GAO provides Congress with thorough and balanced analysis of technological and scientific developments that affect our society, environment, and economy. To enhance our ability to do this, we established the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team in January 2019. Our new team will expand our support to Congress by:
- Conducting technology assessments and providing technical services
- Auditing science and technology programs and initiatives to assist in oversight of federal investments in research, development, and advanced manufacturing
- Compiling and utilizing best practices in engineering sciences, including cost, schedule, and technology readiness assessments
- Establishing an audit innovation lab to explore, pilot, and deploy new advanced analytic capabilities, conduct research in information assurance, and explore emerging technologies that will impact future audit practices
For a more detailed look at the new team, see the plan and timeline sent to Congress (PDF, 32 pages). This document summarizes relevant trends, explains the new team’s structure, and describes the team’s operations and areas it will cover. Additionally, our Information Technology and Cybersecurity team will continue to work on technology and science issues related to cybersecurity.
Science & Tech Spotlights
The Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team is publishing "Science & Tech Spotlights," 2-page quick reads for policymakers and the public. Each Spotlight gives an overview of an emerging development in science and technology, the opportunities and challenges it brings, and the relevant policy context. Our first Spotlights discuss:
See all of our Science & Tech Spotlights below.
GAO has published a number of technology assessments on established and emerging technology. We also continue to provide evidence-based analysis to assist policymakers with the privacy and security implications of technology, as well as the management of federal investments in technology and science. In October 2020, we established the Polaris Council, a body of interdisciplinary science and technology policy experts, to advise us on emerging science & technology issues facing Congress and the nation.
Our technology assessments explain the consequences that certain technology will have on the federal government—and on society as a whole.
- Economic competiveness. Our work has covered a range of topics including artificial intelligence, connectivity and the Internet of Things, innovation in data analytics, chemical innovation, and 3D printing.
- Energy and the environment. We’ve reported on topics like protecting the electric grid, addressing municipal freshwater scarcity, reducing freshwater use in thermoelectric power plant cooling, and climate engineering.
- Health care. We’ve evaluated enabling rapid diagnoses of infectious diseases, the implications of nanomanufacturing on human health, and the use of artificial intelligence in drug discovery and development. We are currently investigating artificial intelligence technologies to augment patient care.
- Homeland security. We’ve examined explosive detection technologies to protect passenger trains, biometrics for border security, and law enforcement use of forensic algorithms.
See all of our technology assessments below.
Management of Federal Technology and Science Programs
We assess the management and coordination of federal research and development efforts, including investments in scientific facilities (such as telescopes and research vessels) and emerging technologies (like synthetic biology and quantum computing).
We have also identified, in our Strategic Plan, five emerging technologies and scientific advances that could potentially transform society. We will consider these factors in our future work.