

Emerging and Readily Available Technologies and National Security A Framework for Addressing Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues (2014)


ISBN 978-0-309-29334-1

Emerging and Readily Available Technologies and National Security is a study on the ethical, legal, and societal issues relating to the research on, development of, and use of rapidly changing technologies with low barriers of entry that …

[more]

Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment (2008)


ISBN 978-0-309-12488-1

All U.S. agencies with counterterrorism programs that collect or “mine” personal data — such as phone records or Web sites visited — should be required to evaluate the programs’ effectiveness, lawfulness, and impacts on privacy. A framework is …

[more]

Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading — always — with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. That’s why we have to keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards — our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America or a conservative America; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, naïve, that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.

I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different. Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

A politics — a better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments, but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country. We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care that she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is snatched from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I’ve talked to Republicans and Democrats about that. That’s something that we can share.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many — and that on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. And surely we can agree that it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all of us.

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014)


ISBN 978-0-309-29801-8

After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. …

[more]

Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach (2013)


ISBN 978-0-309-27890-4

Adolescence is a distinct, yet transient, period of development between childhood and adulthood characterized by increased experimentation and risk-taking, a tendency to discount long-term consequences, and heightened sensitivity to peers and …

[more]

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (2004)


ISBN 978-0-309-28965-8

Because police are the most visible face of government power for most citizens, they are expected to deal effectively with crime and disorder and to be impartial. Producing justice through the fair, and restrained use of their authority. The …

[more]

That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. And that’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda — I know because I won both of them. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, I ask you to join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth — that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids. I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters. I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story that sums up these past six years: “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who’s made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we, too, are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We have laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter together — and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless this country we love. Thank you.

Metro Emergencies and the Importance of Underground Engineering

metro-train-l-enfant-plaza-station-washington-dc
Photo credit: latinpost.com

Many issues brought to national attention following the recent fatal smoke event in the Washington, DC underground Metro system have been discussed in the National Research Council report Underground Engineering for Sustainable Development. Smoke and fire represent one of the greatest hazards to health and safety in underground infrastructure. This report includes discussion of how fire and smoke spread easily through tunnel systems and how underground ventilation systems must be able to provide breathable air and remove hazardous gases.

We asked Sammantha Magsino, the Study Director of Underground Engineering, for her thoughts on how the report speaks to the recent rail incident:

Strategic decisions must be made related to alarm and exiting systems, entry systems for emergency personnel, and safety procedures to ensure both occupant and emergency responder safety. Such decisions must optimize human-technical relationships and provide at least minimum levels of safety consistent with long-term societal visions. Underground Engineering stresses that underground infrastructure is part of a system of surface and subsurface engineered and human systems that needs to be designed, built, operated, maintained, and used with due accounting of technical aspects of the infrastructure, as well as in consideration of human behaviors, physiology, performance capacity, and the necessary education and training for safe and effective human use. The failure of any element of the system can result in cascading failures of other system elements, and can put the whole system at risk. Risk in underground infrastructure, however, often does not receive the same levels of regulatory scrutiny as risk in surface infrastructure, and safety codes are often written in response to events rather than the thorough study of risk/

Underground Engineering includes overarching observations, conclusions, and potential actions in practice, education, and research that would encourage integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to underground infrastructure design, management, technology development, and safety.

Underground Engineering for Sustainable Urban Development

For thousands of years, the underground has provided humans refuge, useful resources, physical support for surface structures, and a place for spiritual or artistic expression. More recently, many urban services have been placed underground. Over this time, humans have rarely considered how underground space can contribute to or be engineered to maximize its contribution to the sustainability of society. As human activities begin to change the planet and population struggle to maintain …

[more]

Safe Science and the Need for Improved Lab Protection

476_268_chemical_waste_management
Photo credit: Keck Graduate Institute

In June of this year, five years after the UCLA laboratory fire that claimed the life of a staff research assistant, the case against organic chemistry professor Patrick Harran came to an end.

The fire started when Sheharbano Sangji’s plastic syringe broke and exposed a volatile chemical to the air. Without a protective lab coat, she suffered severe burns and died 18 days later. UCLA and Sangji’s supervisor, Harran, were held accountable for the accident, though the charges against UCLA were dropped in 2012.

Now, the charges against Harran will be dismissed thanks to the deferred prosecution agreement. Part of the agreement includes speaking to new UCLA students about the importance of lab safety.

The UCLA accident was not an isolated incident. In January 2010, a Texas Tech graduate student was severely injured in a laboratory explosion. He had neglected several safety precautions, including the use of a blast shield and personal protective wear. Just over a year later, in April 2011, an undergraduate student was killed in Yale’s laboratory machine shop. She was asphyxiated when her hair became tangled in a lathe.

These accidents — and others like them — highlight the need for improved lab safety. But enforcing compliance to a series of increasing regulation can only go so far in protecting researchers. Academic laboratories need a better, more permanent solution. That solution is to adopt a culture of safety:

A culture of safety in academic laboratories that transcends inspections, standard operating procedures, and chemical safety plans. A true safety culture represents a total commitment to achieving safety even in the absence of specific rules or other regulatory guidance. It means making safety a ongoing operational priority.

That’s what the National Research Council recommends in its new report, Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research. The report’s recommendations challenge many longstanding ideas about chemical research, and ask for a fundamental shift in how we approach lab safety. Adopting a culture of safety is the best way to mitigate the inherent dangers of the laboratory and to protect our researchers.

To read the report, visit Safe Science’s page on our website.

Our cybersecurity expert gives his take on the charges of cyberattack by the Chinese army

The recent charges of hacking into US corporate targets against five members of the Chinese army has brought the issue of cybersecurity into the headlines. We asked Herb Lin, one of the editors of our new report on the intersection of cybersecurity and public policy, for his thoughts:

“As discussed in At the Nexus Of Cybersecurity and Policy, this story brings to the fore differences in how the United States and virtually every other nation view intelligence gathering. The United States draws sharp distinctions between intelligence for national security purposes and for economic purposes, whereas China (and most other nations in the world) do not. The difference in values is not likely to be reconciled any time soon. It also turns out that access was gained through the use of relatively unsophisticated penetration techniques, thus underscoring the point that simple defensive techniques can have significant value.” — Herb Lin, Chief Scientist at the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Watch this video of Herb running down six things to know about cybersecurity and public policy, and some of the things we can do to start tackling the problems:

Start of a New Trend? Preschool Obesity Rate Declines

Great news! According to a new report, the obesity rate among 2–5-year old children has dropped 43 percent during the past decade, the first significant decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke. The not-so-great news—we still face challenges to reduce the incidence of obesity in the United States, as a third of adults and 17 percent of youth are obese.

Reports about obesity from The Institute of Medicine provide guidance for health professionals, policymakers, schools, and concerned citizens to continue their efforts to improve the health of Americans. We’ve listed some of them below, and have more in our special collection of obesity titles. All are free to download.

Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School

Physical inactivity is a key determinant of health across the lifespan. A lack of activity increases the risk of heart disease, colon and breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression and others diseases. … [more]

Evaluating Obesity Prevention Efforts: A Plan for Measuring Progress

Obesity poses one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century, creating serious health, economic, and social consequences for individuals and society. Despite acceleration in efforts to characterize, comprehend, and act on this … [more]

Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation

One-third of adults are now obese, and children’s obesity rates have climbed from 5 to 17 percent in the past 30 years. The causes of the nation’s obesity epidemic are multi-factorial, having much more to do with the absence of sidewalks and the … [more]

Creating Equal Opportunities for a Healthy Weight: Workshop Summary

Creating Equal Opportunities for a Healthy Weight is the summary of a workshop convened by the Institute of Medicine’s Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention in June 2013 to examine income, race, and ethnicity, and how these … [more]

Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies

Childhood obesity is a serious health problem that has adverse and long-lasting consequences for individuals, families, and communities. The magnitude of the problem has increased dramatically during the last three decades and, despite some … [more]

Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines

As women of childbearing age have become heavier, the trade-off between maternal and child health created by variation in gestational weight gain has become more difficult to reconcile. Weight Gain During Pregnancy responds to the need … [more]

Bridging the Evidence Gap in Obesity Prevention: A Framework to Inform Decision Making

To battle the obesity epidemic in America, health care professionals and policymakers need relevant, useful data on the effectiveness of obesity prevention policies and programs. Bridging the Evidence Gap in Obesity Prevention identifies … [more]

Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity

The prevalence of childhood obesity is so high in the United States that it may reduce the life expectancy of today’s generation of children. While parents and other adult caregivers play a fundamental role in teaching children about healthy … [more]

Does Climate Change Influence Drought?

After three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall, California faces its most severe drought emergency in decades. This image from NOAA of snow in the Sierra Mountains illustrates how the historic lack of rain has created a water shortfall.

drought_california_map

NOAA image

Governor Jerry Brown has called for Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent voluntarily, and mandatory rationing could be ordered soon so that homes, businesses and farms don’t run dry over the summer. California’s drought has far-reaching consequences that include dramatically less water for farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas.

Does climate change influence drought? What should be done to both provide water and protect ecosystems? Reports from the National Research Council explore these questions. Our resources discuss the science of climate change, consider climate change impacts at community and national levels, and recommend areas for further research. We also have reports that discuss options to provide water by improving water management and promoting water reuse. All are free to download.

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that … [more]

Advancing the Science of Climate Change Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for–and in many cases is already affecting–a broad range of human and natural systems. The compelling case for these conclusions is provided in … [more]

Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change Across the United States, impacts of climate change are already evident. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, cold extremes have become less frequent, and patterns of rainfall are likely changing. The proportion of precipitation that … [more]

Global Change and Extreme Hydrology: Testing Conventional Wisdom Climate theory dictates that core elements of the climate system, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, and reservoirs of atmospheric and soil moisture, should change as the climate warms, both in their means and extremes. A major … [more]

Water Reuse: Potential for Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply Through Reuse of Municipal Wastewater Expanding water reuse–the use of treated wastewater for beneficial purposes including irrigation, industrial uses, and drinking water augmentation–could significantly increase the nation’s total available water resources. Water Reuse[more]

Desalination: A National Perspective There has been an exponential increase in desalination capacity both globally and nationally since 1960, fueled in part by growing concern for local water scarcity and made possible to a great extent by a major federal investment for desalination … [more]

Prospects for Managed Underground Storage of Recoverable Water Growing demands for water in many parts of the nation are fueling the search for new approaches to sustainable water management, including how best to store water. Society has historically relied on dams and reservoirs, but problems such as high … [more]

Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta Extensively modified over the last century and a half, California’s San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary remains biologically diverse and functions as a central element in California’s water supply system. Uncertainties about the future, actions … [more]

A Review of the Use of Science and Adaptive Management in California’s Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan The San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary is a large, complex estuarine ecosystem in California. It has been substantially altered by dikes, levees, channelization, pumps, human development, introduced species, dams on its tributary streams and … [more]

A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California’s Bay Delta California’s Bay-Delta estuary is a biologically diverse estuarine ecosystem that plays a central role in the distribution of California’s water from the state’s wetter northern regions to its southern, arid, and populous cities and agricultural … [more]

Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability Recent studies of past climate and streamflow conditions have broadened understanding of long-term water availability in the Colorado River, revealing many periods when streamflow was lower than at any time in the past 100 years of recorded … [more]

The NAP Guide to the 2014 State of the Union Address

This year’s State of the Union address focused on topics including energy, education, climate change, and gun violence. The National Academies Press provides resources directly related to these issues. Below, we’ve annotated the complete text of the President’s State of the Union speech with relevant reports from the National Academies that provide authoritative, independent guidance on these issues.

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Bill & Melinda Gates Speak to the NAS

bill-and-melinda-gates

At the 2013 National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting on April 27th-29th, Bill and Melinda Gates received the prestigious Public Welfare Medal for improving the lives of millions by applying science to some of the world’s most difficult global health challenges. In the words of Bill Gates, find out why he and Melinda were “talking to scientists about toilets” in his recap of the event on his website, a full transcript of the acceptance speeches he and Melinda gave, as well as a video of them delivering their speeches.

To view a video of Bill and Melinda’s acceptance speeches, click here.

For a recap of the event from Bill himself, click here.

For a full transcript of Bill and Melinda’s speeches, click here.

Visit the NAS website to learn more about the Public Welfare Medal and notable past winners.