recommended reading

The White House Wants More Fossils and Moon Rocks Online

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Federal agencies that manage scientific collections such as space rocks, fossils and animal tissue samples have six months to write draft policies describing how those collections will be made more accessible to the public online, according to a White House memo.

The memo from John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, envisions a central clearinghouse for digital information about government’s scientific collections developed, in part at least, by the Smithsonian Institution.

Those policies should be consistent with earlier guidance requiring agencies to make their data open to the public and machine readable whenever possible, the memo said. When government information is published in open formats, it's easier for nongovernment groups to parse through large volumes of data to gather educational insights or to build Web and mobile tools that deliver targeted information to the public.

Local science teachers, for example, could comb through such a database to gather photos and other information about geological samples from their area.

“These collections are public assets,” the White House said in a blog post announcing the memo. “They play an important role in promoting public health and safety, homeland security, trade, and economic development, medical research, resource management, education, and environmental monitoring…For the American public, students and teachers, they are also treasure troves of information ripe for exploration and learning.”

The draft policies should include “a strategy for providing online information about the contents of the agency’s scientific collections and, where appropriate, for maximizing access to individual objects in digital form for scientific and educational purposes” as well as the agency official responsible for carrying out the policies, the memo said.

The online collections should also include metadata, the memo said, describing where a sample came from, when it was collected and other information. 

Get the Nextgov iPhone app to keep up with government technology news.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.