Last night The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy held its farewell party for all current staff and Obama Administration OSTP Alumni. It was extremely bitter sweet.
On one hand I feel SO proud and grateful to have worked for the most science and technology literate President and the most ambitious Science Advisor in my lifetime thus far; I feel so lucky to have worked closely with the concentration of high caliber colleagues and friends at OSTP working to empower a network of innovators within and outside government, to deliver sound science and technology policy on a staggering number of topics, and build coalitions to accelerate and sustain policy implementation. This A-team group of alumni won't stop working for good even if they're no longer in the White House.
However I can't shake the feeling that this very well could be the MOST science and technology forward Administration, and thus most strongly supported OSTP, we will EVER HAVE in my lifetime which leads me to wish I had used my time there to do even more (note: I really hope I'm wrong and we see a "geek in chief" in the White House again). Don't get me wrong, I am so, so proud of what our community was able to accomplish for Open Innovation over the last 8 years including the 2 years I held the open innovation role at the White House. In fact, also last night, the President signed the first crowdsourcing and citizen science authority into law (in the COMPETES reauthorization) which is HUGE for creating further momentum for OI in the government. OI has a sound legal basis all around (for prizes and citizen science) which is critical to continuing to scale these approaches within government. But for each and every one of us there are moments to harness in one's life where you have the opportunity and the RESPONSIBILITY to do the most you possibly can and in reflection I know I had some gas left in my tank when I left OSTP. So at this moment while feeling so proud I also wish I could have done more.
OSTP led a remarkable amount of science and technology work over the last 8 years. And we were able to do this in large part to the level of support from the top it received as well as its sheer size. More people = more hours to get more work done. To put it in perspective, this OSTP was the largest OSTP by more than a factor of 2--EVER. And that's not because staff were working less hard, but because we worked SO HARD to do SO MUCH for science and technology at a truly amazing scale. This week, the White House released a memo detailing its high level accomplishments and recommendations for the next administration: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet/exit-memos/office-science-and-technology-policy. If you really want to be awed, you should read the OSTP impact report released in mid 2016, that describes the top 100 OSTP accomplishments, including prize and citizen science work: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/21/impact-report-100-examples-president-obamas-leadership-science). I hope we have another empowered OSTP again in my lifetime that can get this sheer amount of work done for science and technology. Our country and the world need it.
With these mixed emotions I am grateful to keep serving the public's S&T interests at NASA with a rockstar team, am so thankful for the lifelong friends I made at OSTP, and I hope someday to get another chance to flex the S&T policy muscles I honed in my time at the Obama OSTP in an even higher impact way, where I use every bit of gas in the tank.