|Sustainability Considerations for Procurement Tools and CapabilitiesSummary of a Workshop
Federal laws, regulations, and executive orders have imposed requirements for federal agencies to move toward the sustainable acquisition of goods and services, including the incorporation of sustainable purchasing into federal agency decision making. Since the federal government is such a significant player in the market, its move to incorporate sustainable procurement practices could have a profound impact on the types of products being developed for the market as a whole.
The General Services Administration (GSA) has played a key role in furthering sustainable procurement practices throughout the federal government. GSA is responsible for formulating and maintaining government-wide policies covering a variety of administrative actions, including those related to procurement and management. GSA has several ongoing activities related to sustainable procurement to assess the feasibility of working with the federal supplier community - vendors and contractors that serve federal agencies to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chain while encouraging sustainable operations among suppliers. GSA has also been actively developing programs to assist federal agencies in making sustainable procurement decisions. As federal agencies cannot directly fund the development of sustainable procurement tools, they are particularly interested in understanding how to foster innovation and provide incentives for collaboration between developers and users of tools for sustainable purchasing throughout the supply chain. The training of procurement professionals is also a priority for these agencies.
To assist efforts to build sustainability considerations into the procurement process, the National Research Council appointed a committee to organize a two-day workshop that explored ways to better incorporate sustainability considerations into procurement tools and capabilities across the public and private sectors. The workshop was designed to help participants assess the current landscape of green purchasing tools, identify emerging needs for enhanced or new tools and opportunities to develop them, identify potential barriers to progress, and explore potential solutions. The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to discuss challenges related to sustainable purchasing and to developing new procurement tools. Sustainability Considerations for Procurement Tools and Capabilities reviews the presenters' recommendations and tools currently used in sustainable procurement, such as databases for ecolabels and standards, codes, or regulations and other nontechnological tools such as policies, frameworks, rating systems, and product indexes.
|Continuing Innovation in Information Technology
Information technology (IT) is widely understood to be the enabling technology of the 21st century. IT has transformed, and continues to transform, all aspects of our lives: commerce and finance, education, employment, energy, health care, manufacturing, government, national security, transportation, communications, entertainment, science, and engineering. IT and its impact on the U.S. economy-both directly (the IT sector itself) and indirectly (other sectors that are powered by advances in IT)--continue to grow in size and importance.
In 1995, the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) produced the report Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative to Support the Nation's Information Infrastructure. A graphic in that report, often called the "tire tracks" diagram because of its appearance, produced an extraordinary response by clearly linking government investments in academic and industry research to the ultimate creation of new information technology industries with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.
Used in presentations to Congress and executive branch decision makers and discussed broadly in the research and innovation policy communities, the tire tracks figure dispelled the assumption that the commercially successful IT industry is self-sufficient, underscoring through long incubation periods of years and even decades. The figure was updated in 2002, 2003, and 2009 reports produced by the CSTB. With the support of the National Science Foundation, CSTB updated the tire tracks figure. Continuing Innovation in Information Technology includes the updated figure and a brief text based in large part on prior CSTB reports.
|Computing Research for Sustainability
A broad and growing literature describes the deep and multidisciplinary nature of the sustainability challenges faced by the United States and the world. Despite the profound technical challenges involved, sustainability is not, at its root, a technical problem, nor will merely technical solutions be sufficient. Instead, deep economic, political, and cultural adjustments will ultimately be required, along with a major, long-term commitment in each sphere to deploy the requisite technical solutions at scale.
Nevertheless, technological advances and enablers have a clear role in supporting such change, and information technology (IT) is a natural bridge between technical and social solutions because it can offer improved communication and transparency for fostering the necessary economic, political, and cultural adjustments. Moreover, IT is at the heart of nearly every large-scale socioeconomic system-including systems for finance, manufacturing, and the generation and distribution of energy-and so sustainability-focused changes in those systems are inextricably linked with advances in IT.
The focus of Computing Research for Sustainability is "greening through IT," the application of computing to promote sustainability broadly. The aim of this report is twofold: to shine a spotlight on areas where IT innovation and computer science (CS) research can help, and to urge the computing research community to bring its approaches and methodologies to bear on these pressing global challenges. Computing Research for Sustainability focuses on addressing medium- and long-term challenges in a way that would have significant, measurable impact. The findings and recommended principles of the Committee on Computing Research for Environmental and Societal Sustainability concern four areas: (1) the relevance of IT and CS to sustainability; (2) the value of the CS approach to problem solving, particularly as it pertains to sustainability challenges; (3) key CS research areas; and (4) strategy and pragmatic approaches for CS research on sustainability.
|Communicating Science and Engineering Data in the Information Age
The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) communicates its science and engineering (S&E) information to data users in a very fluid environment that is undergoing modernization at a pace at which data producer dissemination practices, protocols, and technologies, on one hand, and user demands and capabilities, on the other, are changing faster than the agency has been able to accommodate. NCSES asked the Committee on National Statistics and the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council to form a panel to review the NCSES communication and dissemination program that is concerned with the collection and distribution of information on science and engineering and to recommend future directions for the program.
Communicating Science and Engineering Data in the Information Age includes recommendations to improve NCSES's dissemination program and improve data user engagement. This report includes recommendations such as NCSES's transition to a dissemination framework that emphasizes database management rather than data presentation, and that NCSES analyze the results of its initial online consumer survey and refine it over time. The implementation of the report's recommendations should be undertaken within an overall framework that accords priority to the basic quality of the data and the fundamentals of dissemination, then to significant enhancements that are achievable in the short term, while laying the groundwork for other long-term improvements.