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

Credential-stealing malware / User accounts compromised / Software vulnerability

Android Malware Infects More than 1M Phones, Adds 13,000 Devices a Day

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

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

  • 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.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.


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