PCAST Discusses Leveraging Science and Technology Capabilities Across the Department of Commerce

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Publication date: 
5 March 2014

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology held a discussion on leveraging science and technology capabilities across the Department of Commerce during a portion of their January 31 meeting.   Patrick Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce spoke about the Department of Commerce activities to use and analyze scientific data.

Gallagher opened the session by describing the broad scope of the research done within the Department of Commerce.  He provided an overview of the programmatic and operational areas within the Department of Commerce Framework and described the Department’s efforts to enable a data-driven economy, engage and facilitate partnerships with businesses, and work on innovative ways to address how the Department uses the data it produces.  He spoke about NIST’s work in cybersecurity, stating that NIST has developed a framework and is convening the private sector to address cybersecurity policies.  As the Department of Commerce considers methods of data analytics and collection, Gallagher noted that they would need to rethink data integration and scaling in addition to considering data regulation issues. 

Strickling outlined the four program areas of NTIA including internet policy, spectrum, broadband management and management of Recovery Act Broadband Grants, and the development and deployment of a National Public Safety Broadband Network.  As he described spectrum issues, he referred to a recent PCAST report addressing spectrum allocation.  He highlighted NTIA’s preparation efforts to evaluate an additional 1000-megahertz of spectrum which they intend to make available to commercial users.  On the issue of privacy, Strickling pointed to the President’s 2012 blueprint for data privacy, which lays out seven framework principles, establishes a consumer bill of rights and addresses rules of engagement for industry stakeholders. 

John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy opened the round of questions by drawing a parallel between the role that the Department of Commerce plays in engaging the business community in addressing cybersecurity issues and the role it could play in engaging the business community in climate risk management.  He emphasized that the Department of Commerce has successfully worked with businesses to better link their operations with cybersecurity risk management.  Holdren noted that the private sector faces risks due to the impacts of climate change and suggested that the Department of Commerce could engage the private sector in effectively working on climate preparedness and resilience. 

Other discussions included barriers for implementation of data management practices.  Members of PCAST were interested in the approach that the Department of Commerce used to reach out to businesses.  Also of interest were the rules and regulations for the Department’s data platforms.  Lastly, the importance of consumer rights was underlined as the group discussed privacy issues associated with increased use of large data sets.

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