Expanding S&T Capacity and Analysis to Meet the Needs of Congress

March 21, 2021

Expanding S&T Capacity and Analysis to Meet the Needs of Congress

Rapid developments in science and technology (S&T) are transforming multiple sectors of society. Like all technological change, these developments bring both opportunities and the potential for unintended consequences. The ability of Congress to understand, evaluate, and prepare for such changes will be critical for the United States to remain secure, innovative, and globally competitive. In January 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) created the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team to build on and expand its decades-long work providing Congress with S&T analysis. STAA is a large interdisciplinary technical team that advises Congress, generates policy options, and informs legislation on topics in the computational sciences (such as artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics), physical sciences (such as sustainable chemistry and nuclear waste management), life sciences (such as epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases and biosurety of Select Agents), and engineering (such as IoT, 3D printing, and hypersonic systems).

In this webinar, part of the Technology Transfer and Innovation Forum series from the DC chapter of the Technology Transfer Society, Dr. Tim Persons and Dr. Karen Howard will discuss STAA’s history, organization, and its technology assessment portfolio.

About the Speakers:

Dr. Timothy M. Persons is the Chief Scientist and Managing Director of the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO - the oversight, insight, and foresight entity of the U.S. Congress). Persons is the founder of GAO’s Innovation Lab – an exploratory research and development environment for advanced data analytic activities as well as the exploration of emerging technologies at GAO. He also is the managing executive director of GAO’s science, technology, and engineering portfolio – including technology assessment, technical assistance, and engineering in support of the Congress and GAO. In these roles he leads He also directed the production and release of GAO’s Best Practices Guides – Cost, Schedule, Technology Readiness Assessment, and Agile Software Development. Prior to joining GAO, Persons served as the Technical Director for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) as well as the technical lead for Quantum Information Sciences and Biometrics research groups for the Information Assurance Directorate at the National Security Agency. Persons is a recipient of a 2020 Fed 100 Award in recognition of national leadership in artificial intelligence and machine learning, a 2016 James Madison University (JMU) Distinguished Alumnus Award, a 2014 GAO Distinguished Service Award, among other honors. Persons received his BSc (Physics) from JMU, a MSc (Nuclear Physics) from Emory University, and MSc (Computer Science) and PhD (Biomedical Engineering) degrees from Wake Forest University.

Dr. Karen Howard, as a Director in GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team, manages teams covering a broad portfolio of topics at the nexus of science, technology, and policy, including sustainable chemistry, forensic algorithms, applications of artificial intelligence in health care, ocean acidification, management of toxic chemicals and emerging contaminants, water quality challenges, and a range of other science and technology issues. Prior to joining GAO, Howard enjoyed a 12-year career as a high school chemistry and biology teacher. Upon her initial appointment to GAO, she worked as an analyst in GAO’s Health Care team, examining federal management of public health issues, drug pricing across federal programs, and FDA’s drug and medical device approval processes. She holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Secondary Education, a master’s in Education, a master’s in Analytical Chemistry, and a PhD in Environmental Chemistry.