September 24, 2009

House S&T Committee Considers Cyber Security R&D

The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee marked up a bill designed to amend portions of Cyber Security R&D Act of 2005 today. The aptly named Cybersecurity Research and Development Amendments Act of 2009 (PDF) touches on several things that CRA supports including:

  • Requires the development of a cybersecurity R&D strategic plan throughout the federal government
  • Requires the inclusion of social and behavioral research at NSF as part of the cybersecurity research portfolio
  • Specifically includes “identity management” as an area of research that should be supported in a cybersecurity research portfolio
  • Requires NSF to create a postdoctoral fellowship program in cybersecurity
  • Authorizes a cybersecurity scholarship for service program at NSF
  • Requires OSTP to assess the current and future cybersecurity workforce needs of the federal government, including comparison of the skills needed by each fed agency, the supply of talent, and any barriers to recruitment
  • Establishes an academic-industry task force to explore public-private research partnerships in cybersecurity

Only two amendments to the original bill language were proposed and both were adopted. The first was the manager’s amendment which made technical changes to the bill and clarifies the service requirements for those students participating in the Scholarship for Service program authorized in the bill. The second amendment was introduced by Congresswoman Johnson (D-TX) and seeks to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the scholarship program and include minority institutions as stakeholders in the strategic plan. We don't yet have copies of either the Manager's amendment or Rep. Johnson's, but when we do, we'll post them here.

Both the chairman of the subcommittee, Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and the ranking member, Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) emphasized the need for cybersecurity research to keep pace with the changing cyber threats and to ensure a sufficient workforce in cybersecurity. Ehlers mentioned that the workforce problem had been personally brought to his attention last year by a computer science professor who visited his office and discussed the drop in computing related undergraduates after the boom, a situation that we have discussed in great detail here in the past, but one that, based on the most recent Taulbee data, we believe is turning around.

Posted by MelissaNorr at 12:49 PM
Posted to Diversity in Computing | Policy | Research | Security

September 21, 2009

President Obama Touts Role of Basic Research in Innovation

Delivering remarks at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY, today, President Obama noted the importance of the U.S. remaining an innovation leaders and how his Administration hopes to continue fostering that. Here's a snippet with some remarks relevant to the computing community:

One key to strengthening education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in communities like Troy is to harness the full power of the internet. That means faster and more widely available broadband– as well as rules to ensure that we preserve the fairness and openness that led to the flourishing of the internet in the first place. Today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is announcing a set of principles to preserve an open internet in which all Americans can participate and benefit. I am pleased that he is taking this step. It is an important reminder that the role of government is to provide investment that spurs innovation and common-sense ground rules to ensure that there is a level playing field for all comers who seek to contribute their innovations.

And we have to think about the networks we need today, but also the networks we’ll want tomorrow. That’s why I’ve proposed grants through the National Science Foundation and through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – which helped develop the internet – to explore the next communications breakthroughs, whatever they may be. And that’s why I’ve appointed the first-ever Chief Technology Officer, charged with looking at ways technology can spur innovations that help government do a better and more efficient job.

We must also strengthen our commitment to research, including basic research, which has been badly neglected for decades. The fact is, basic research may not pay off immediately. It may not pay off for years. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not. That’s why the private sector generally under-invests in basic science, and why the public sector must invest in its stead. While the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society. It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today’s GPS satellites are based on the equations Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.

When we fail to invest in research, we fail to invest in the future. Yet, since the peak of the Space Race in the 1960s, our national commitment to research and development has steadily fallen as a share of our national income. That is why I have set a goal of putting a full three percent of our Gross Domestic Product – our national income – into research and development, surpassing the commitment we made when President Kennedy challenged this nation to send a man to the moon. Toward this goal, the Recovery Act has helped achieve the largest increase in basic research in history. And this month the National Institutes of Health will award more than a billion dollars in research grants through the Recovery Act focused on what we can learn from the mapping of the human genome in order to treat diseases that affect millions of Americans, from cancer to heart disease. I also want to urge Congress to fully fund the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, which has since its creation been a source of cutting-edge breakthroughs from that early internet to stealth technology.

As we invest in the building blocks of innovation, from the classroom to the laboratory, it is also essential that we have competitive and vibrant markets that promote innovation as well. Education and research help foster new ideas, but it takes fair and free markets to turn those ideas into industries.

We've posted his full remarks in the extended entry. As you'll see in the coming days as we begin to post more on the appropriations process, there's still positive sentiment in the Administration and the Congress for the federal government's role in supporting basic research and its payoff in the economy. But translating that positive sentiment into robust funding for basic research is tricky and there are a number of hurdles along the way. So it helps that the President continues to shine a light on the issue and that articles like this great piece in today's Los Angeles Times continue to highlight the importance of federal support for basic research. Here's a bit from that LA Times article, written by columnist Michael Hiltzik:
[Bob Taylor's] experience underscores the importance of a government role in fields like basic research, which profit-seeking enterprises tend to shun.

"Industry generally avoids long-term research because it entails risk," the veteran computer scientist Ed Lazowska told Congress a few years ago. Why? Because it's hard to predict the results of such research, and since it has to be published and publicly validated, corporations can't capitalize on their investments in isolation.

Yet once the research reaches a certain point, private industry piles in -- Lazowska cited a National Research Council list of 19 multibillion-dollar industries that had been incubated with federal funding, generally via university grants -- including the Internet, Web browsers and cellphones -- before becoming commercially viable. Taylor's ARPAnet was eventually turned over to the National Science Foundation, which in 1991 opened what was then known as NSFnet to commercial exploitation. Four years later, the dot-com boom was underway.

Obama's full remarks and the accompanying press release:

Thank you, Jill. Dr. Jill Biden has been a teacher for almost three decades and she’s spent most of that time in community colleges. She understands, as you do, the power of these institutions to prepare students for 21st century jobs, and to prepare America for a 21st century global economy. That’s what’s happening right here at Hudson Valley Community College. This is a place where anyone with the desire to take their career to a new level or start a new career altogether has the opportunity to pursue that dream. This is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds – even in the face of obstacles, even in the face of very difficult personal challenges – can take a chance on a brighter future for themselves and their families.

I know that here in Troy, you want and need that chance after so many years of hard times. Communities like this one were once the heart of America’s manufacturing strength. But over the last few decades, you’ve borne the brunt of a changing economy which has seen many manufacturing plants close in the face of global competition. So while all of America has been gripped by the current economic crisis, folks in Troy and upstate New York have been dealing with what amounts to a permanent recession for years: an economic downturn that has driven more and more young people from their hometowns.

I also know that while many have come here promising better news, that news has been hard to come by, despite the determined efforts of the leaders who are here today and many who are not. Part of the reason is that while the people of this city work hard to meet their responsibilities, some in Washington haven’t always lived up to theirs. For too long, as old divisions and special interests reigned, Washington has shown neither the inclination nor the ability to tackle our toughest challenges. Meanwhile, businesses were saddled with ever-rising health care costs and the economy was weakened by an ever-growing dependence on foreign oil; our investments in cutting-edge research declined and our schools fell short; growth focused on short-term gains and fueled by debt and reckless risk led to cycles of precipitous booms and painful busts.

Now, after so many years of failing to act, there are those who suggest that nothing government can do will make a difference; that what we’ve seen in places like Troy is inevitable; that somehow, the parts of our country that helped us lead in the last century don’t have what it takes to help us lead in this one. I am here today to tell you that this is just flat out wrong. What we have here is a community filled with talented people, entrepreneurial small businesses, and world-class learning institutions. The ingredients are here for growth and success and a better future.

You are proving that in the Hudson Valley. Students here are training full time while working part time at GE Energy in Schenectady, becoming a new generation of American leaders in a new generation of American manufacturing. IBM has partnered with the University at Albany; their partnership in nanotechnology is helping students train in the industries in which America has the potential to lead. Rensselaer is partnering not only with this institution but with businesses throughout the Tech Valley. And early next year, Hudson Valley Community College’s state-of-the-art TEC-SMART training facility is set to open side-by-side with Global Foundry’s coming state-of-the-art semiconductor plant.

So we know that Upstate New York can succeed. And we know that in a global economy – where there is no room for error and there is certainly no room for wasted potential – America needs you to succeed. As we emerge from this economic crisis, our great challenge will be to ensure that we do not simply drift into the future, accepting less for our children and less for America. Instead, we must choose to do what past generations have done: shape a brighter future through hard work and innovation. That’s how we’ll not only recover, but rebuild stronger than before: strong enough to compete in the global economy; strong enough to avoid the cycles of boom and bust that have wreaked so much havoc; strong enough to create and support the jobs of the future in the industries of the future.

Today, my administration is releasing our strategy to foster new jobs, new businesses, and new industries by laying the groundwork and the ground rules to best tap our innovative potential. This work began with the recovery plan, which devoted well over $100 billion to innovation, from high-tech classrooms to health information technology, from more energy-efficient homes to more fuel-efficient cars, from building a smart electricity grid to laying down high-speed rail lines. But it does not end there. For this strategy is about far more than recovery; it is about sustained growth and widely-shared prosperity. And it is rooted in a simple idea, that if government does its modest part, there is no stopping the most powerful and generative economic force the world has ever known: the American people.

Our strategy begins where innovation so often does: in the classroom and in the laboratory – and in the networks that connect them to the broader economy. These are the building blocks of innovation: education, infrastructure, and research.

We know that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. The ability of new industries to thrive depends on workers with the knowledge and know-how to contribute in those fields. Yet, today, our primary and secondary schools continue to trail many of our competitors, especially in key areas like math and science. Hundreds of thousands of high school graduates who are prepared for college do not go to four-year or two-year schools because of the high cost of doing so. And roughly 40 percent of students who start college don’t complete college. All along that education pipeline, too many slip through the cracks. It’s not only heartbreaking for those students; it’s a loss for our economy and our country.

Now, I know that for a long time politicians have spoken of training as a silver bullet and college as a cure-all. It’s not – and we know that. But we also know that in the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience. We will not fill those jobs – or keep those jobs on our shores – without graduating more students, including millions more students from community colleges. That’s why I’ve asked Dr. Biden to travel the country promoting the opportunities that these schools offer. That’s why I’m grateful that Senator Chuck Schumer has shown tremendous leadership on this issue.

And that is why I’ve set this ambitious goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. And to reach this goal, we’ve increased Pell Grants and created a simplified $2,500 tax credit for college tuition. We’ve made student aid applications less complicated and ensured that that aid is not based on the income of a job you’ve lost. We’ve passed a new GI Bill of Rights to help soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan begin a new life in a new economy. And the recovery plan has helped close state budget shortfalls – which put enormous pressure on public universities and community colleges – while also making historic investments in elementary and secondary schools. Finally, through the American Graduation Initiative I’ve proposed, we will reform and strengthen community colleges to help an additional five million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade. Because a new generation of innovations depends on a new generation of innovators.

And just last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will go a long way to reform the student loan system so that college is more affordable for more people. Right now, the federal government provides a subsidy to banks to get them to lend students money. The thing is, the federal government guarantees the loan in case the student doesn’t repay. So we subsidize the banks to take on the risk of these loans even though taxpayers just absorb the price of that risk anyway. This costs us more than $80 billion. If we simply cut out the middle-man, and lent directly, the federal government would save that money, and we could use it for what it is actually meant for: helping students afford and succeed in college.

That’s what the bill I proposed does. It takes the $80 billion dollars the banks currently get, and uses it to make Pell Grants larger. It uses those funds to focus on innovative efforts to help students not only go to college but to graduate. And, just as important, these savings will allow us to make the largest investment ever in the most underappreciated asset of our education system: community colleges like Hudson Valley, which are so essential to the future of young people and our economy. And we hope to improve on this bill in the Senate to go even further on behalf of students.

Ending this unwarranted subsidy for the big banks is a no-brainer for folks everywhere. Everywhere except Washington, that is. In fact, we’re already seeing the special interests rallying to save this giveaway. The large banks – many who have benefited from taxpayer bailouts during the financial crisis – are lobbying to keep this easy money flowing. This is exactly the kind of special interest effort that has succeeded before and that we cannot allow to succeed again. This is exactly the kind of waste that leaves people wary of government and leaves our country saddled with a trillion dollar deficit with little to show for it. This is exactly what I came to Washington to change. And I look forward to winning this fight in the Senate, as we just have in the House, and signing this bill into law.

One key to strengthening education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in communities like Troy is to harness the full power of the internet. That means faster and more widely available broadband– as well as rules to ensure that we preserve the fairness and openness that led to the flourishing of the internet in the first place. Today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is announcing a set of principles to preserve an open internet in which all Americans can participate and benefit. I am pleased that he is taking this step. It is an important reminder that the role of government is to provide investment that spurs innovation and common-sense ground rules to ensure that there is a level playing field for all comers who seek to contribute their innovations.

And we have to think about the networks we need today, but also the networks we’ll want tomorrow. That’s why I’ve proposed grants through the National Science Foundation and through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – which helped develop the internet – to explore the next communications breakthroughs, whatever they may be. And that’s why I’ve appointed the first-ever Chief Technology Officer, charged with looking at ways technology can spur innovations that help government do a better and more efficient job.

We must also strengthen our commitment to research, including basic research, which has been badly neglected for decades. The fact is, basic research may not pay off immediately. It may not pay off for years. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not. That’s why the private sector generally under-invests in basic science, and why the public sector must invest in its stead. While the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society. It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today’s GPS satellites are based on the equations Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.

When we fail to invest in research, we fail to invest in the future. Yet, since the peak of the Space Race in the 1960s, our national commitment to research and development has steadily fallen as a share of our national income. That is why I have set a goal of putting a full three percent of our Gross Domestic Product – our national income – into research and development, surpassing the commitment we made when President Kennedy challenged this nation to send a man to the moon. Toward this goal, the Recovery Act has helped achieve the largest increase in basic research in history. And this month the National Institutes of Health will award more than a billion dollars in research grants through the Recovery Act focused on what we can learn from the mapping of the human genome in order to treat diseases that affect millions of Americans, from cancer to heart disease. I also want to urge Congress to fully fund the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, which has since its creation been a source of cutting-edge breakthroughs from that early internet to stealth technology.

As we invest in the building blocks of innovation, from the classroom to the laboratory, it is also essential that we have competitive and vibrant markets that promote innovation as well. Education and research help foster new ideas, but it takes fair and free markets to turn those ideas into industries.

My budget finally makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. This is a tax credit that helps companies afford the often high costs of developing new ideas, new technologies, and new products – which often mean new jobs. And this tax incentive returns two dollars to the economy for every one dollar we spend. Time and again, I’ve heard from leaders – from Silicon Valley to the Tech Valley – about how important this is. I’ve also proposed reducing to zero the capital gains tax for investments in small or startup businesses. Because small businesses are innovative businesses, producing thirteen times more patents per employee than large companies.

Now, these tax incentives will spur entrepreneurship. But there are other important steps to foster markets that value and promote the risk takers and idea makers who have always been at the center of our success. That is why it is essential that we enforce trade laws and work with our trading partners to open up markets abroad; that we reform and strengthen our intellectual property system; that we sustain our advantage as a place that draws and welcomes the brightest minds from all around the world; and that we unlock sources of credit and capital which have been in short supply as a result of the financial crisis.

There are other fundamental barriers to innovation and economic growth that we must tackle in order to ensure American leadership and prosperity in the 21st century. For as a nation we face enormous challenges, from ending our dependence on oil to finally providing all Americans with quality, affordable health care. We need to focus on innovations that will help us meet these challenges – innovations that will benefit society while creating new jobs in new industries.

Health care costs, for example, leave our small businesses at a disadvantage when competing with our large businesses, and leave our large businesses at a disadvantage when competing around the world. And we will never know the enormity of the cost to our economy of the countless Americans unable to become an entrepreneur, to start a small business, to follow their dreams – because they’re afraid of losing their health insurance. To lead in the global economy, we must pass health insurance reform that brings down costs, provides more security for people who have insurance, and offers affordable options for those who don’t.

And the recovery plan that we passed earlier this year has begun to modernize our health care system, by taking the long-overdue step of computerizing America’s health records. This will reduce the waste and errors that cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives – while protecting patients’ privacy. It’s important to note, too, these records hold the potential of offering patients the chance to be more active participants in the prevention and treatment of illness. And health information technology, if implemented effectively, has the potential to unlock so many unanticipated benefits, as the patterns in data we do not yet collect reveal discoveries we cannot predict.

But in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new ways to produce, use, and save energy. I firmly believe that the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. That is why we’re doubling our capacity to generate renewable energy and building a stronger and smarter electric grid. We’re investing in technologies to power a new generation of clean-energy vehicles. We’ve helped reach an agreement to raise fuel economy standards. And for the first time in history, we’ve passed a bill to create a system of clean energy incentives which will help make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America – while helping to end our dependence on oil and protect our planet for future generations. The bill has passed the House and now we’re working to pass legislation through the Senate.

That is an overview of our strategy. It is a strategy that is essential for our recovery today and our prosperity tomorrow. And it is a strategy rooted in a deep and abiding faith in the ability of this country to rise to any challenge. That is our history. We are a people with a seemingly limitless supply of ingenuity and daring and talent. And at its best, our government has harnessed those qualities without getting in the way. That is what led to the building of the Erie Canal which helped put cities like Troy on the map, that linked east and west and allowed commerce and competition to flow freely between. That is what led an inventor and shrewd businessman named Thomas Edison to come to Schenectady and open what is today a thriving mom-and-pop operation known as General Electric.

A former Senator from New York, Robert Kennedy, once told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” It was not an accident that America led the 20th century. It was the result of hard work and discipline and sacrifice, and ambition that served a common purpose. So it must be in the 21st century. Future success is no guarantee. As Americans we must always remember that our leadership is not an inheritance, it is a responsibility.

From biotechnology to nanotechnology, from the development of new forms of energy to research into treatments of ancient diseases, there is so much potential to change our world and improve our lives – while creating countless jobs all across America. The question is if we are ready to embrace that potential, if we are ready to lead the way once more. And I know that we are ready. I’ve seen it all across America. This generation has an unparalleled opportunity that we are called upon to seize. That is what you are doing at Hudson Valley Community College. And that is what we will do as a nation.

Thank you.


WASHINGTON, DC -- President Obama will visit Hudson Valley Community College today where he will tour a technology classroom, visit a lab and deliver remarks on his commitment to fostering new jobs, new businesses, and new industries by laying the groundwork and the ground rules to best tap our innovative potential.
Since taking office, President Obama has taken historic steps to lay the foundation for the innovation economy of the future. The Obama Innovation Strategy builds on well over $100 billion of Recovery Act funds that support innovation, additional support for education, infrastructure and others in the Recovery Act and the President’s Budget, and novel regulatory and executive order initiatives.

It seeks to harness the inherent ingenuity of the American people and a dynamic private sector to ensure that the next expansion is more solid, broad-based, and beneficial than previous ones. It focuses on critical areas where sensible, balanced government policies can lay the foundation for innovation that leads to quality jobs and shared prosperity.

It has three parts:

1. Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation. We must first ensure that our economy is given all the necessary tools for successful innovation, from investments in research and development to the human, physical, and technological capital needed to perform that research and transfer those innovations.

2. Promote Competitive Markets that Spur Productive Entrepreneurship. It is imperative to create a national environment ripe for entrepreneurship and risk taking that allows U.S. companies to be internationally competitive in a global exchange of ideas and innovation. Through competitive markets, innovations diffuse and scale appropriately across industries and globally.

3. Catalyze Breakthroughs for National Priorities. There are certain sectors of exceptional national importance where the market is unlikely to produce the desirable outcomes on its own. These include developing alternative energy sources, reducing costs and improving lives with health IT, and manufacturing advanced vehicles. In these industries where markets may fail on their own, government can be part of the solution.

Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:01 PM
Posted to Policy

August 31, 2009

Business Week on Research in Industry

CRA frequently talks about the need for more basic scientific research but we focus almost exclusively on governmental research investment. We talk about the fall of DARPA and the need for NSF to increase to compensate. We don't spend quite as much time talking about industry investment in basic research. An article in Business Week points out the necessity of industry participation in the research ecosystem and the rich history of corporate laboratories' basic research contributions. It's a very interesting article that weaves together the past and present research ecosystems, today's economic concerns, and suggestions for tackling the problems we see today.

The article discusses the two times in US history when the government spurred scientific innovation in a short period of time - the Manhattan Project and the Apollo space mission - and the reasons they were so successful. It states, "Their success can be mapped to five crucial success factors: 1) full and sustained Presidential support; 2) effective leadership with a clearly defined mandate; 3) access to resources; 4) parallel paths/processing to save time; and 5) private sector outsourcing."

It also discusses the best basic research model which it says combines universities' research efforts and "a dynamic public-private network of labs and a venture capital industry waiting downstream to commercialize ideas and turn them into large public companies that create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Here's what's needed to get that model back on track:

  • Clear national goals in two or three key areas, such as carbon-free energy and preventive medicine.
  • Government commitment of $10 billion a year above and beyond spending for national agencies to jump-start new industrial research labs.
  • Government tax credits for corporations that commit to spending 5% to 10% (or more) of R&D on basic research."

The article is a good read with good historical background and ideas for the present.

July 31, 2009

A Systems Approach to Improving K-12 STEM Education

The House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing yesterday to examine how to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics education through partnership of public and private stakeholders in an urban K-12 system. Last year the Committee examined this issue by focusing on the small-town school district of Texarkana, Texas. In contrast, this hearing used the large urban school district of Chicago (400,000 students) to investigate a systems approach to STEM education. Panelists and Committee members agreed that STEM education successes occur in pockets throughout the country, but the question of how to bring these successes to scale remains.

(Watch the archived webcast of the hearing and view copies of witness testimonies at the House S&T Committee website.)

Witnesses included Dr. Wanda Ward, Acting Assistant Director at the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (NSF); Ms. Maggie Daley, Chair of After School Matters; Mr. Michael Lach, Officer of Teaching and Learning, Chicago Public Schools; Dr. Donald Wink, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Chemistry, and Director of Graduate Studies, Learning Sciences Research Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago; Ms. Katherine Pickus, Divisional Vice President, Global Citizenship and Policy, Abbott Laboratories.

Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) framed the day's discussion by recalling recent developments in STEM education: The National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm; the 2007 America COMPETES Act; and the passing of the STEM education bill H.R. 1709 in June of this year. From his opening remarks:

In hearings and reports we have repeatedly heard that innovation is key to maintaining a high standard of living for all Americans, and that we need more teachers and more graduates in the STEM fields if we want our country to continue to lead in the global economy. Unfortunately, American students have been lagging their international peers, while American businesses are warning about a wave of retirements without adequately trained young people to fill these vacated positions, especially in engineering fields.

Reform of our STEM education system will require coordination on multiple fronts across many diverse stakeholders. In addition to several federal agencies, there are state and local governments, school districts, universities, non-profits, businesses, community organizations, teachers, students, and – if a child is fortunate – their parents.

America needs to be successful in improving STEM education. Without it, we will lose our capacity for innovation and diminish our country’s economic strength and competitiveness in the international marketplace.

Dr. Ward opened her remarks by pointing to NSF’s role in aligning stem priorities in the America COMPETES Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with four foci: innovation, broad participation to improve workforce development, enrichment of teacher education, and fostering cyber learning to enhance STEM education.

Ms. Daly used her opening statement to emphasize the importance of creating learning experiences in informal environments. Using her own program, After School Matters, as an example, Daly noted the successful interaction between hundreds of paid instructors and thousands of students in Block 37 programs where professionals address workforce trends with students, and students are exposed to workplace problems. She pointed specifically to a partnership for students to design and build robots with mentors provided by Motorola. Daly requested that more attention be given to assessment of such efforts; historically, little resources have been used for evaluating non-profit initiatives like After School Matters.

Mr. Lach provided the public school district's perspective, sharing a vision of high quality instruction involving professional development of teachers that partner with local industry and higher educators. One area of strength in Chicago, he noted, are the strong partnerships between the public schools and local universities. In addition, he shared some of the learnings from Chicago's efforts:

  • partner with universities for course support and classroom instruction
  • extend learning experiences beyond the classroom
  • create math and science focused schools
  • foster partnerships among schools, universities, and grants from the federal government
  • centralize coordination of program support

Dr. Wink focused his remarks on the relationships, leadership and research that are necessary for the flow between K-12 students and higher education to strengthen STEM education. The most valuable investment, in his view, is made in people and relationships. He recommended to focus work with existing products and on existing research and to incorporate K-12 data on student performance in universities.

Ms. Pickus gave the perspective of a private firm involved in STEM education activities. Abbott, a large pharmaceutical health care company, provides mentors that give real world experience for students. Abbott's involvement in Chicago's public schools represent part of the private science community efforts to creating meaningful, informal experiences for students and training for teachers. Pickus emphasized the need to give public schools access to scientists, start early, and involve parents.

Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) lessened the sanguine tone of the hearing, asking Mr. Lach about dropout rates in Chicago's public schools (above fifty percent). While there have been successes, Ehlers reminded the room of the tremendous work that must still be done.

During questioning, Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) asked about NSF's work in developing the role of administrators. Ward responded positively, but did not give any specific examples of programs. Fudge also brought up the significant gap in achievement among minority students asking how STEM efforts can be targeted toward them. Mr. Lach responded that there is no silver bullet for decreasing the achievement gap. However, he felt that minority students can achieve when the supports he mentioned in his above opening remarks testimony are in place.

Representative Russ Carnahan's (D-MO) question about the disconnect that often occurs between world-class institutions and infrastructure in large urban centers and STEM activities in public schools brought out discussion among the panelists about the critical role of the executive support. Each panelist agreed that mayoral support and political capital were vital to the success of STEM efforts in Chicago.

On a side note, when asked about compensation for math and science teachers, all panelists were in favor of increasing salary or stipends in order to attract, train, and retain quality STEM teachers.

Posted by NathanGandomi at 02:26 PM
Posted to Policy

July 24, 2009

Healthcare Robotics Briefing

Yesterday the Congressional Robotics Caucus, chaired by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), hosted a briefing on healthcare robotics. Four speakers addressed various aspects of robotics in healthcare. They were: Tandy Trower, Microsoft, who spoke on Healthcare Challenges and Robotic Solutions; Maja Mataric, University of Southern California, who spoke on Socially Assistive Robotics for Personalized Care for Stroke, Autism, and Alzheimer’s Disease; Charles Remsberg, Hocoma, Inc., who spoke on Robots in Rehabilitation Medicine; and Howie Choset, Carnegie Mellon University, who spoke on Same Day Surgery: The Future of Medical Robotic Technology Interventions.

Healthcare is clearly a hot topic on the Hill these days and the speakers emphasized that robotic technologies could lower costs, particularly with a growing senior population. All the speakers called for more research in robotics but showed examples of currently deployed healthcare robotic technology and had demonstrations available before and after the presentations.

Trower pointed out that, outside military robotics, the United States research funding for service robotics is limited. He referenced the CCC funded Roadmap for US Robotics which calls for increased research funding, accelerating commercialization of robotics research, and promoting robotics, among other recommendations.

Remsberg discussed the strides already made by the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase the use of rehabilitative robotics for returning wounded veterans but called for wider adoption of the technologies in light of the costs of physical therapy using human therapists. Remsberg points out that therapy using the various robotic technologies allows more patients to get more therapy and have better outcomes than using human physical therapists alone.

Mataric focused on stroke, autism and Alzheimer’s patients and how they can be assisted with robotics. Many autistic children will interact with, and learn from, robots when they cannot do so with people according to Mataric.

Choset spoke on the need for better surgical robotics to lower the invasiveness of surgery and therefore, decrease recovery and hospital stay time for patients. He also stressed that robotic technology in surgery is not meant to replace human surgeons but to assist them in doing the surgery faster and safer.

The presentations will be available online at the Robotics Caucus web site next week.

Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:01 PM
Posted to Computing Community Consortium (CCC) | Events | Policy

June 29, 2009

House S&T Committee Assesses Cybersecurity Activities at NIST and DHS.

The House Science and Technology committee held a hearing last Thursday afternoon to asses the cybersecurity efforts of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The committee reviewed the agencies' current cybersecurity programs, asking the advice of private sector security experts on the role the federal government has in securing the private sector's infrastructure, enhancing the monitoring of federal networks, and more clearly defining cybersercurity metrics. Called to testify were Mr. Greg Wilshusen, the Director of Information Security Issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Mr. Mark Bregman, the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Symantec Corportation; Mr. Scott Charney, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group; and Mr. Jim Harper, the Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

In his opening statement, Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR) asked the witnesses what is required to implement the recommendations of the 60-day review. He praised the review's call to develop metrics to improve program assessment, budgeting, research and development, and planning. He stressed, however, that the $830M request this year from NIST and DHS on cybersecurity efforts needs to used wisely.

The panelists were circumspect about the role of the new cybersecurity czar, warning against government taking too large a role by acting as a co-partner or regulator of industry. Government, they agreed, should set security policy, minimum goals and desired outcomes, as well as facilitate best practices to help agencies meet these goals.

Mr. Wilshusen pointed out that DHS has yet to fully satisfy its cybersecurity requirements. He recommended that DHS work to bolster cyber analysis and warning systems, improve infrastructure control systems, strengthen recovery ability, reduce organizational inefficiencies, and secure internal information systems.

Mr. Bregman higlighted the global nature of problems in cybersecurity, "We all are using the same hardware and software. We all share the risks of cybersecurity." Bregman defined the role of DHS and NIST as agencies that provide strategic direction, coordination, and balance for the nation, as well as taking a prominent role in international cybersecurity.

In his opening testimony, Mr. Charney remarked, "Government must develop a model for managing its own security." Charney supported the near-term action plan of the administration's review, especially in areas where DHS and NIST can expand their capabilities to support government-wide policy, standards and oversight of cybersecurity.

Mr. Harper responded to the review by expressing his concern with threat exaggeration that may lead to policies that supress competition and jeopardize civil liberties. Government, he stated, is a large consumer of cybersecurity goods, and can set high standards simply in its purchasing of products. Companies, he explained, should bear the burden of failure, not the government.

Mr. Wu's question regarding public-private partnerships spurred a good deal of discussion. Charney, while agreeing with Mr. Harper regarding market liability, added that the market can supply security for the government in some cases and in other cases cannot. The government can fill in the gap by providing appropriate incentives. Charney acknowledged that there is some research industry cannot do because there is no economic model for it (e.g. the Internet). Mr. Bregman added that a clearly defined research agenda would stimulate investment in both the private and academic worlds. By aligning the research agendas of government agencies, a larger community of expertise can be created. Mr. Harper responded by stressing the importance of government and industry staying in their roles, and working separately in their respective areas.

Thursday's hearing was the last of three hearings on cybersecurity in response to the administration's Cyberspace Policy Review (pdf). For more information about the first hearing and second hearing, including testimony from the Computing Research Association board member Dr. Fred Schneider, see our earlier blog post.

An archived web cast of the hearing as well as copies of witness testimonies can be found on the House S&T Committee website.

Posted by NathanGandomi at 12:00 PM
Posted to Policy

June 19, 2009

House S&T Committee Discusses Cyberspace Policy Review Report With Federal Agencies

The House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing Tuesday afternoon to review the response of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to the Administration's recently released Cyberspace Policy Review (pdf). Near-term and mid-term action plans in the review raise a number of concerns relevant to the Committee's work. These issues center around federal agency efforts in research and development, education, standards, information coordination and interagency collaboration. Witnesses called to testify were Ms. Cita Furlani, Director of the Information Technology Laboratory (NIST); Dr. Jeannette Wing, Assistant Director at the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (NSF); Dr. Robert Leheny, Acting Director (DARPA); Dr. Peter Fonash, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Office of Cyber Security Communications (DHS).

Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR) opened the hearing by expressing his concern regarding previous federal cyber security efforts he believes were too "output oriented" rather than "outcome driven", and was hopeful that the new administration will focus on achieving fewer breaches of federal systems, fewer cases of identity theft, as well as ensuring the security of smart grid systems and health IT systems. In his opening statement, he called upon witnesses to explain how each agency hopes to improve its cyber security in light of the Administration's review.

Speaking next, Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE) drew attention to the agencies' efforts in investing appropriately in cyber security research and development, securing the dot-gov domain as well as the critical infrastructure of the private sector.

Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) emphasized the need for increased collaboration between public and private sectors to expose weaknesses in security and share breach information, as well as a multidisciplinary approach to cyber security in order to understand how we interact with computers and their information, calling people the "weakest link" in cyber security.

In their opening remarks, the witnesses discussed their responses to the review. They each expressed their appreciation that the review highlights the need for unclassified cyber security research and cyber security education. Ms. Furlani restated NIST's mission to work with federal, state, local, private and academic institutions to develop the standards for information security. Dr. Wing, reminded the committee that many security measures implemented today are built on practices that were designed decades ago. Wing called for increased openness in the field of cyber security research. Looking ahead, she stated that the need to develop new practices based on current research could be filled by such an increase in the collaboration between industry and academic research institutions. Dr. Leheny echoed previous remarks that recognized the need for innovation to address cyber security threats. He also highlighted a DARPA project to develop a National Cyber Range that would have the ability to perform rigorous, realistic assessments of cyber security technology. In response to the review, Dr. Fonash described the role of the DHS in updating national security strategy, strengthening international partnerships, educating the public, and working with the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to prepare for plan for cyber incidents.

The member questions tended not to focus on any particular issue. Rep. Ehlers (R-MI) asked the panel how we can ensure security and at the same time preserve the freedom of unfettered communication. Rep. Ehlers' question about the decreasing enrollment of computer science majors in the U.S. led to a discussion of the various programs each agency has in order to address the seeming decline in computer science interest among students. Dr. Wing, citing the CRA Taulbee Survey and expressed hope that the recent uptick in enrollments will continue. Dr. Leheny described two DARPA programs that focus on developing the attractiveness of computer science for undergraduates and untenured faculty. Rep. Lujan asked the witnesses how we can tap into the expertise of classified cyber security practices and research. Wing responded by explaining the formal process for agency collaboration under the National Coordinating Office for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) where unclassified IT research and development investments for thirteen Ferderal agencies are coordinated. Rep. Smith, while acknowledging the need for public and private partnership in cyber security, asked Dr. Fonash how the private sector can be compelled to follow standards. Fonash responded by stressing the importance of information sharing programs in order for industry to not only be aware of security standards, but that they know how to take the appropriate measures to secure their private data. When pressed about the need for legislation in this regard, Fonash replied that he couldn't say yes or no at this time.

Tuesday's hearing was the second of three hearings on cyber security. The first hearing was held by the Research and Science Education Subcommittee on the research needs of improved cyber security. Computing Research Association board member Dr. Fred Schneider testified about the state of cyber security education as well as the range of federally supported research. The final hearing regarding the cyber security activities of NIST and the DHS will be held next week.

An archived webcast of the hearing as well as copies of witness testimonies can be found on the House S&T Committee website.

Posted by NathanGandomi at 11:34 AM
Posted to Events | Policy | Security

May 21, 2009

U.S. Lags Globally in Robotics Development

Experts Warn of Technology Drain; seek federal intervention

Washington, May 21, 2009 – Robotics have the potential within the next decade to become as prevalent as computers in daily American life, but the country lags behind others worldwide in recognizing the importance of this technology.

In a report released today, titled “National Robotics Technology Roadmap”, (link forthcoming) a group of 140 experts from industry, federal laboratories, and leading academic institutions assert the United States lags behind other countries in its ability to compete economically unless more investment is made in this technology.

To address this issue, the Roadmap urges Congress to increase spending in the FY 2010 budget and calls on the Obama administration to establish a high profile position at the White House to coordinate and integrate robotics policy throughout government.

Unfortunately, the United States lags behind other countries in recognizing the importance of robotics technology. While the European Union, Japan, Korea and the rest of the world have made significant R&D investments in robotics technology, the U.S. investment, outside unmanned systems for defense purposes, remains practically non-existent. Unless this situation can be addressed in the near future, the United States runs the risk of relinquishing its ability to globally compete in these emerging markets putting the nation at risk of having to rely on the rest of the world to provide a critical technology that our population will become increasingly dependent upon.

Robotics technology holds the potential to transform the future of the country. The next generation “robotech” industry will affect the lives of every American and have an enormous economic, social and political impact on our future. Human-robot interaction is central to many of the most exciting application of robots, including the use of medical robots, assistive robotics, prosthetics, rehabilitation, transportation, human augmentation, entertainment and education. Other applications on the horizon include factory and military robots, domestic service robots, a team of search and rescue robots and exoskeleton “man-amplifiers” the report explained.

The “National Robotics Technology Roadmap” was the result of an unprecedented level of cooperation among members of the business community and academia. This effort was led by the Computing Community Consortium and sponsored by the Computing Research Association via a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Computing Research Association is an association of more than 200 North American academic departments of computer science, computer engineering, and related fields; laboratories and centers in industry, government, and academia engaging in basic computing research; and affiliated professional societies. For more information, visit

The Computing Community Consortium is an activity of CRA that supports the computing research community in creating compelling research visions and the mechanisms to realize these visions. For more, visit

Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:47 PM
Posted to Policy

May 12, 2009

NITRD Act Passed In House

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2020, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2009, a bill that we have mentioned here previously. In support of the NITRD Act, CRA wrote a letter to Congressmen Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Ralph Hall (R-TX), the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Science and Technology:

May 11, 2009

The Honorable Bart Gordon
House Committee on Science and Technology
2318 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Ralph Hall
Ranking Member
House Committee on Science and Technology
394 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Gordon and Ranking Member Hall:

As an organization representing 240 industry and academic institutions involved in computing research and six affiliated professional societies, the Computing Research Association is pleased to support your efforts to bolster federal information technology research through H.R. 2020, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Act of 2009.

As you are aware, advances in information technology are transforming all aspects of our lives. Virtually every human endeavor today has been touched by information technology, including commerce, education, employment, health care, energy, manufacturing, governance, national security, communications the environment, entertainment, science and engineering. The profound reach of information technologies is enabled in large part by the innovations that spawn from the IT research ecosystem -- an incredibly productive, yet complex interplay of industry, universities and the federal government. Indeed, nearly every sub-sector of the IT economy today bears the stamp of federal support. The program responsible for overseeing this crucial federal investment is the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program.

We believe the NITRD Act makes the NITRD program stronger by enacting several of the recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) review of the NITRD program in 2007. In particular, we are pleased the NITRD Act includes a requirement that the NITRD program undergo periodic review and assessment of the program contents and funding, as well as develop and periodically update a strategic plan -- both key recommendations of PCAST and necessary in helping ensure the significant federal investment in IT R&D is used as effectively as possible.

Key to this review and assessment will be an independent advisory committee composed of experts from academia, industry and government. We hope that this advisory committee, though co-chaired by PCAST members, will be independent and that you will work to ensure that the Administration names a strong panel reporting to the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the President’s Science Advisor with high-level, expert guidance on the structure and priorities of the program.

We thank you for your work on the legislation and for your long-standing support of the federal investment in IT research. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues as you endeavor to move this legislation forward this session.

Daniel A. Reed

Posted by MelissaNorr at 10:32 PM
Posted to CRA | Policy

April 27, 2009

Obama Announces New Commitment to R&D Funding, PCAST Members

The President used a speech before the members of the National Academy of Sciences today to reiterate his commitment to boosting the U.S. investment in science and technology.In his remarks before the opening session of the National Academy's annual meeting, Obama set a goal of seeing the U.S. invest 3 percent or more of its annual GDP in basic and applied scientific research funding. This level of investment would represent the largest investment in American history -- an even larger share of GDP than the U.S. invested during the space race of the 1950s and 60s. Here's a choice quote from AP coverage of the speech:

The pursuit of discovery a half century ago fueled the nation's prosperity and success, Obama told the academy.

"The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years," he said. "This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research."

He set forth a wish list for the future including "learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us.

"We can do this," Obama said to applause.

According to a White House fact sheet distributed after his remarks today, the President plans to back up his rhetoric with a number of budgetary commitments, including:
  • A commitment to finish the 10-year doubling of 3 key science agencies (National Science Foundation, Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Insititutes of Standards and Technology). Between 2009 and 2016, the Administration's enacted and proposed budgets would add $42.6 billion to the 2008 budgets for these basic research agencies, with a special emphasis on encouraging high-risk, high-return research and supporting researchers at the beginning of their careers.
  • The launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E is a new Department of Energy organization modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the defense agency that gave us the Internet, stealth aircraft, and many other technological breakthroughs.
  • A joint initiative by the Dept. of Energy and NSF that will inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship related to clean energy programs and scholarships from grade school to graduate school.
  • The President also used the occasion to name the members of his President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) -- a committee of representatives from science and industry who will examine aspects of federal science policy and make recommendations to the President. For the last several years, PCAST has also assumed the statutory responsibilties of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), which was dissolved as a free-standing committee under President Bush (though there may be a move to reestablish the free-standing committee -- more on that in a future post).

    Among the new PCAST members are at least four from the computing community:

    Other members of the Council are: Rosina Bierbaum, Christine Cassel, Christopher Chyba, James Gates, John Holdren, Shirley Jackson, Eric Lander, Richard Levin, Chad Mirkin, Mario Molina, Ernest Moniz, Maxine Savitz, Barbara Schaal, Daniel Schrag, Harold Varmus and Ahmed Zewail. Holdren, Lander and Varmus will be the co-chairs of PCAST.

    The President's commitment to continuing the very recent robust increases for federal R&D -- after several years of real-dollar declines -- along with recent statements by key Senate appropriations staff who believe 7 percent annual increases for NSF are "sustainable," give us reason to be somewhat optimistic going into the appropriations season this year. However, as always, other pressing concerns and shortfalls in the federal budget can adversly affect science funding despite all the apparent support, so we'll be keeping a close eye on the process. But Obama's initial steps here may turn out to be giant ones for U.S. science and innovation.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:16 PM
    Posted to FY10 Appropriations | Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    April 06, 2009

    House S&T Committee Focuses on IT at NITRD Hearing

    CRA's incoming Board Chair Peter Lee, Deborah Estrin of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Chris Greer of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) National Coordinating Office testified before the House Science and Technology Committee last week on the NITRD Act of 2009. The Act incorporates the findings and recommendations of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) for the NITRD program. The hearing was well attended by members of the committee as well with a dozen attending at least part of the hearing.

    All three witnesses praised the legislation for incorporating the PCAST recommendations for NITRD and for addressing a need in the research infrastructure. Lee specifically pointed out how easy it would be for the United States to lose the lead in IT R&D to other countries if it is not a focus, a comment picked up on by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) during the question and answer portion of the hearing.

    Questions from the Members of Congress ranged from agency participation in NITRD to security to education. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) asked about the need for intervention in the education system to fill the pipeline of scientists particularly for attracting women and minorities. Estrin spoke to the importance of reaching children in junior high school or earlier and making the connection between computer science and the larger societal problems that it can help fix such as energy and environmental issues and healthcare improvement. Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) and Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN) both brought up the issue of national security, noting that there are daily attacks from other countries on our systems with the intent of uncovering sensitive data and that our networks are vulnerable to hacking. Greer noted that security is always a challenge at the forefront of NITRD. Estrin and Lee both stated that there are numerous research projects underway attempting to increase the security of networks and Estrin emphasized the necessity of having security parameters that are usable by the average person.

    The committee has not yet introduced the Act, though it's expected to shortly after the current congressional recess ends next week. When the bill is dropped, we'll have a complete analysis of it here, so stay tuned. In the meantime, the full written testimony as well as the webcast of the full hearing is available on the Committee's web site.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 10:59 AM
    Posted to CRA | Events | Funding | People | Policy

    March 31, 2009

    Annual Capitol Hill Science Fair A Great Success

    The Coalition for National Science Funding, of which CRA is an active member, held its annual Science Exhibition on Capitol Hill last week. It was once again a great success with a room full of hundreds of attendees and a number of Congressmen visiting exhibits. For the first time, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attended, spoke briefly on the importance of funding basic science research, and received many thanks from the community there for her efforts to see science funded as part of the stimulus bill and the FY 09 Appropriations. Other members of Congress who attended included Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) pictured here. Overall, the event was very successful in spreading the message that federally funded science research makes important contributions and discoveries in all scientific fields.



    Also pictured are Dr. Gregory Abowd of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Dr. Gillian Hayes of the University of California, Irvine who represented CRA with an exhibit on “Behavior Imaging and Autism” that drew a great deal of interest from attendees and the other participants. The exhibit showcased research on using sensors in toys and video imaging to monitor the developmental progress of children with autism and other developmental disorders.

    The event, a science fair for Congress and staff, had 35 booths manned by researchers representing universities and scientific societies featuring some of the important research funded by the National Science Foundation.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:25 PM
    Posted to CRA | Events | FY09 Appropriations | Funding | Policy

    March 20, 2009

    Holdren Confirmed as OSTP Director

    John P. Holdren was confirmed as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy yesterday. The OSTP Director is the top White House science adviser and Holdren was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee a week ago following a hold on his nomination. The reason for the hold has been variously attributed to concerns over his positions on climate change and to unrelated issues involving the Administration’s position on Cuba.

    Holdren was the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard University and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center before being asked to serve in the Obama Administration. He has also served as President and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) during the Clinton Administration. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 05:29 PM
    Posted to People | Policy

    January 26, 2009

    Senate Stimulus Highlights Released

    We've seen the House version of the 2009 stimulus bill. Now we've gotten our first glimpse of the highlights (though no full text) for the Senate version. As expected, the numbers in the Senate version are not as generous as the House numbers. Here is the breakdown:

    The Department of Energy: The Senate highlights show $40 billion “for development of clean, efficient, American energy” but no breakdown on how that will be spent or how much might go to basic research.

    The National Science Foundation: $1.4 billion for grants and infrastructure at NSF which is less than the $3 billion in the House version.

    Additionally, NASA and NIH each get $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively, but NIST would not receive any additional funds in the Senate bill. A handy comparison chart is available at Inside Higher Education. We will have more here as the full text of the Senate bill is released and we can do a more thorough breakdown and comparison.

    Update: More detail about the final Senate bill

    January 15, 2009

    More Detail on 2009 House Dem Stimulus and Recovery Plan

    The House Appropriations Committee has released the bill text (pdf) and the accompanying committee report (pdf) for the Stimulus and Recovery Plan released today. They provide a little finer view of what's actually in the stimulus bill. But ultimately, the House appropriators and leadership have left some discretion to the agency management to decide how to spend the new funding, which is probably a good thing. In summary, though, this looks awfully good to us and will likely go a long way towards recharging the Nation's innovation engine.

    Here's what we know:

    The Department of Energy  --- The Office of Science would see an increase of $2 billion under this plan. Called out specifically in the bill (but not in the accompanying report) is a $100 million increase for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program. The only other program in Science to get a specific call-out is the brand new Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), which would receive $400 million. The rest is presumably up to the Director's discretion.

    Additionally in DOE Energy Programs, the Smart Grid Investment Program, which would support efforts to add IT and other intelligence to the power grid, would receive a $4.5 billion increase under the plan.

    The National Science Foundation -- NSF would see an increase of $3 billion overall (so, it would become an ~ $9 billion agency, for one year, at least -- more on that below). Of the $3 billion, $2.5 billion would go to the Research and Related Activities Account, home of NSF's core research efforts. Of that $2.5 billion, 300 million would go to the Major Research Instrumentation program and an additional $200 million for academic research facilities modernization. This leaves an additional $2.0 billion to be spread among the research directorates for their core programs!

    NSF's Education and Human Resources program would see a $100 million boost -- $60 million for Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships and $40 million to the Math and Science Partnerships program.

    NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would see a boost of $400 million to start "approved projects" or projects that are close to completing their design review, though none are named in the bill or the report.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology -- NIST would see a boost of $100 million to its core research programs, plus another $100 million to be split between the Technology Innovation Program (TIP - the revamped Advanced Technology Program), and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. In addition, NIST would get $300 million for facilities repair and construction, so maybe they'll actually be able to keep that $100 million for core research, instead of using it to pay for broken buildings or ATP/TIP/MEP.

    The National Institutes of Health -- NIH would receive $1.5 billion for grants to improve university research facilities and another $1.5 billion in new research funding.

    So, this all looks really good to us. However, in our meetings with congressional staff over the last couple of weeks, there has been some concern about managing expectations about the sustainability of any of this funding beyond the stimulus. There are no promises that this stimulus funding will establish a new baseline funding level for these science agencies. There is the possibility that this truly is "one and done." The report language doesn't speak to that directly, but seems to suggest that the idea with this influx of research funding in what was thought to be simply an "infrastructure" bill is to reestablish a trajectory towards the doubling targets in the America COMPETES Act. If that's the case, we should expect that future appropriations bills will start with a funding level of $9 8 billion for NSF, for example (because $1 billion of the $3 billion increase is for a "one-time" infrastructure investment, while the remaining $2 billion is a research investment), and not revert back to the $6 billion pre-stimulus level. Hard to know exactly what the intent is and it's hard to reach the appropriations staff to hear it from them directly. So what we have is the language for NSF, which is posted below for your own interpretation.

    In other news, the "pre-conferencing" -- or the bulk of negotiations between the Senate and House over differing priorities -- for the FY 2009 omnibus appropriations bill is done, but the leadership is holding off moving it until after the stimulus is finished. We're getting mixed signals on that one, too. While it's likely the FY 09 Omnibus will include funding for science above the FY 08 levels (which were flat or a cut compared to FY 07), it might not be as much as either the House or Senate appropriations committees have separately agreed on in early versions of the bill because of the need to pay for other significant disagreements elsewhere in the bill. A dispute over what the Senate percieves as a $500 million shortfall in funding for the U.S. Census in the House version of the bill is one such sticking point that could impact science funding levels.

    And then there's the matter of the FY 10 budget, which will be released in skeletal form in early February and then fleshed out significantly by the new Administration in April. If the FY 10 budget numbers use the stimulus-increased numbers as the new baseline -- if they ignore the FY 09 approps numbers, which were marked up pre-stimulus, in other words -- then we really will be on the trajectory to realize the promise of COMPETES. If, however, they use the FY 09 approps levels as the baseline for FY 10, then it will mean that the stimulus funding for research was just a one-time bump, and we'll likely have a near impossible task getting anywhere near those numbers again in FY10.

    In any case, that's what we know from a couple quick reads of the bill and report and conversations with congressional staff over the last week or so. None of this is a done deal until the ink is dry, and there will be much fighting about the final program levels before this is passed sometime between President's Day and St. Patrick's Day.... but it's a very very nice place to start.

    More detail as we learn more. Oh, and the NSF report language follows after the jump.

    NSF Language:

    Research and Related Activities Recovery funding: $2.500 billion

    Sustained, targeted investment by NSF in basic research in fundamental science and engineering advances discovery and spurs innovation. Such transformational work holds promise for meeting the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the Nation, and for competing in an increasingly intense global economy. To meet these challenges, the America COMPETES Act proposed to double funding for the NSF in seven years. The funding provided in the recovery will return and exceed appropriated levels to the levels assumed in the COMPETES Act. The $2.5 billion proposed for research and related activities (R&RA) is estimated to support an additional 3,000 highly-rated, new awards and would immediately engage 12,750 senior personnel, post doc-, graduate and undergraduates. In addition, the funds provided are expected to restore the funding rate for NSF awards to pre-2000 levels. Since fiscal year 2000, NSF’s funding rate has declined from over 30 percent to 25 percent. This investment would restore the funding rate to 32 percent.

    Within the R&RA appropriation, $300 million is provided for the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program. The MRI program, in an effort to increase research and training in institutions of higher education, museums and science centers, and non-profit organizations, assists with the acquisition and development of shared research instrumentation that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. When awards are made, instruments are expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. The funding provided in the recovery bill will address a key recommendation of a 2006 National Academies report on “Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities” (ARIF) to expand the MRI program so that it includes “mid-scale” instrumentation whose capital costs are greater than $2 million.

    The National Science Foundation estimates that academic institutions have about $3.6 billion in deferred projects to repair and renovate science and engineering research space (fiscal year 2005 Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities). About half of these deferred projects are in the biological and medical sciences, and about half are in other sciences and engineering. These projects are included in institutional capital plans. The recovery package includes $200 million to restart its facilities program covering physical and other sciences and engineering at the Nation’s institutions of higher education, museums and science centers, and non-profit organizations.

    Initial Stimulus Summary Released

    The House Democratic leadership has released an official stimulus summary and it looks great. It includes $10 billion in new spending for science, including $3 billion in new money for NSF -- "including $2 billion for expanding employment opportunities in fundamental science and engineering to meet environmental challenges and to improve global economic competitiveness, $400 million to build major research facilities that perform cutting edge science, $300 million for major research equipment shared by institutions of higher education and other scientists, $200 million to repair and modernize science and engineering research facilities at the nation’s institutions of higher education and other science labs, and $100 million is also included to improve instruction in science, math and engineering" -- and $6 billion for broadband deployment.

    Here is a PDF of the summary and we'll have more details on this as it begins moving forward.

    December 18, 2008

    Science: Physicist John Holdren to be Named Science Advisor

    According to Science Magazine's Eli Kintisch, physicist John Holdren, from Harvard's Kennedy School and director of the Woods Hole Research Center, will be nominated Science Advisor to the President by president-elect Barack Obama on Saturday.

    Here's some background from Science:

    Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceInsider) in 2006.
    We'll have more as we learn more....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:50 PM
    Posted to Policy

    December 16, 2008

    Pelosi, Holt Reiterate Support for Science

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) spoke of their intent to increase federal support for science at Princeton University yesterday as part of the university’s “Innovation Agenda” roundtable. Both Pelosi and Holt have been vocal in their support of basic science research in the past but under the Bush Administration have struggled to translate that support into appropriations levels that match the America COMPETES authorization levels. It’s a potential problem moving forward as well as Pelosi stated:

    "I have said over and over again, if you want to know the agenda for this new Congress, remember four words: science, science, science and science," Pelosi said. However, referring obliquely to current crises, she warned there would be competition for resources in the coming months and that supporters of science must become active advocates for science research funding.

    Holt, a physicist and former Princeton staff member, pointed out the economic importance of research, stating:

    "We should make a commitment as a nation to research and development," said Holt, a physicist and former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "Science and scientific research," he continued, "are not luxuries to be engaged in in plush times, but rather they are the basis for economic growth, economic prosperity and quality of life."

    Princeton has a press release with more details on the event here.

    November 20, 2008

    Google Talks: Tech Policy

    Google hosted a town hall style panel discussion today at its Washington, DC office. The discussion was based on technology policy in 2009 with a new Administration and Congress but focused almost exclusively on broadband deployment and a smart electric grid. The panel had six speakers: Gigi Sohn (President, Public Knowledge), Jennifer Canty (CEO, Dyscern), Ben Scott (Policy Director, Free Press), Stephen Ezell (Senior Analyst, ITIF), Harry Wingo (Policy Counsel, Google), and Michael Oldak (Senior Director, Edison Electric Institute). Questions were taken from a moderator, from the audience, and from online submissions through Google Moderator.

    The consensus seemed to be that broadband availability needs to improve throughout the country but that broadband adoption by consumers was also a large issue that needed to be tackled. Additionally, regulations need to be implemented to keep the Internet as an open system without false controls.

    The other topic discussed was the need for a smart, efficient electricity infrastructure that uses alternative, renewable energy sources and that has the ability to regulate energy use during peak times.

    The discussion was recorded and is supposed to be available on YouTube, however, it does not seem to have been posted yet. We’ll provide the link when it becomes available.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:31 PM
    Posted to Events | Misc. | Policy

    November 19, 2008

    Google CEO Speaks On Government and Technology

    CRA member Google Inc.'s CEO Eric Schmidt gave a speech yesterday in DC regarding government and technology. Schmidt is a member of President-elect Obama's transition team but he focused more on issues that the technology community (including CRA) has been talking about for years, including research funding. The Washington Times has all the details but here's a brief quote on research:

    Mr. Schmidt said the government has an important role to play in funding research, noting that businesses "by law have to serve their shareholders" and therefore are not going to "fundamentally invest at the level of pure research."

    "It takes government policy. That model works," he said, citing a pledge by Mr. Obama to double basic spending on scientific research, which declined this year.

    Check out the article for more on what Schmidt talked about or listen to the speech at the New America Foundation (mp3 format download).

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 10:21 AM
    Posted to CRA | People | Policy | R&D in the Press

    November 07, 2008

    Science Magazine Editorial by Wen Jibao

    Science Magazine recently published an editorial by Wen Jibao, (sub. req’d.) Premier of China’s State Council on China’s science and technology initiatives. We’ve been saying here for years that China is very serious about becoming a world leader in science and technology. The editorial states “China is now engaged in a modernization drive unprecedented in the history of humankind.” Other important highlights include:

    The future of China’s science and technology depends fundamentally on how we attract, train, and use young scientific talents today. Thus, at the core of our science and technology policy is attracting a diverse range of talents, especially young people, into science and providing them with an environment that brings out the best of their creative ideas.

    I firmly believe that science is the ultimate revolution. At a time when the current global financial turmoil is dealing a heavy blow to the world economy, it has become all the more important to rely on scientific and technological progress to promote growth in the real economy. Economic and social development must rely on science and technology, and science and technology must serve economic and social development. We will rely on science and technology to promote economic restructuring, transform development patterns, safeguard food and energy security, and address global climate change. We are confident that China will reap a rich harvest in science and technology and that this will have positive and far-reaching effects on human civilization and the well-being of humankind.

    This is a good editorial to read to understand China’s commitment to science and technology and its willingness to follow through on its rhetoric even at a financially difficult time.

    October 23, 2008

    Computerworld Articles on US Innovation, Technology, and the Next President

    Computerworld has published a great couple of articles this week regarding the next Administration, technology, and US innovation. They feature a number of folks well-known in the CS community and are definitely worth checking out.

    US Innovation: On the Skids

    Dear Mr. President: Let’s Talk Tech

    September 30, 2008

    DARPA's Tether Continues to Lose His Fight with Congress

    From the explanatory statement for the Continuing Resolution that will fund government agencies until March 6, 2009:

    Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

    The fiscal year 2009 budget request for DARPA is $3,285,569,000, an increase of $326,493,000, more than 10 percent, over the fiscal year 2008 appropriated program of $2,959,076,000. In recent years, DARPA has repeatedly underexecuted its funded program level, executing a fiscal year 2005 program that was nine percent below the appropriated program and a fiscal year 2006 program that was twelve percent below the appropriated program. Based on program execution to date, DARPA will likely continue that trend for the fiscal year 2007 and 2008 programs. While DARPA's continued underexecution can partially be explained by its fiscally responsible management approach of withholding funds from projects that fail to demonstrate progress, doubts exist about DARPA's ability to responsibly manage such a large increase. Therefore, the bill provides $3,142,229,000, a reduction of $143,340,000 from the request. The Director of DARPA is directed to provide to the congressional defense committees not later than 60 days after enactment of this Act a report that details by program element and project the application of undistributed reductions made in this Act....

    Wired's Noah Shactman, writing for the Danger Room blog, has more.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:34 AM
    Posted to FY09 Appropriations | Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    September 17, 2008

    Basic Energy Research Press Event

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation and the Science Coalition held a press conference this morning on “Fueling America’s Future”--the importance of federal funding for basic energy research. While both groups support a broad basic research agenda, this event emphasized the need for basic research in energy to solve America’s energy crisis. The event, held at the National Press Club, took place before a standing room only crowd. The four speakers were:

    The speakers all called for an increase in funding for basic energy research and for the next President to take bold action to keep the US competitive in new technologies and discoveries in alternative energy sources. Each of the distinguished speakers brought their own take to the issue, but all spoke to the common goal of energy independence and reducing fossil fuel consumption while helping the environment.

    Also featured at the event was a petition signed by over 70 organizations (including CRA) to the two Presidential candidates to focus on basic energy research in the White House to ensure America’s long-term security.

    A recording of the event will be available on either the Task Force or Science Coalition website soon. We'll have the link here when it appears.

    Update: Watch the full press event here.

    September 16, 2008

    McCain Answers Science Debate 2008

    Now that Senator John McCain has supplied his answers to the Science Debate 2008 questions, we can take a look at the similarities and differences between the two candidates on a topic that could determine the United States' competitive and economic future in the next administration. We highlighted some of Senator Obama's answers here earlier and all of the answers from both candidates can be found here. Previously in this space we have contrasted the technological agendas from each campaigns' web site.

    McCain specifically calls out information technology research and computer science as important in a few of his answers. McCain says that he wants to invest in basic and applied research particularly in new and emerging areas and in information technology and will "support significant increases in basic research" at the various federal agencies -- but stopped short of saying he would fully fund the America COMPETES Act, in sharp contrast to Obama who has promised the doubling called for in that legislation. McCain also supports greater education efforts in science and math to fill the skilled jobs that are needed in an innovation economy. He particularly supports giving $250 million to states to increase participation in AP courses in math, sciences, and computer science by offering them virtually as well as supporting the STEM education programs at the various federal science agencies like DOE and NSF, a markedly different stance than the current administration.

    Here are excerpts from McCain's answers to the questions that are most relevant to the computing community:

    Q1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America's continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

    "...America has led the world into this technology revolution because we have enabled innovation to take root, grow, and prosper. Nurturing technology and innovation is essential for solving the critical problems facing our country..."

    "As President, I will ---

    • Focus on addressing national needs to make the United States a leader in developing, deploying, and exporting new technologies;

    • Utilize the nation's science and technology infrastructure to develop a framework for economic growth both domestically and globally;

    • Appoint a Science and Technology Advisor within the White House to ensure that the role of science and technology in policies is fully recognized and leveraged, that policies will be based upon sound science, and that the scientific integrity of federal research is restored;

    • Eliminate wasteful earmarks in order to allocate funds for science and technology investments;

    • Fund basic and applied research in new and emerging fields such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, and in greater breakthroughs in information technology;


    • Encourage and facilitate commercialization of new innovations, especially those created from federally funded research;

    • Grow public understanding and popularity of mathematics and science by reforming mathematics and science education in schools;

    • Develop and implement a global competitive agenda through a series of business roundtables with industry and academia leaders."

    Q4. Education. A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th. What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science and technology driven 21st Century?

    "My Administration will promote economic policies that will spur economic growth and a focus on an innovative economy. Critical to these efforts is the creation of the best trained, best prepared workforce to drive this economy through the 21st century. America's ability to compete in the global market is dependent on the availability of a skilled workforce. Less than 20 percent of our undergraduate students obtaining degrees in math or science, and the number of computer science majors have fallen by half over the last eight years. America must address these trends in education and training if it hopes to compete successfully.

    But I believe that education is an ongoing process. Thus our nation's education system should not only focus on graduating new students; we must also help re-train displaced workers as they prepare for the rapidly evolving economy. Invigorating our community college system is a good place to start. For example, recognizing this, I have long supported grants for educational instruction in digital and wireless technologies, targeted to minorities and low-income students who may not otherwise be exposed to these fields.

    Beyond the basics of enabling every student to reach their potential, our country is faced with a critical shortage of students with specific skills fundamental to our ability to compete globally.

    The diminishing number of science, technology, engineering and math graduates at the college level poses a fundamental and immediate threat to American competitiveness.

    We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced engineering, math, science and technology degrees.

    We must move aggressively to provide opportunities from elementary school on, for students to explore the sciences through laboratory experimentation, science fairs and competitions.

    We must bring private corporations more directly into the process, leveraging their creativity, and experience to identify and maximize the potential of students who are interested and have the unique potential to excel in math and science.

    We must strengthen skills of existing science and math teachers through training and education, through professional development programs and community colleges. I believe we must provide funding for needed professional teacher development. Where federal funds are involved, teacher development money should be used to enhance the ability of teachers to perform in today's technology driven environment. We need to provide teachers with high quality professional development opportunities with a primary focus on instructional strategies that address the academic needs of their students. The first 35 percent of Title II funding would be directed to the school level so principals and teachers could focus these resources on the specific needs of their schools.

    I will devote 60 percent of Title II funding for incentive bonuses for high performing teachers to locate in the most challenging educational settings, for teachers to teach subjects like math and science, and for teachers who demonstrate student improvement. Payments will be made directly to teachers. Funds should also be devoted to provide performance bonuses to teachers who raise student achievement and enhance the school-wide learning environment. Principals may also consider other issues in addition to test scores such as peer evaluations, student subgroup improvements, or being removed from the state's "in need of improvement" list.

    I will allocate $250 million through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of AP Math, Science, and Computer Sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses.

    I will also continue to support STEM education programs at NSF, DOE, NASA, and NOAA. These scientific agencies can and should play a key role in the education of its future engineers and scientists. These agencies have the opportunity to add a practical component to the theoretical aspects of the students' educational process."

    Q13. Research. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

    "With spending constraints, it will be more important than ever to ensure we are maximizing our investments in basic research and minimizing the bureaucratic requirements that eat away at the money designed for funding scientists and science. Basic research serves as the foundation for many new discoveries and represents a critical investment for the future of the country and the innovations that drive our economy and protect our people. I have supported significant increases in basic research at the National Science Foundation. I also called for a plan developed by our top scientists on how the funding should be utilized. We must ensure that our research is addressing our national needs and taking advantage of new areas of opportunities and that the results of this research can enter the marketplace. We must also ensure that basic research money is allocated to the best science based on quality and peer review, not politics and earmarks.

    I am committed to reinvigorating America's commitment to basic research, and will ensure my administration funds research activities accordingly. I have supported increased funding at DOE, NSF, and NIH for years and will continue to do so. I will continue my commitment to ensure that the funding is properly managed and that the nation's research needs are adequately addressed."

    September 05, 2008

    Obama Answers Science Debate 2008

    Senator Barack Obama responded to fourteen science questions asked by Science Debate 2008 regarding how an Obama White House would lead the US in areas vital to our competitiveness and innovation. All fourteen questions and Obama's answers in their entirety can be found here. Some highlights of most importance to the computing community include:

    Q 1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America's continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

    Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration. Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. For example, the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export. China is now the world's number one high technology exporter. This competitive situation may only worsen over time because the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers is declining. The U.S. ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; we were in third place thirty years ago.

    My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs.

    A vigorous research and development program depends on encouraging talented people to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and giving them the support they need to reach their potential. My administration will work to guarantee to students access to strong science curriculum at all grade levels so they graduate knowing how science works - using hands-on, IT-enhanced education. As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school, and I will prioritize math and science teachers. Additionally, my proposal to create Teacher Residency Academies will also add 30,000 new teachers to high-need schools - training thousands of science and math teachers. I will also expand access to higher education, work to draw more of these students into science and engineering, and increase National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowships. My proposals for providing broadband Internet connections for all Americans across the country will help ensure that more students are able to
    bolster their STEM achievement.

    Progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent.

    Q 13. Research. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

    Federally supported basic research, aimed at understanding many features of nature- from the size of the universe to subatomic particles, from the chemical reactions that support a living cell to interactions that sustain ecosystems-has been an essential feature of American life for over fifty years. While the outcomes of specific projects are never predictable, basic research has been a reliable source of new knowledge that has fueled important developments in fields ranging from telecommunications to medicine, yielding remarkable rates of economic return and ensuring American leadership in industry, military power, and higher education. I believe that continued investment in fundamental research is essential for ensuring healthier lives, better sources of energy, superior military capacity, and high-wage jobs for our nation's future.

    Yet, today, we are clearly under-investing in research across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Federal support for the physical sciences and engineering has been declining as a fraction of GDP for decades, and, after a period of growth of the life sciences, the NIH budget has been steadily losing buying power for the past six years. As a result, our science agencies are often able to support no more than one in ten proposals that they receive, arresting the careers of our young scientists and blocking our ability to pursue many remarkable recent advances. Furthermore, in this environment, scientists are less likely to pursue the risky research that may lead to the most important breakthroughs. Finally, we are reducing support for science at a time when many other nations are increasing it, a situation that already threatens our leadership in many critical areas of science.

    This situation is unacceptable. As president, I will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade.

    Sustained and predictable increases in research funding will allow the United States to accomplish a great deal. First, we can expand the frontiers of human knowledge. Second, we can provide greater support for high-risk, high-return research and for young scientists at the beginning of their careers. Third, we can harness science and technology to address the "grand challenges" of the 21st century: energy, health, food and water, national security, information technology, and manufacturing capacity.

    The other twelve questions and answers are worth taking a look at as well.

    August 26, 2008

    NSF Study Confirms that Federal R&D and CS Funding Decreased for Second Straight Year

    The Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday covered the release of a National Science Foundation Info Brief on the decline of U.S. funding for academic research for the second straight year, noting that NSF declares the decline "unprecedented for this data series, which began in 1972."

    Though federal funding for academic research technically increased from FY 2006 to FY 2007 by 1.1 percent to $30.4 billion in constant dollars, once adjusted for inflation the "increase" actually represents at 1.6 percent decline. This follows a 0.2 percent adjusted decrease between FY 2006 and FY 2005. And, though NSF isn't reporting it yet, we already know (barring a surprising 2nd second emergency supplemental appropriations) that FY 2008 will continue that negative trend.

    The Chronicle piece notes that industry's support for academic research has ramped up and actually covered most of the federal decline overall. But that was not the case in Computer Science, which still saw a decrease of 1.4 percent in academic funding from all sources. It remains to be seen how some recent highly-publicized university-industry partnerships in computing will affect FY 08 and beyond, but at this point, every little (and big) bit helps.

    As the Chronicle piece also points out, it's also too soon to know how the next President might handle the situation. What we do know is that the FY 2009 appropriations bills that Congress ought to be moving in advance of the Oct 1, 2008 beginning of the fiscal year are hopelessly mired in budget politics that won't likely get resolved until post November at the very earliest (and more likely next February or later). That's more bad news for science, which was again slated for big increases in those FY 09 bills. We'll keep an eye on all developments here and keep you posted.

    August 15, 2008

    A Look at the Presidential Candidates Technology Agendas

    Senator John McCain released his technology agenda this week. He supports some of the ideas that have high importance to the S&T community. McCain’s plan includes:

    • Making the R&D tax credit permanent
    • Lowering the corporate tax rate to 25%
    • Allowing companies to write off of new equipment and technology in the first year
    • Keeping the Internet tax-free
    • Limiting taxes on wireless services
    • Fully funding the America COMPETES Act
    • Expanding H1B visas
    • A crack down on piracy
    • Increased funding for Patent Office
    • Protecting intellectual property around the world
    • Increasing broadband to underserved areas
    • Increasing S&T expertise and use in government

    Of course, a big focus of the computing research advocacy community has been seeing the funding commitments approved as part of the COMPETES act, which include doubling the budgets of three key federal science agencies -- NSF, NIST, and DOE Science -- over the next seven years fully realized. And it appears that McCain supports that goal. However, his senior policy staff has sent mixed messages. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain told NPR that "Doubling is a nice fun number for political purposes. It's clean, it's smooth. But it doesn't reflect a balancing of political priorities. There will be competing demands for funds."

    Senator Barack Obama has had a technology agenda on his campaign web site for awhile but now that McCain has come out with his the comparisons can begin. There are several areas of agreement between the two such as making the R&D tax credit permanent, increasing broadband to underserved areas, and increasing the protection of intellectual property around the world. Obama, however, supports Net neutrality (though he doesn’t use that term) and flatly states he would double the funding for basic science research. Obama’s plan also calls for allowing foreign students who earn degrees at US higher education institutions to stay in the country and earn citizenship and emphasizes the need to increase the number of American students, particularly women and minorities, who obtain undergraduate degrees in STEM fields. Also, in addition to increasing the intellectual property protections around the world, Obama calls for reforming the patent system.

    While most of this sounds great, there is very little in either plan about how to accomplish these goals. However, knowing that science and technology issues are being discussed at the highest levels of campaign politics means the messages the community are sending are getting through.

    August 01, 2008

    House S&T Committee Reviews Federal IT R&D Program

    As mentioned in this space on Wednesday, the House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing Thursday morning to review the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD -- alternately pronounced "NIGHT-erd" or "NIGHTER-dee"), the 13 agency, $3.3 billion budget activity that represents the federal government's investment in IT research and development. The hearing mainly focused on the recommendations issued last year by the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) in their review of the federal IT R&D ecosystem, Leadership Under Challenge: Information Technology R&D in a Competitive World (pdf) (which we've also covered here). The hearing represents the first step in a process that will result in legislation next year that will attempt to once again amend the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (most recently amended as part of the America COMPETES Act, passed in Aug 2007) to codify some of those recommendations.

    (You can watch an archived webcast of the hearing and see copies of each witnesses' written testimony at the House S&T Committee website.)

    Testifying before the members were Chris Greer, Director of the NITRD National Coordination Office; Dan Reed, CRA Board Chair; Craig Stewart, Associate Dean of Research Technologies at Indiana University and representing the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC); and Don C. Winter, VP of Engineering and IT at Boeing's Phantom Works. Greer was there to talk about what the NITRD NCO is doing and intends to do about acting on the recommendations of the PCAST report; Reed was there as both someone who was deeply involved in writing the PCAST recommendations and who also has a strong connection to the computing research community; Stewart was there to speak for the academic HPC users and researchers; and Winter was there to bring a corporate/private sector perspective to the panel. All filled their assigned roles well.

    Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) opened the hearing by noting his favorable impression of the NITRD program. From his opening remarks:

    I believe the NITRD program has been largely a success. It has made a substantial contribution to moving computation to an equal place along side theory and experiment for conducting research in science and engineering.

    In addition, it has developed the computing and networking infrastructure needed to support leading edge research and to drive the technology forward for a range of commercial applications that benefit society broadly.

    The technical advances that led to today’s computing devices and networks, and the software that drive them, evolved from past research sponsored by industry and government, often in partnership, and conducted by industry, universities, and federal labs.

    Greer used his opening remarks to detail the efforts NITRD NCO has already undertaken in response to the PCAST recommendations (though he indicated that they would probably have embarked on the process even without a recommendation), including a strategic planning process that will produce a plan for NITRD for release in 2009. Greer also didn't take issue with any of the PCAST recommendations -- in fact, no witness (or Member of Congress) took issue with the recommendations in general -- and largely agreed that the program needs to improve it's interagency planning.

    Reed emphasized a few concerns about the overall IT R&D ecosystem in his remarks, noting in particular his concern that the federal portfolio for IT R&D has lost a key piece of what made it such a success with the withdrawal of DARPA support for much university computer science research. Historically, the diversity of funding approaches and mission needs at both DARPA and NSF drove some truly innovative research in computing. With DARPA's absence, university computing research has become a "monoculture" of research supported by a single agency: NSF. Indeed, NSF now supports 86 percent of federal obligations for computer science research in U.S. universities. As a result, Reed argued, the process has gotten more conservative -- more incremental and evolutionary rather than revolutionary research proposals. This lack of diversity in approaches and mission-needs threaten to constrain the robust pace of innovation in the space, he noted. (Dan posts some additional thoughts on his testimony on his blog today.)

    Stewart opened by endorsing fully the recommendations of the PCAST on behalf of CASC, but focused some of his remarks specifically on the workforce issues faced by the field. The declining interest of U.S. students in S&E -- and particularly IT fields -- represents a huge challenge for America's future competitiveness, he argued. Programs that could increase the participation of American students in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) should be a strong focus of the committee, and he commended the Members for their work in getting such strong emphasis on STEM education in the America COMPETES Act.

    Winter really focused his remarks on the importance of the PCAST recommendation to emphasize cyber/physical systems (CPS) as a research area in the IT research and development portfolio. CPS are very important to the aviation industry, he argued, and the industry badly needs advances in technology development and tool development in the space and are reliant on the research community to get that work done.

    The member questions tended to focus on how best to get NITRD agencies to collaborate on research agendas and how to set priorities given limited funding. Of particular interest to Chairman Gordon was how the NITRD program could embrace the PCAST recommendation that the program ought to be rebalanced to emphasize more high-risk, long-range research efforts. Would this require new money, he asked? Greer thought that through better coordination, the agencies could do a lot to re-prioritize existing funding, but that new money was also likely required. Reed noted that it's not just an agency problem, there's also a cultural component within the computing research community that needs to change, too. Researchers need to think more audaciously in their research proposals and reviewers need to be willing to reward those proposals that are high-risk, but potentially high-payoff. More funding would ease some of the pressure to award conservative proposals rather than risky ones, of course, but this still requires a mindset change within the computing community -- something Reed said the community is starting to focus on.

    Rep. Jerry McNerny (D-CA) raised a question related to Reed's testimony about the undesirability of a research monoculture in the long-term part of the IT R&D portfolio. Wouldn't a single agency, assuming it's well run, manage and coordinate the long-range research better than if that research were spread among different agencies, he asked? Reed explained that, while its true that a single agency could certainly take on that piece of the portfolio by itself, historically, having a diversity of different funding models and agency missions available to researchers has proven to be an incredibly productive way to enable innovation in the IT sector. NSF is very good at individual investigator initiated research, for example, and DARPA was very good at placing big bets on hard problems and hand-picking communities of researchers to focus on them. Between just these two diverse approaches an enormous number of innovations resulted.

    There was also a recurring focus on cyber security in the member questions, in part spurred by the discussion about the ubiquitousness of computing devices and the increased access we now have to them. Winter pointed out that cyber security wasn't always a concern for a company like Boeing, despite a widespread use of embedded computing devices in things like avionics systems. But now, these systems increasingly communicate with the world outside the airplane -- exchanging data with other aircraft and other assets in the battlespace, enhancing the effectiveness of the systems, but also increasing their vulnerability to cyber attacks. There is much research to be done, the panelists agreed, on understanding how to secure these cyber-physical systems, and there were great concerns expressed that the current and projected workforce in the area is inadequate to the task ahead. Support for research in the area helps produce that workforce, the panelists noted.

    Finally, there was also brief discussion about Reed's recommendation, as someone who has served on both PCAST and the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) before it was folded into PCAST, in support of reconstituting PITAC in order to really get adequate oversight of the NITRD program. Though there are some within the Administration who oppose the push to reconstitute PITAC, there was no objection from the committee members to the suggestion -- in fact, Chairman Gordon pointed out that their reauthorization of HPCC in the America COMPETES Act actually called for the same thing. So perhaps we can look forward to the return of PITAC in the next Administration.

    And that was about it. Despite a good turnout among Members of Congress for the hearing (I counted 11 present at various times), the committee managed to wrap up its review of the program in just 56 minutes -- a record, in my experience, for a full-committee hearing of the House S&T committee. I take that as a good sign, however. The issues confronting the program are pretty clear, the steps required to address them aren't terribly controversial, it just remains to do them. In the next few weeks/months, we hope to see the direction the committee plans to take regarding the PCAST recommendations.

    As always, we'll have all the details here....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:52 AM
    Posted to Events | Funding | Policy | Research

    July 30, 2008

    CRA Board Chair to Testify at House Science and Technology Hearing

    Tomorrow Dan Reed, CRA’s Board chair will testify before the House Science and Technology Committee on the state of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program. Dan is a part of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which released a report last summer on the state of NITRD.

    Testifying along side Dan will be Dr. Chris Greer, Director of the National Coordination Office of NITRD, Dr. Craig Stewart, Associate Dean of Research Technologies at Indiana University and representing the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation, and Don C. Winter, Vice President of Engineering & Information Technology at Phantom Works, a Boeing Company.

    The hearing charter is available online and the witness testimony should be posted soon. The hearing will be web cast so you can watch it live at 10 am. We’ll bring you highlights here after the hearing.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 11:10 AM
    Posted to Funding | People | Policy | Research

    July 21, 2008

    Title IX's Growing Interest in Science

    Last Tuesday, NYT science commentator John Tierney discussed how Congress has recently ramped up enforcement of Title IX among universities' science departments. Will a "quota system"--an idea Tierney floats in the third paragraph of his piece--be an outcome of Title IX enforcement?

    So far, the increased enforcement has only consisted of periodic compliance reviews, which had been long-neglected by the NSF, Department of Energy, and NASA, according to a 2004 Government Accountability Office report. These reviews are intended to make sure grantee departments are not discriminatory.

    Of course, since some fields like computer science have many more men than women--both among students and faculty--there is concern that the government might start considering everyone "discriminatory" using the yardstick of proportionality and quotas. For athletics departments, such rigorous Title IX enforcement has led to a huge increase in the participation and achievement of women athletes, but at the expense of some male sports.

    The sciences are not necessarily in the same boat as sports: although most would agree that women face an uphill battle in the sciences, how much of the gap can be explained by discrimination remains an open question. "60 percent of biology majors and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.'s" are women, raising the possibility that more women simply prefer other fields, as psychologist Susan Pinker argues.

    Another possibility is that if discrimination is having any effect, most of it happens before girls reach college. One study suggests that differences at adolescence explain different outcomes 20 years later.

    For now, though, the compliance reviews haven't rocked any boats. But the threat of a Title IX bludgeon hanging over departments' heads is sure to add urgency to debates about the shortage of women in fields like computer science and what to do about it.

    July 17, 2008

    Voters Overwhelmingly Support Investing in Science

    Voters’ ballots may be more partisan than ever, but the vast majority of Americans can agree that we need to invest in science and technology, according to a recent poll.

    71 percent of polled voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who “is committed to making sure the federal budget invests in scientific research.” And a whopping 86 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate committed to “public investments in science and technology education.”

    Such investments have majority support among democrats as well as republicans (and independents, too), demonstrating the broad bipartisan consensus behind funding for science.

    Hat tip: Gene Spafford

    Posted by DustinCho at 01:29 PM
    Posted to Computing Education | Funding | Policy | Research

    June 20, 2008

    Science Appears in Final FY 08 Emergency Supplemental, But Only Just Barely

    A symbolic (and that's about all) victory for science in managing to get included in the FY 08 Emergency Supplemental Appropriation approved by the House today, though the amounts leave a lot to be desired. Even though the funding levels are pretty anemic, at least some money appeared in the bill. The great majority of other "special interests" that were clamoring to get into the bill didn't make it.

    The House and Senate Leadership agreed on a $400 million bump for science agencies that got shortchanged in the FY 08 Omnibus Approps -- a far cry from the $1.2 billion included by the Senate in its version and an even further cry from the levels called for in the COMPETES Act (and ACI, and the Democratic Innovation Agenda).

    Here's how it breaks out:

    • $62.5 million for Department of Energy's Office of Science (to "eliminate all furloughs and reductions in force which are a direct result of budgetary constraints")
    • $62.5 million for DOE Environmental Cleanup
    • $62.5 million for NASA
    • $62.5 million for NSF (a paltry $22.5 million for research and $40 million for EHR and the Noyce Scholarships)
    • $150 million for NIH (so even when NIH "loses," it still does better than the ACI agencies...)
    The argument given by the House leadership for these funding levels is that these are the only amounts that are truly "emergency" funds. The FY 09 Appropriations bill are supposed to get the agencies back on track. Of course, the likelihood of the FY 09 bills getting finished is quite slim, but that's the story.

    The Senate will pass the measure next week. The President has indicated that he's likely to sign it, so this is probably the end game for FY 08.

    On to FY 09....

    June 18, 2008

    DARPA Management Issues Cost Agency $32 Million

    Noah Shactman has an interesting post on the Danger Room Blog at Wired noting that the Pentagon has "reprogrammed" $32 million of DARPA funding, including $2 million from the Information and Communications Technology account because of DARPA's inability to attract program managers and spend the money allocated it. From the Reprogramming Action (pdf) report:

    "DARPA continues to underexecute its Research, Development, Test and Evaluation programs for two reasons: first, several key program managers' positions are unfilled because there are few experts in advanced sciences and technology, and second, DARPA's approval process is delaying contract awards."
    If I had to guess, I'd say the latter reason might have something to do with the former, too.

    It's certainly possible that the same policy changes at DARPA that have made it more difficult for university researchers to work on DARPA problems have also made DARPA a less-desireable place to spend a few years, but that's just my speculation....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:30 PM
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    A Closer Look at the RAND Report on U.S. Competitiveness in S&T

    [Dustin Cho is CRA's new summer fellow from the Tisdale Fellowship Program, which has been bringing college students to Washington, DC, for internships that explore current public policy issues of critical importance to the high-tech sector. Dustin is a recent graduate of Yale University with a degree in political science and an interest in the intersection of public policy and technology. After suffering through what is sure to be a tortuous summer with us here at CRA World HQ, Dustin plans to begin law school at Harvard in the Fall. Until then, expect to see plenty of his writing here on the blog as we wring all we can out of him. -- Peter]

    I’ve just finished reading the RAND report, and as Peter points out, its authors take the contrarian position that U.S. science is as competitive as ever. They contend that the U.S. remains on top, and we’re not in danger of being overtaken because our R&D growth rates are pretty much the same as the rest of the world. According to RAND, there are only a few countries whose R&D growth outpaces ours, such as China and Korea, and all of these countries are starting from next to nothing (from 1993 to 2003, China only had to add $6B per year to grow at 17 percent, while the U.S. was adding more than double that amount annually and growing at 5.8 percent). Journalists’ interpretation: there’s nothing to worry about.

    That’s a dramatic oversimplification, because the underlying message of the report is that we should stop looking at R&D as a horse race – and that R&D is crucial to the United States’ future, regardless of what other countries are doing.

    The report argues that it’s nonsense to talk about R&D expenditures as “competition” between countries, since one country’s scientific advancements will end up increasing the standard of living for everyone in the world who can access its derivative technology. In fact, there are probably network effects to research such that increased funding actually has increasing returns – in other words, if there’s already a lot of worldwide R&D, then an extra dollar spent on research will allow another scientist to build off of other researcher’s developments, increasing every scientist’s productivity. So when other countries (or the U.S. itself) decide to invest more heavily in R&D, U.S. R&D productivity actually improves.

    That said, the report also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the U.S.’s comparative advantage in R&D. Right now, it’s relatively cheaper to do science and technology research in the U.S. due to our infrastructure, labor, and funding advantages. But as Harvard economist Richard Freeman points out, if other countries (such as China) overtake us in these areas, their lower wages might actually give them the comparative advantage, thereby severely damaging the U.S. economy as we’re forced to retool our infrastructure toward different industries. Freeman thinks it’s likely poorer countries will somewhat succeed in this by specializing in certain subfields and producing a lot of highly educated researchers. But the U.S. will be better equipped to maintain its comparative advantage if we encourage immigration of skilled researchers, increase federal funding, and improve infrastructure for R&D.

    The RAND report also shows that life sciences have received disproportionate federal funding, resulting in a glut of life sciences PhDs and hurting their salaries. In other S&T fields, employment demand has outstripped degree production. “The most notable instances of divergence between employment growth and growth in degrees are mathematics/computer sciences and physical sciences,” the report explains. “Mathematics/computer sciences degrees grew by 4 percent per year [from 1980 to 2000] – the highest rate of degree growth in S&E – while mathematics/computer sciences employment grew by more than twice that, 9 percent per year.”

    In fact, the only reason we have comparable R&D growth rates to other countries in federal funding is due to increased life sciences funding – non-life sciences S&T growth has basically flatlined. Private investment in R&D has increased, but it’s no replacement for federally funded academic research: “Even though industrial R&D is much larger than academic research expenditures, academic spillovers increase the R&D performed by industry significantly, and have a comparable effect on patents.” The report argues that network effects from increased academic research improve the productivity of private R&D.

    Since the bulk of the report examines ways to improve the United States’ R&D, it’s disappointing that media coverage (and the RAND press release itself) choose to overemphasize the counterproductive message that the U.S. is still the world leader in science and technology. Instead, shouldn’t we focus on how to keep it that way?

    June 14, 2008

    Chronicle, Citing RAND Report, Claims U.S. S&T is A-OK

    Two recent pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education riff off a just-released report by the RAND Corporation to make the case that those who have argued that U.S. science and technology dominance is at risk in a globally competitive world are exaggerating.

    Richard Monastersky writes in "Despite Recent Obits, U.S. Science and Engineering Remain Robust":

    Although Congress, President Bush, and top university chancellors have publicly fretted about the declining health of science and engineering in the United States, a new report argues that the U.S. has maintained its supremacy in those sectors. Further, the report says, the nation should not overreact to overseas growth in technological prowess.
    And Daniel Greenberg writes in "Call Off the Funeral: Science in U.S. is Lively and Growing":
    The RAND report stands out because gloomy findings predominate in assessments of American science. In 1985, for example, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the National Science Foundation expressed exasperation with the din of doom: "It’s the same argument every year, about losing the lead." In 2005, the National Research Council—the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences and its subsidiaries—issued a blockbuster compilation of R&D anxiety, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," which still reverberates around Washington as science-policy gospel.
    The thing is, I'm not sure there are many within the science advocacy community who would disagree with the primary findings of the RAND report, U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology. The report found that the U.S. continues to be the world leader in S&T innovation; that federal support for resarch is generally up over the last decade or so -- though that increase is almost all in the life sciences, the physical sciences have been held essentially flat; there is lots of opportunity in the science and engineering workforce; and the U.S. continues to be heavily dependent on our ability to attract the best and the brightest in the world to work and study here.

    Not many, if any, in the DC science advocacy community would disagree with those assessments. The concerns, of course, are the trend lines -- they are almost all trending the wrong way. (The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation has a good compilation of many of these benchmarks in their Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future II report.) Our competitors worldwide are every day increasing their capacity to compete with us -- investing in better facilities, more partnerships, increased investments in key areas -- and we're concerned the U.S. isn't matching them with anything close to the same intensity.

    Gene Spafford, one of my Government Affairs Committee members, notes that these pieces also seem to give short shrift to the disruptive effect one or two key discoveries can have -- think light bulb, antibiotics, the transitor, controlled fission, the Internet, and more. Right now there is intensive research in genetics, nanotechnology, parallel computation, fusion, alternative energy and several other areas. A major advance in any one of them would be transformative on a large scale. It won't be incremental. If we're concerned about our national position as opposed to simply the advancement of science, the we want to somehow ensure that those advances happen here. And that requires having a prepared base and an active set of programs of inquiry.

    The U.S. is the global leader in science and technology. It's true that the U.S. has enough of a lead at this point to "decay gracefully" (as Newt Gingrich describes it). But I'm not sure that's what most want for this country, or for their children and grandchildren who will have to live in it.

    April 29, 2008

    National Academies Convocation on Gathering Storm Two Years Later

    The National Academies, in conjunction with the National Math and Science Initiative, will hold a day long convocation today called “Rising Above The Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward A Brighter Future.” Discussions will include what has happened since the 2005 report was release at the federal, state, and private sector levels and, of course, what still needs to happen. Competitiveness overall, K-12, higher education, and research are all panel and breakout topics throughout the convocation. Frequent readers will remember that the Gathering Storm report, released in October 2005, was a report requested by Sens. Alexander (R-TN) and Bingaman (D-NM) and Reps. Boehlert (R-NY) and Gordon (D-TN) that listed the top 10 actions Congress should undertake to secure America’s competitiveness. The report was a catalyst for news, legislation, and further reports that we have reported on regularly over the last couple of years.

    The convocation has spurred a grasstops effort, led by The Science Coalition, to bring the issue of research funding back to the forefront just as Congress begins to consider both a supplemental and the FY09 appropriations bills. The Coalition is encouraging university and association leaders to contact their Congressional members with letters emphasizing the call for increased funding of basic research contained in the “Gathering Storm” report and to contact local media on the ongoing competitiveness issue.

    Additional coverage of the convocation can be found at The Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog.

    April 17, 2008

    WSJ Op-Ed on Missing Leadership in Science

    Two Nobel Prize winners have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d) today regarding the need to make science a top priority of the next Administration. David Baltimore and Ahmed Zewail write that the next President needs to have an Office of Science and a science advisor at the White House in order to protect America’s competitive future. The piece makes a strong case for the necessity of strong leadership on science and science funding and is worth a read if you have access to the Wall Street Journal.

    The section that best sums up the argument of the op-ed and the community as a whole plays on the fact that the three major candidates for President turned down an opportunity to have a debate focused on science issues is:

    Apparently the top contenders for our nation's highest elective office have better things to do than explain to the public their views on securing America's future.

    Protecting that future starts with understanding that much of the wealth in this country comes from scientific research and technological innovation. Translating science into commerce has opened up vast new fields of endeavor and has raised the standard of living in America. The country that is on the cutting edge of developing new technology is the country best positioned to benefit from that new technology.

    April 07, 2008

    Grassroots Effort to Urge Support for Science Funding in Supplemental

    Here's a note sent to members of our Computing Research Advocacy Network. You can join, too!:

    ACTION REQUEST: Call your U.S. Senators, your Representative in the House, and the White House this week to urge support for science funding in the FY 08 Supplemental.

    WHY?: Though the FY 08 Appropriations process ended with an omnibus appropriations bill that eliminated most of the planned increases to science accounts called for in the President's budget and authorized in the bipartisan America COMPETES Act, we have one last chance to mitigate the damage to U.S. science efforts caused by that decision. Congress will soon consider a supplemental appropriations bill for FY 08 necessary to cover the costs of the ongoing war in Iraq and operations in Afghanistan, in addition to other immediate concerns not addressed in the FY 08 omnibus appropriation. CRA has covered this issue in depth in this space.

    Members of the science advocacy community, including CRA, are mounting a strong effort, with the support of some Congressional champions, to address the shortfall for science in FY 08 in the supplemental spending bill. As part of that effort, CRA will be participating in a large-scale, grassroots effort to weigh-in with individual members of Congress about the importance of including additional funding for key science agencies in the supplemental appropriation.

    We are asking members of CRAN to call their representatives in the House, their two U.S. senators and the White House on Tuesday, April 8th; Wednesday, April 9th; or Thursday, April 10th to urge support for the inclusion of additional funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology in the FY 08 supplemental appropriations bill.

    HOW?: Here's a handy guide for the effort with all the details for your participation, including a simple script to use when calling. The point of this exercise is simply to register your opinion on this issue with your representatives in Congress and the White House. Calls to these offices are logged daily by issue and Members of Congress are influenced by call volumes in trying to decide how much an issue matters to their district. We expect significant participation from scientists and researchers across the disciplines -- we want to make sure computing researchers are heard from, too.

    So, please plan to call your representative, senators and the White House this Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as part of this effort. While the attached indicates you can place the call to the district offices or your representatives' DC offices, we've found through experience that a call to the DC office is more beneficial (more likely to be logged).

    Phone numbers to use:

    To call White House: (202) 456-1111

    To call your Representative and Senators: Look up their contact info at Vote Smart

    We'd also like to gauge our members participation, so please send us an e-mail when you call, letting us know who you called and whether you received any response. Please send the email to

    Thanks again for your participation and support of computing research. Your effort will help convey to Congress and the Administration the breadth and depth of support for fully funding these key federal science agencies. Good luck with your calls!

    To join the Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN) and receive email alerts, please sign up here.

    March 19, 2008

    Microsoft-Intel Investment in University Research Motivated by DARPA's Lack of Support

    The joint investment announced yesterday by Microsoft and Intel in two university research centers (one at Berkeley and one at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) in order to work on solving the challenges of multi-core computing is all over the news, but there's an aspect of the story that's been hasn't been highlighted sufficiently. The NY Times' John Markoff picked up on it, however:

    Both Intel and Microsoft executives said the research funds were a partial step toward filling a void left by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa. The agency has increasingly focused during the Bush administration on military and other classified projects, and pure research funds for computing at universities have declined.

    "The academic community has never really recovered from Darpa’s withdrawal," said Daniel A. Reed, director of scalable and multicore computing at Microsoft, who will help oversee the new research labs.

    [Dan Reed is also the current Chair of CRA.]

    We've noted many, many times on this blog our concerns with policy changes at DARPA since about 2001 that have had the effect of pushing university researchers away from DARPA-sponsored research. As we wrote as recently as September 2007, shorter research horizons with an emphasis on go/no-go milestones at relatively short intervals and an increased use of classification at the agency has sharply reduced the amount of DARPA-supported research being performed in U.S. universities. In fact, between FY 2001 and FY 2004 (the last year for which we have good data), the amount of funding from DARPA to U.S. universities fell by half -- and informal evidence suggests university shares are even lower today.

    While it's great news that two of the titans of the IT industry are stepping up to fill some of the gap left by DARPA's withdrawal, their $20 million investment over 5 years represents just a tiny fraction of the DARPA shortfall. The difference in DARPA funding for university computer science between 2001 and 2004 was $91 million annually ($214 million in FY 01 to $123 million in FY 04 in unadjusted dollars), and anecdotal evidence suggests that shortfall may be even larger now. The Microsoft-Intel investment is a bold move and big commitment to address a key challenge in computer science that's a primary concern for the two companies in the future. But it doesn't represent a sustainable alternative to filling the hole left in the IT R&D portfolio created by DARPA's absence.

    DARPA has taken some steps to try to bring university researchers, especially younger faculty, back into the fold. In February, the agency also reorganized its IT office structure a bit -- merging the Information Exploitation Office (IXO) with the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) to create a new Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) under former IPTO Deputy Chuck Morefield. There's some indication that the office will have a technology focus (which suggests a research emphasis) in addition to a systems focus (which suggests a development-oriented emphasis), so there may be increased opportunities for university researchers to participate in DARPA-sponsored work.

    We hope so, because while it's great to see the IT industry step up and make some commitments to university-led research, the country (and the DOD, and the world) is probably better served by a DARPA that's re-engaged with the university research community, supporting long-term, DARPA-hard research at a range of institutions on some of the grand challenges in computing....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:58 AM
    Posted to Policy | R&D in the Press | Research

    March 11, 2008

    Gates to Testify Before Congress on Innovation

    Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will testify before the House Science and Technology Committee tomorrow morning to "share his thoughts on efforts needed to further strengthen our country’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, discuss what policies are needed to encourage innovation, and address the role of technology in our country’s economic growth." (That's according to the hearing charter (pdf)). The hearing is the first in a series planned by House S&T to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the committee, created in the wake of the shock of Sputnik (an event that also motivated the creation of DARPA and NASA and triggered an rapid increase in federal science funding). Expect Gates to talk about the importance of this federal support for fundamental research in driving the nation's incredibly successful innovation ecosystem over that time.

    The committee will webcast the 10 am ET hearing from a URL that will be available here, where you can also find the hearing charter and some related information. We'll have our reaction to the testimony here following the hearing.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:37 AM
    Posted to Events | People | Policy

    February 11, 2008

    Computing Education and the Infinite Onion

    [The following guest post by CRA Chair Dan Reed originally appeared on Dan's blog, Reed's Ruminations. We're pleased to repost it here.]

    Much has been written about declining enrollments in computer science, the image of computing among secondary school students, and the depressingly small numbers of women and minorities enrolled in computer science programs. There are many opinions about the root causes of our enrollment problems and at least as many opinions about possible solutions. The reality of the problem is not in dispute, however.

    Slicing the Infinite Onion

    As I reflect on the past thirty years of computer science curricula and my experience as both a student and a professor, I am often struck by how little has changed. The core elements of our curricula remain centered on formal languages and theory, data structures, programming languages and compilers, operating systems and computer architecture. These are the courses I took as an undergraduate in the 1970s, and we still teach their evolutionary variants today.

    Around continuous and discrete mathematics, physical and biological science and this computing core, we have added successive layers to the computing curriculum onion: graphics and human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, mobile and embedded devices, computational geometry, networks and distributed systems, numerical and scientific algorithms, parallel computing, databases and data mining, privacy and information security, just to name a few.

    As this non-exhaustive list illustrates, the computing curriculum onion has grown ever larger and more complex, with each layer derived from new discoveries and technologies. I do not believe this expansion can continue indefinitely. Asymptotics do apply – the number of students will tend (indeed, is tending toward) zero as the knowledge and degree expectations approaches infinity. This must change.

    Rethinking Computing Education

    I believe we must rethink our computing education approaches in some deep and fundamental ways. First, as researchers and technologists we seek to reproduce students in our technical image, failing to acknowledge that most of our students will not develop compilers, write operating systems or design computer chips. Rather, they benefit from training in logical problem solving, knowledge of computing tools and their applicability to new domains.

    In short, most of our graduates solve problems using computing rather than working in core computing technologies. We must recognize and embrace the universality of computing as a problem solving process and introduce computing via technically challenging and socially relevant problem domains.

    The magic hierarchy of computing – from atoms to gates to bits to in-order instruction architecture and machine language to code translation to "hello world" was an attractive and emotionally enticing technology story to previous generations. It is often esoteric and off-putting to a generation of students reared on ubiquitous computing technology.

    This does not mean we should eviscerate the intellectual core of computing. Rather, we must emphasize relevance and introduce computing as a means to solve problems. Show the importance of computing to elections and voting, energy management and eco-friendly design, health care and quality of life.

    Second, we struggle to accept the fact that not every student needs detailed knowledge of every computing specialization. If I were to draw a tortured analogy with the history of automobile, drivers need not understand combustion dynamics, the stiff ODE solutions underlying antilock brakes or superheterodyne radio engineering. Drivers do need to understand how to operate a car safely and recognize the high-level principles underlying that operation.

    All of this suggests we should create multiple educational tracks that emphasis the disparate aspects of computing, layered atop a smaller, common core. Of course, I could be wrong – I often am.

    CRA-E Committee

    To explore the future of computing education, CRA has chartered a new committee, CRA-E (E for education), chaired by Brown professor Andries (Andy) van Dam. The new committee seeks to understand how the broad computing community needs to move forward in order to develop principles and philosophy underlying the computing education of the future. As I noted in the press release:

    I am delighted that Professor van Dam has agreed to service as the initial chair of CRA-E. Not only is Andy a distinguished and respected researcher, he is passionate about computing education, both its theory and its practice. Moreover, he has long worked to apply novel technologies to computing education.
    Andy will be assembling a committee to think deeply and strategically about the future of computing education, especially at the undergraduate level. I look forward to the outcome of these explorations.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:50 PM
    Posted to CRA | Computing Education | People | Policy

    February 07, 2008

    FY 09 Budget Close-Up: National Science Foundation

    The National Science Foundation (along with all other federal agencies) released its FY 09 Budget Request to Congress on Monday. We've already had some preliminary coverage of it, noting that, on the whole, computing research does pretty well. Late Monday afternoon NSF hosted a briefing on its budget to provide a little finer resolution look at what they hope to get from Congress in this appropriations season -- and we've got those details below (spoiler: they're pretty good).

    But maybe just as importantly, NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate also provided some detail about how it plans to deal with the austere appropriation it received from Congress for FY 2008. Before we get to the relatively good news from the request, it's probably appropriate to close the book on the FY 2008 numbers. You'll recall that CISE had some big plans for FY 2008. We've listed some of the potential impacts on NSF overall from the omnibus funding levels in a previous post, but here's what we know specifically about CISE:

    • NSF had requested a 9.0 percent increase for CISE in FY 2008, an increase of $47 million. Instead, CISE will see just a 1.5 percent increase -- $39 million less than requested.
    • The Cyber-enabled Discovery Initiative (CDI), a new initiative when it was proposed for FY 08, will see all of its requested funding. For FY 08, that's $20 million. Foundation-wide, CDI will be funded at $48 million in FY 08, down a bit from the overall request of $52 million, but still a strong commitment to a program that has attracted considerable attention within the computing community (with more to come in FY 09).
    • The biggest impact on CISE, therefore, is the growth that won't occur across the rest of the core in FY 08. Because NSF has targeted an average award size of $120,000 for FY 08, that's approximately 325 grants they had planned to award that they will not now as a result of the omnibus. On average, those 325 awards would have supported more than 400 graduate students this year.
    Now, the good news.

    For FY 2009, NSF hopes to make up the ground lost in the omnibus by requesting significant increases for its research directorates. Overall, NSF would see its budget increase by 14 percent over FY 08, to $6.06 billion in FY 09. Within that increase, computing research is featured prominently in the request. The Foundation-wide, but CISE led, Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation program would expand considerably under the agency's plan, growing from $48 million in FY 08 to $100 million in FY 09, including $33 million in CISE. Additionally, the agency has proposed two new foundation-wide initiatives that have strong computing foci. The first is a $20 million investment in "Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's Law," which "aims to position the U.S. at the forefront of communications and computation capability beyond the physical and conceptional limitations of current systems." That program would be led by the Mathematics and Physical Sciences directorate, but CISE would control $6 million in awards. The second is a $15 million investment ($3.5 million in CISE) in "Adaptive Systems Technology" that focuses on "generating pathways and interfaces between human and physical systems that will revolutionize the development of novel adaptive systems."

    Additionally, CISE would see its core research budget increase by 19.5 percent, or $104 million, in FY 09 under the President's plan -- essentially making up all the ground lost with the omnibus. Programs of note within the directorate include:

    • $78 million for Computing Fundamentals -- set-aside for basic, potentially transformative research answering fundamental questions in computing that have the potential for "significant, enduring impact." Foci include cyber-physical systems, data-intensive computing, software for complex systems, cybersecurity, network science and engineering, and understanding "what is computable?" when humans and machines work together to solve problems neither can solve alone.
    • $33.6 million for CDI -- CISE would contribute over a third of the total NSF investment in the initiative and would be the "lead" directorate.
    We'll have some additional charts spelling out exactly how CISE plans to spend its money in FY 09 very soon.

    For now, it's enough to say that the budget appears to once again represent a good start for NSF and computing in the appropriations cycle. But it's just the start of a long, unpredictable process.

    Next up, a focus on DOD IT R&D....

    February 04, 2008

    Computing Research Appears to Do Well in First Look at FY 09 Budget Numbers

    The President's budget request for FY 2009 is now online and we've done a quick read through to glean some numbers of interest to the computing research community. These will likely be refined over the next few days as we figure out exactly what's in there and what's not, but it's a pretty good indication of where the President's priorities are as we head into his final year.

    The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program
    NITRD represents the sum total of the federal government's investment in information technology research across 13 federal agencies. Overall, the NITRD program would see an increase of 6 percent compared to estimated levels for FY 2008, due largely to increases in the three agencies featured in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). IT R&D at the National Science Foundation would grow 17 percent> over FY 08 levels to $1.090 billion (putting NSF's share of NITRD at over a billion dollars for the first time). The Department of Energy's Office of Science computing research would grow 13 percent over FY 08 to $494 million. Dept of Commerce, which includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology, would grow 6 percent to $90 million.

    Defense IT R&D appears to decrease 2 percent in the President's request vs FY08, but it's hard to assess that decrease without understanding exactly how many congressionally-directed projects (earmarks) were removed in the agency request. (More below.)

    NASA and the National Institutes of Health also see either flat-funding or slight decreases in the request, but again, without knowing what earmarks were removed, it's hard to assess the budgets.

    EPA and the National Archives and Records Administration would get what little they received in FY 08 in FY 09 ($6 million and $5 million, respectively).

    Agency budgets:

    NSF (pdf)
    NSF research accounts would increase 16 percent (14 percent for NSF overall) over FY 08 in the President's plan, to $6.06 billion. Included in that $6 billion is "$1.1 billion for fundamental information technology research and cutting-edge supercomputing and networking resources, including: $100 million, an 110-percent increase, for an NSF-wide effort to develop radically new computational concepts and tools [this is Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation -- Peter]; and $30 million for a new targeted cyber-security research effort in privacy, fundamental theory and usability."

    We'll have CISE numbers after NSF's budget briefing later this afternoon.

    DOE (pdf)
    DOE Science Programs would grow 19 percent vs FY 08 to $4.7 billion. As noted above, DOE's IT R&D would see a 13 percent increase (on top of the nearly 25 percent increase DOE's Advanced Scientific Computing Research account received in the omnibus for FY 08).

    NIST (pdf)
    NIST core research would increase 4 percent over FY 08, but given the heavy earmarks in the omnibus that were likely stripped from this agency request, that may actually seem like a much more substantial increase.

    NASA (pdf)
    NASA science would drop 4 percent to $4.4 billion.

    NIH (pdf)
    NIH is flat-funded in the President's request.

    Defense (pdf)
    This is trickiest to figure out given the how heavily the DOD budget is earmarked. The President's budget calls for an increase of just 4 percent for Defense Basic (6.1) research and a decrease of 16 percent to Defense Applied (6.2) research vs. FY 08. However, if you subtract the earmarks from the FY 08 baseline, the increase for DOD 6.1 is more like 17 percent. DOD 6.2 shorn of earmarks would also grow in FY 09 to look like a 3.5 percent *increase* over FY 08 (not a 16 percent decrease). But the devil's in the details and we'll have many more of those in the coming days.

    On the whole, it looks like the President has followed through with his commitment to ACI in his final budget. Of course, he's also pledged to take some very firm stands regarding earmarks in the upcoming appropriations process (he's threatened to veto any appropriations bill sent to his desk that doesn't cut FY08 earmark levels in half). That stand virtually guarantees he won't be around when Congress finally gets around to passing approps bills. It's very unlikely Congress will want to a) give up that many earmarks and b) engage in a battle over appropriations before the election, so it's likely this won't get settled until January 09 (or later). But, as with last year, we start with some pretty healthy numbers. In fact, in terms of IT R&D, we start with the healthiest requests we've seen in many years.

    More details to come.

    January 28, 2008

    Standing "O" for Basic Research

    I know that after the crummy omnibus appropriation we got after a year of positive signs, it's hard to get excited about the prospect of starting the whole process over again. But it was very encouraging to see the standing ovation for the President's mention of the need to double federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences in his State of the Union remarks tonight. Here was the line that earned the ovation:

    To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow.

    Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge.

    So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth. (APPLAUSE)

    It's a start. We'll have much more budget news after the new Administration budget is released next Monday....

    January 20, 2008

    Craig Barrett's Upset About the Omnibus (and who can blame him?)

    Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel, comes out swinging over the debacle that was the FY 08 Omnibus Appropriations Act and it's impact on federal support for the physical sciences, computing, mathematics and engineering, in a piece that runs today in the San Francisco Chronicle (which should get Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) attention). The whole piece is well-worth reading, but I thought his conclusion was remarkably on point:

    The United States stands at a pivotal point in our history. Competition is heating up around the world with millions of industrious, highly educated workers who are willing to compete at salaries far below those paid here. The only way we can hope to compete is with brains and ideas that set us above the competition - and that only comes from investments in education and R&D. Practically everyone who has traveled outside the United States in the last decade has seen this dynamic at work. The only place where it is apparently still a deep, dark secret is in Washington, D.C.

    What are they thinking? When will they wake up? It may already be too late; but I genuinely think the citizenry of this country wants the United States to compete. If only our elected leaders weren't holding us back.


    January 15, 2008

    NSB Releases 2008 S&E Indicators

    The National Science Board released the 2008 Science and Engineering Indicators today at an event on Capitol Hill. Board Chair Steven Beering, Subcommittee Chair Louis Lanzerotti, and Arthur Reilly presented the Science and Engineering Indicators, the Digest of Key S&E Indicators, and a companion policy recommendation document, Research and Development: Essential Foundation for US Competitiveness in a Global Economy. Dr. Arden Bement and Dr. Kathie Olsen also attended the event and participated in the Q&A session at the end.

    While the entire document can be found online, the event highlighted some specific findings of the 2008 S&E Indicators, including:

    • world science and engineering activities are shifting from the US and Europe, the traditional leaders, to Asia.
    • US share of high tech manufacturing has stayed above 30 percent over the last twenty years
    • Two-thirds of US R&D funding comes from industry and only 28 percent is from the federal government
    • 2007 had a major downward curve in constant dollars of federal support for academic research
    • Defense research, mostly development, accounts for over half of all federal R&D
    • China’s PhD attainment is on a steep up curve but is still significantly below the US
    • There has been an increase in S&E bachelors degrees in the US in all fields EXCEPT computing
    • Most foreign born PhD candidates in the US plan to stay in the US
    • 80 percent of the public supports federal funding of basic research and 40 percent believe there is too little federal funding of basic research

    The policy companion piece includes three broad recommendations. They are:

    • The federal government should take action to enhance the level of funding for, and the transformational nature of, basic research
    • Industry, government, the academic sector, and professional organizations should take action to encourage greater intellectual interchange between industry and academia. Industry researchers should also be encouraged to participate as authors and reviewers for articles in open, peer-reviewed publications.
    • New data are critically needed to track the implications for the US economy of the globalization of manufacturing and services in high technology industries, and this need should be addressed expeditiously by relevant federal agencies.

    During the Q&A, Bement said that investment in basic research drives the economy and that it is not just dollars but also talent. In response to a question about why students would go into science and engineering instead of fields with better job prospects, Olsen said that the data found that demand for science and engineering majors in industry is increasing but students don’t realize the options that are out there for a science or engineering degree.

    January 03, 2008

    The Long Nose of Innovation

    There's an interesting piece running now in BusinessWeek by Microsoft Researcher Bill Buxton that capitalizes on the buzz around the concept of the "long tail" in business by arguing that there's an equally important "long nose" in business innovation that represents the long period of research and development that's required to bring innovative products to market. Here's a snip:

    My belief is there is a mirror-image of the long tail that is equally important to those wanting to understand the process of innovation. It states that the bulk of innovation behind the latest "wow" moment (multi-touch on the iPhone, for example) is also low-amplitude and takes place over a long period—but well before the "new" idea has become generally known, much less reached the tipping point. It is what I call The Long Nose of Innovation.
    It's a great article and certainly worth reading in full.

    In the piece, he mentions a chart Butler Lampson presented to the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council that traced the history of a number of key technologies. That's this chart (frequently referred to as the "tire tracks" chart, for reasons that should be apparent). The chart originally appeared in a 1995 CSTB report, in which the CSTB had identified 9 billion-dollar sectors in the IT economy that bore the stamp of federally-supported research. They revised the chart in 2003 and identified 10 more sectors. I'm guessing that if they revised it again today (and I understand they are), you could at add least three more billion-dollar sectors -- "Search," "Social Networks," and "Digital Video" -- all enabled in some way by long-term research, usually supported by the federal government ... exactly the type of long-term research that got hit hardest in this year's appropriations debacle.

    (Ed Lazowska's testimony before the House Government Reform committee in 2004 contains an extended riff on the chart -- how it shows the complex interplay between federally-supported university-based research and industrial R&D efforts; how industry based R&D is a fundamentally different character than university-based R&D; how the chart illustrates how interdependent the IT R&D ecosystem really is; and how university-based research produces not just ideas, but people, too. It's all under the section titled "The Ecosystem that Gives Birth to New Technologies," though the whole testimony is certainly worth a read, too.)

    December 18, 2007

    More On the Awful Omnibus

    Cameron Wilson at USACM's Technology Policy Blog has a great dissection of the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill in which Congress managed to reverse two years worth of positive efforts in science and innovation funding policy. His piece is titled "Congress Abandons Commitment to Basic Research; Puts NIST in the Construction Business" and it's a must read.

    Also, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member) released a statement today expressing grave disappointment in the appropriations outcome. Since it's not yet posted on the Task Force website, I'll quote it here:

    The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill that Congress is considering represents a step backwards for the bipartisan innovation agenda. The President and Congress, for all their stated support this year for making basic research in the physical sciences and engineering a top budget priority ended up essentially cutting, or flat-funding, key science agencies after accounting for inflation.

    The nations that seek to challenge our global leadership in science and innovation should be greatly encouraged by this legislation.

    The President and a near-unanimous Congress, by enacting the America COMPETES Act earlier this year, laid out a bold path toward revitalizing basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. COMPETES was a welcome Congressional initiative to double funding for America’s science research programs and expand science education that complemented the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda.

    This appropriations legislation takes a step back from the promises contained in all of these initiatives.

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is hopeful that this reversal of direction does not represent a lack of commitment to turning around the nation’s long decline in support for basic research programs. For now, the failure to provide the funding required to begin growing these programs makes these promises little more than empty gestures. We intend to work with the Administration and Congress in the new year to make the promise of America COMPETES a reality.

    Strong words from an organization consisting of some of the most important technology companies and organizations on the planet.

    Finally, it's worth pointing out some interesting statistics. Late last summer, 367 members of the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 2272, The America COMPETES Act, which we celebrated and covered in great detail. It was an unequivocal demonstration of support for strengthening the federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences, computing, mathematics and engineering and the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Of those 367 members who voted for the COMPETES Act, 244 voted for this omnibus bill -- a bill which represents a nearly 180 degree reversal from the goals of COMPETES. 206 Democrats, 38 Republicans.

    Now there were clearly other possible reasons for voting for the omnibus, including a deluge of earmarks in the bill. But the fact remains that support for science ceased to be a priority for those 244 members -- including quite a few who probably should have had science ranked high on their personal lists. As we now start to think about the FY 09 appropriations process, certainly it will be worth checking in with those members to understand the dissonance in their positions. (See the extended entry for the full list....)

    Democratic House Members Who Voted for Both the COMPETES Act and the Omnibus

    Bishop (GA)
    Bishop (NY)
    Boyda (KS)
    Brady (PA)
    Braley (IA)
    Brown, Corrine
    Davis (AL)
    Davis (CA)
    Davis (IL)
    Davis, Lincoln
    Frank (MA)
    Green, Al
    Green, Gene
    Hall (NY)
    Herseth Sandlin
    Jackson (IL)
    Jackson-Lee (TX)
    Johnson (GA)
    Klein (FL)
    Larsen (WA)
    Larson (CT)
    Lewis (GA)
    Lofgren, Zoe
    Mahoney (FL)
    Maloney (NY)
    McCarthy (NY)
    McCollum (MN)
    Meek (FL)
    Meeks (NY)
    Miller (MI)
    Miller (NC)
    Miller, George
    Moore (KS)
    Moore (WI)
    Moran (VA)
    Murphy (CT)
    Murphy, Patrick
    Neal (MA)
    Peterson (MN)
    Price (NC)
    Ryan (OH)
    Sánchez, Linda T.
    Sanchez, Loretta
    Scott (GA)
    Scott (VA)
    Smith (WA)
    Thompson (MS)
    Udall (CO)
    Udall (NM)
    Van Hollen
    Walz (MN)
    Wasserman Schultz
    Welch (VT)
    Wilson (OH)

    Republican House Members Who Voted for Both the COMPETES Act and the Omnibus:
    Davis, Tom
    Diaz-Balart, L.
    Diaz-Balart, M.
    Johnson (IL)
    King (NY)
    Kuhl (NY)
    Smith (NJ)
    Walsh (NY)
    Young (AK)
    Young (FL)

    December 17, 2007

    NSF, NIST Lose Out in Final (?) Omnibus

    Update: (12/17/07 1:30 pm) -- It appears this bill is even worse than we initially thought. It turns out that the 3.3 percent increase for NSF's research accounts ("Research and Related Activities") is artificially inflated by some bookkeeping -- namely the shifting of the EPSCoR program from the Education and Human Resources directorate to R&RA. Taking that shift into account, there's really only $57 million in "new" funding in the R&RA account -- a terribly anemic 1.2 percent increase for the research portion of the only federal agency devoted to supporting basic research. When you factor in inflation, that 1.2 percent really represents a cut -- and a complete reversal of the goals of the ACI, the COMPETES Act, and the innovation plans so touted by the congressional leadership.....

    Original Post: Having gotten a peek at the final details for what will end up in the omnibus appropriations bill the House will consider Tuesday, I'm a bit dismayed at the choices that have been made. (Congressional Quarterly has the details; unfortunately, you'll need a subscription to access them. The House Rules Committee has the text of the agreement online now.)

    Those who have been following the saga that is the FY 08 appropriations process will recall that the total spending in the appropriations bills left unfinished by Congress (which included everything but Defense) exceeded the President's budget request by $23 billion, a figure that brought out the President's veto threat. The Democratic leadership tried to assess that threat by passing a Labor/HHS/Education bill they knew he would veto. When he vetoed it and the Congress failed to override it, it was clear who held the power in the negotiation. So, realizing they didn't have the leverage they needed, the Democratic leadership began to cut back. They attempted to meet the President halfway with an omnibus that proposed an $11 billion cap overrun, but when they couldn't peel off enough GOP members to override any potential veto, they caved completely, agreeing to live within the President's budget cap for all the unfinished appropriations bills.

    Unfortunately for the National Science Foundation and National Institute for Standards and Technology -- two agencies that had been at the focal point of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda -- living under the cap meant that other programs within the omnibus received higher priorities and the planned increases for those two science agencies were cut sharply.

    NSF, which under the House and Senate appropriations plans approved earlier in the year would have received either a 10 or 11 percent increase (respectively) over FY 07, will instead receive just 2.5 percent vs. FY 07 in the new omnibus. NSF's R&RA account (which funds the research directorates) will see just a 3.3 percent increase over FY 07 (instead of a planned 10.5 percent increase), should the omnibus pass.

    NIST's research efforts, which had been slated to grow over 15 percent vs. FY 07 in the House and Senate bills, will instead see that planned increase drop to just 1.4 percent over FY 07, should the bill pass.

    DOE Office of Science fares a bit better -- and DOE-related computing research comes out even further ahead in the deal. The Office of Science would have grown over 18 percent vs. FY 07 in the earlier House and Senate plans, but the new agreement will reduce that rate of increase to a still-respectable 6.8 percent. Advanced Scientific Computing Research, which had been slated to grow about 20 percent over FY07, would actually see *more* money in the new agreement -- a growth of 25 percent over FY 07. Included in the increase is $19.5 million to "continue the Department's participation in the [DARPA] High Productivity Computing Systems partnership" and an increase of $7.7 million for Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility to "maintain the planned budget and cost schedule."

    The agreement also includes details of an additional effort:

    The Office of Science and the [NNSA] are directed to establish the Institute for Advanced Architectures and Algorithms with Centers of Excellence at Sandia National Labs and [ORNL]. These Centers will execute a national program involving industry, universities and national laboratories that is focused on technologies to sustain the U.S. leadership in high performance computing. The NNSA ASC and Office of Science ASCR programs will jointly fund the program and provide direction needed to support the goal of developing exascale computing for the Nation.
    So, the House is set to begin consideration of the bill Tuesday. The Senate will get it as soon as the House passes it. It's not clear whether the President will sign. There's a core of the House GOP leadership that's still not content with the limited spending in the omnibus. They're leading an effort to push for a "Continuing Resolution" for FY 2008 (funding all agencies at their FY 07 levels) instead of the omnibus as a way of holding an even sharper line on spending. I suppose it's possible that the President could veto the omnibus , and he could cite a lot of reasons -- runaway earmarks, poor prioritization by congressional Democrats, the gutting of ACI -- and the House GOP could force a CR by sustaining the veto. In that case, it would behoove the science advocacy community to push hard for special consideration of ACI-related agencies, as happened under the last CR. And it's not implausible that GOP hard-liners might support it -- after all, the real point of the CR would be to put a hold on earmarks. The science increases are, in fact, in the President's budget.

    But barring that somewhat unlikely chain of events -- Presidential veto -> House GOP uphold veto and force CR -> CR favors ACI-related agencies -- the ACI-related increases we'd hoped for at NSF and NIST appear to be lost. It's hard not look for those to blame. The Democratic leadership is certainly open to some criticism for these numbers. When push came to shove and they were forced to live within the President's budget constraints, the leadership didn't feel that preserving the increases for science funding rose to a high enough priority in the face of other increases for programs and earmarks elsewhere in the omnibus. At the same time, the inability to put together appropriations bills that could garner enough support to pass with sufficient support isn't unique to their leadership. You'll recall the FY 07 appropriations process, managed by the GOP, also melted down in spectacular fashion.

    In any case, this is a very disappointing development. Failing to get this bipartisan priority (President's ACI, Democratic Innovation Agenda) funded -- essentially abandoning science when it counted -- only puts at risk our long-term competitiveness. It's especially disappointing when one considers how many voices from all sides of the political spectrum have weighed in in support bolstering federal science funding, when the Administration has seen fit to make it a Presidential priority, and when Congress has emphasized its commitment with the passage of a landmark competitiveness bill in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion.

    So, it's hard to imagine what else can be done. The debate over funding for FY 08 is much much larger than science funding. The issues that led to the meltdown are heavily political and have considerations that outweigh anything the science community could bring to the table. But, this is certainly a step back, I think, from science's standing in the Congress at the beginning of this year, when it was granted special status in the CR for FY 07.

    Though it certainly gives us a rallying cry for FY 09.

    We'll have more details as the omnibus moves forward and a final breakdown of the agency-by-agency numbers when they're passed.

    November 19, 2007

    FY 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill Passed

    On Tuesday (Nov. 13th), the President signed the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations conference report, making that bill the first of the twelve FY 08 appropriations bills necessary to fund the continued operation of government to grind its way through to passage (it's now P.L. 110-116). The Defense bill includes just over $77 billion in funding for Defense Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E), an increase of 2.0 percent over FY 07 and 2.9 percent above the President's requested level for FY 08. Included within that RDT&E account are pretty substantial increases over the President's request for basic and applied research efforts in some areas of interest to the computing community -- and more modest growth in others. At the same time, overall funding for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will see a decline in FY 08 vs both the President's request and the FY 07 level.

    We've whipped up a handy chart to show some of the detail for selected basic (6.1) and applied (6.2) research accounts. While the chart tells much of the story, it doesn't explain everything going on with funding. For that, your best bet is to take a look at the conference report itself (pdf). The section of interest is "Title IV. Research, Development, Test and Evaluation," that begins on page 243 of the PDF. It details the program level changes to each line item for the Army, Navy, Air Force and "Defense-wide" programs. It's a lot to digest.
    Click to Enlarge
    In general, what our chart above shows is that the research programs of note in the service labs got more than they asked for in FY 08, but that the defense-wide accounts (primarily DARPA) didn't do quite as well. When you compare the funding levels to FY 07, the gains aren't as significant (generally). But there's a bit of a budget game going on here that tends to obfuscate actual gains and losses in each account. [Warning: budget wonkery follows.] As readers of this blog probably already know, the FY 07 level represents the funding level after Congress finished its work on last year's DOD appropriations bill. The FY 07 final number represented an increase in most accounts over the President's budget request for FY 07. The Administration labels most of those increases "earmarks," especially if those increases are targeted to very specific programs or performers. When the President prepares his budget request for the next year (in this case, FY 08), he strips out as many of those "earmarks" as he can justify. This is why the defense request always seems like a cut compared to final enacted level for the previous year. As the request works its way through the appropriations process, the cycle repeats and much of that funding gets added back in by Congress, making it appear that there are increases in those accounts. And indeed there's just that many of those increases probably are earmarks for very specific programs or performers.

    So, while these increases look pretty healthy when compared to the President's budget request (shorn of earmarks, as it was) -- and we certainly like to see more money in these accounts -- ideally, we'd like to see those increases in the form of additional money for competitive, merit-based research funding. At this point, it's tough to tell how much of these increases fit that description, at least in the 6.2 accounts. In the 6.1 accounts, it's reasonable to assume that much of the increases found in the bill represent additional competitive funding.

    One change to the appropriations bills this year has made it a bit easier to see who to credit for some of the increases to defense basic research accounts. New rules on transparency in the Senate mean that every change to the budget estimate called for in the bill gets credited to someone, so you can see who requested it in the Senate committee report. So, for example, we know that we owe thanks for the non-earmarked increases to the University Research Initiatives in the bill to Sens. Bayh (D-IN), Clinton (D-NY), Collins (R-ME), Johnson (D-SD), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Levin (D-MI), Leiberman (D-CT), Pryor (D-AR) and Stabenow (D-MI). Hopefully the House Appropriations Committee will follow through with "Requested by" language in their future bills. [end of budget wonkery]

    Two accounts that don't seem to fare particularly well in the bill are DARPA IT accounts -- the Defense-wide Information and Communications Technology program (which will see a decline of 1.3 percent, about $3 million, vs. FY 07) and Cognitive Computing (which will see a decline of about 2.7 percent, or $4.9 million) in FY 08. As you can see in the chart, compared to the President's budget request, ICT will increase slightly (0.9 percent, or $2.1 million), and Cognitive Computing will decline slightly (2.2 percent, or $3.9 million). Much of the reason for this decline is attributed to an "execution adjustment" by the appropriations committees. In other words, DARPA wasn't spending the money it had previously been appropriated in a timely enough fashion, so the appropriators adopted a "use it or lose it" mindset and "reclaimed" that money for other accounts in the bill.

    This is the same reasoning for much of the overall cut to DARPA in the bill. DARPA will see a decrease of $135 million vs. FY 07, or about 4.3 percent less in FY 08. Compared to the President's request for FY 08, the agency will see a $106 million cut, or 3.4 percent. The appropriators and the DARPA leadership are of two minds on the reasons for slow spend-out rate for some DARPA programs. The DARPA leadership contends it's acting as a good steward of taxpayer dollars, only paying grant-recipients when key milestones are met. However, the appropriators (and some on the Armed Services Committees, as well), contend that what's really happening is a bottleneck in the Director's office -- that micromanagement of programs is slowing execution. Regardless of the actual cause, the fact remains that DARPA isn't spending all the money it's been appropriated and so the appropriators -- who control the purse strings -- have adjusted DARPA's budget accordingly.

    With the Defense bill finished, Congress is left with 11 bills to complete before closing the book on FY 2008. Only one other bill, the Labor/HHS/Ed appropriations, has been sent to the President, and it was promptly vetoed (a veto subsequently upheld, just barely, in the House). The Labor/HHS/Ed bill, which includes funding for the National Insitutes of Health and the Department of Education, came in about $9.8 billion over the President's desired "cap" for the bill, earning his veto, and Congressional Democrats weren't able to entice enough Republican members to vote to override (they fell 2 votes short in the House). The Democratic leadership figures to attempt to meet the President "halfway" with an omnibus package of unfinished bills before the year's end, but it's not clear whether they'll get sufficient Republican support to force a compromise. It's also not clear what a "halfway" package might mean for the hard-won gains for science contained in some of the unfinished bills, including the Commerce, Science, Justice bill (House / Senate).

    Congress has until December 14th before it will have to pass yet another stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating (the Defense Approps bill included a "continuing resolution" to keep government operating without additional appropriations through Dec 14th -- the FY 08 fiscal year began Oct 1, 2007.) Whether they manage a compromise by then is anyone's guess, but the consensus around town is a deal is likely by Christmas. And when it happens, we'll have all the detail here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:14 PM
    Posted to FY08 Appropriations | Funding | Policy

    October 23, 2007

    Two Information Week Articles of Interest

    Two recent Information Week articles are of interest. The first article discusses the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology’s newly released report regarding the IT workforce and the need to increase the representation of women and minorities to keep America competitive. This was a theme at the recent conferences in Florida, the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Information Technology. The report is free and available at the CPST web site but you do have to register to access it.

    The second article is about the National Research Council report encouraging open exchange of science and technology research on the international stage. The article states the Council’s understanding that there are matters of national security that the United States is trying to protect by classifying research but that “the possibility that the United States might lose its edge in technology and research represents one of the greatest risks to national security.” Again the report is available online and is worth reading.

    September 24, 2007

    Computerworld on Sputnik, DARPA and Computing

    Computerworld has fantastic coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch (Oct. 4th, 1957) and why, in a sense, we can thank the Soviets for helping create the conditions that led the U.S. to become the technological superpower we've become.

    Computerworld's Gary Anthes' piece "Happy Birthday Sputnik! (Thanks for the Internet)" does a great job of chronicling how the federal government's reaction to the surprising Soviet launch created an agency and a research funding culture that proved so extraordinarily productive that nearly every billion-dollar sub-sector of the IT economy today bears its stamp. In the process, he checks in with a number of important figures from computer science who note that the productive culture within DARPA responsible for much of that early innovation seems to have waned -- and perhaps isn't even possible today.

    Rather than quote snippets from the piece, I'd just encourage you to read all of it -- it's the piece I would've tried to write in honor of Sputnik's 50th if Anthens hadn't (I'm glad he's assuredly better than anything I would've come up with).

    Two other portions of the coverage are worth checking out, too. Computerworld did a pretty good job of simplifying the CSTB's "tire tracks" chart that shows the development of technologies from the initial research in university or industry labs to the time the products that resulted became billion-dollar industries.

    And there's a good interview with former (D)ARPA director Charles M. Herzfeld on the state of IT research now.

    It's all definitely worth a read.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:18 PM
    Posted to Funding | People | Policy | R&D in the Press | Research | Security

    September 18, 2007

    CS Profs and the DOD

    Long-time readers of this blog, or anyone familiar with CRA's policy efforts, will know that we've spent a lot of time raising concerns about policy shifts at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that have cut university participation rates in DARPA-funded computer science research. In congressional testimony and blog posts, we've pointed out that a shift at DARPA -- a focus on nearer-term efforts with an emphasis on go/no-go milestones at relatively short intervals and an increased use of classification -- has sharply reduced the amount of DARPA-supported research being performed in U.S. universities. In fact, between FY 2001 and FY 2004 (the last year for which we have good data), the amount of funding from DARPA to U.S. universities for computer science research fell by half -- and informal evidence suggests university shares are even lower today.

    There are a number of reasons we're concerned about this trend. For one, DARPA's diminished support for university CS leaves a hole in the federal IT R&D portfolio -- both in funding, but maybe more importantly, in the loss of the "DARPA model" of research support. Since the early 1960s, the country (indeed, the world) has reaped the benefits of the diverse approaches to funding IT research represented by the two leading agencies -- NSF and DARPA. While NSF has primarily focused on small grants for individual researchers at a wide range of institutions -- and support for computing infrastructure at America's universities -- DARPA's approach has been to identify key problems of interest to the agency and then assemble and nurture communities of researchers to address them. The combination of models has been enormously beneficial -- DARPA-supported research in computing over the last four decades has laid down the foundations for the modern microprocessor, the internet, the graphical user interface, single-user workstations and a whole host of other innovations that have made the U.S. military the best in the world, driven the new economy, changed the conduct of science and enabled whole new scientific disciplines.

    But DARPA's policy shift also impacts its own mission, which is to ensure the U.S. never again suffers the sort of technological surprise marked by the Soviet launch of Sputnik (which motivated the establishment of the agency nearly 50 years ago). DARPA's move away from support of university researchers means that many of the brightest minds of the country (indeed, the world) are no longer working on defense-related problems. This loss of mindshare -- the percentage of people working on DARPA-related problems -- is very worrisome to those in the community who understand how much of America's advantage on the battlefield (and in the marketplace) is owed to a network-centric strategy. I hear concerns from the "old guard" in many of America's top university CS departments that there's a whole generation of young researchers who have no experience working with DARPA or the Defense Department and who are not attuned to defense problems -- a fact that doesn't bode well for the future of the U.S. technological advantage and DARPA's goal of preventing technological surprise.

    To their credit, the folks at DARPA recognize that this lack of awareness among younger faculty of the types of problems DARPA would really like to solve is a situation that needs addressing. And one way they're approaching the problem is very direct -- they're finding young faculty with research areas of interest to the agency and, well, taking them on a little tour of the DOD. The Computer Science Study Group, run by the Institute for Defense Analysis for DARPA, serves to "acclimate a generation of researchers to the needs and priorities of the DOD," by mentoring, holding workshops, field trips to DOD facilities and fairly elaborate (and pretty kewl) show-and-tells. An interesting article today on Rensselaer ECSE professor Rich Radke's experience has some details on CSSG goals and methods:

    The multi-year program familiarizes up-and-coming faculty from American universities with DoD practices, challenges, and risks. Participants are encouraged to view their own research through this new perspective, and then to explore and develop technologies that have the potential to transition innovative and revolutionary computer science and technology advances to the government.

    "The basic idea is to expose young faculty to Department of Defense-related activities, via briefings by military and intelligence officers and ‘field trips’ to military and industrial bases," Radke said. "It is truly a hard-core experience filled with days of interesting briefings and up-close show-and-tell with vehicles and equipment."

    Read the whole piece for details of his adventures.

    2007 was the first year for the CSSG and the $4.5 million program supported about a dozen young researchers. DARPA has requested an increase in the program for FY 08 ($7 million) and FY 09 ($7.7 million), so hopefully we'll see that number start to rise.

    The DARPA CSSG program is one part of addressing the overall problem. The larger concern is the importance of bringing DARPA back into the university research fold -- not because it would benefit academic researchers, but because it impacts the mission success of the Department of Defense (and hence our national security). A number of factors suggest that maybe it's time to focus on the goal of increasing mindshare of the best brains working on U.S. defense-related problems. For one, because of U.S. visa policies, increasingly the best minds in the world won't necessarily be coming to the U.S. Second, the research capacity of our potential adversaries increases daily. And finally, the increase in foreign investment in U.S. university research departments means that competition for U.S. university mindshare is only increasing, and in some cases, maybe from countries we'd rather not gain a competitive leg-up on us. So, programs like CSSG are really important. But maybe so are some bigger policy issues across the agency....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:34 AM
    Posted to People | Policy | R&D in the Press | Research

    September 15, 2007

    DDR&E Asks SECDEF for Lots More S&T Money

    Recognizing that the Pentagon's science and technology investment "may be inadequate to meet the imposing security threats that challenge our Nation and may not be adequately robust to take advantage of key scientific and technological opportunities that offer breakthrough advantages to our warfighters," John Young, the current Director of Defense Research and Engineering, has written a pretty remarkable memo to the Secretary of Defense asking for a substantial increase in funding. In his request, he singles out several "priority science and technology areas," along with about $9.5 billion in suggested increases. IT R&D figures prominently in his "straw man" proposal:

    Foundational Sciences (including computing sciences) -- $300 - $500 M a year increase (he notes that DOD has been "coasting on the basic science investments of the last century" and writes what we've been saying for quite a while: "The DOD must dramatically re-energize and re-invigorate the nation's foremost scientific minds, especially those in early and mid-career, to focus on discovery, innovation, and synthesis in the physical and analytical sciences most crucial to our Nation's security.")
    Information Warfare -- $100-200 M per year increase
    Information Assurance - $100-200 M per year increase
    Networking Technologies -- $40-70 M per year increase
    Organiziation, Fusion, and Mining Large Data Sets -- $40-60M per year increase
    Software Development Technology -- $40-70M per year increase
    Autonomous Operation of Networks of Unmanned Vehicles in Complex Environments -- $100 M per year
    Disparate Sensors, Communication and Spectrum Management -- $500 M per year

    The memo containing the complete list of priorities is available from (subscription required). Overall, Young is proposing about $9.5 billion in increases from FY09-FY13 that would get DOD S&T spending close to 3 percent of the agency's budget (it's at about 2.2 percent right now). While there's no guarantee that the comptroller or the SecDef will give him anywhere close to that amount (though the current SecDef is perhaps more sympathetic to S&T than his predecessor), this sort of stage-setting from the DDR&E is pretty remarkable.

    InsideDefense also has an article (sub. req'd) detailing the memo with some reaction from think-tanky-types, which is also worth reading if you've got a subscription.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:15 AM
    Posted to Funding | Policy | Research | Security

    September 12, 2007

    PCAST Report on the Federal Networking and IT R&D Program Released

    The long-awaited follow-up review of the NITRD program -- the first since the 1999 PITAC report Investing in Our Future -- has been released and is available from the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. It's called Leadership Under Challenge: Information Technology R&D in a Competitive World (pdf). We've discussed in depth a draft version of the report previously, but this final version is far more fleshed out.

    We'll have more after we've had a chance to look at it more thoroughly. But if you don't have time to read the whole thing, you can just check out the back cover, upon which are printed the committee's four overarching recommendations:

    To sustain U.S. leadership, the Federal government should:
  • Address the demand for skilled IT professionals by revamping curricula, increasing fellowships, and simplifying visa processes.
  • Emphasize larger-scale, longer-term, multidisciplinary IT R&D and innovative, higher-risk research
  • Give priority to R&D in IT systems connected with the physical world, software, digital data, and networking
  • Develop and implement strategic and technical plans for the NITRD Program
  • Also check ACM's Technology Policy Blog where Cameron Wilson has more on IT education and workforce coverage in the report.

    Update: (9/14/07) -- PCAST IT Subcommittee Co-Chair (and CRA Chair) Dan Reed, one of the principal authors of Leadership Under Challenge, has posted his take on the new report. Definitely worth a read.


  • PCAST Approves Draft IT R&D Recommendations

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:59 AM
    Posted to Funding | People | Policy | Research
  • September 06, 2007

    DDR&E Strategic Plan Released

    The Department of Defense Research and Engineering released its 2007 Strategic Plan this week. It’s pretty high-level and doesn’t appear to contain any surprises. The DDR&E strategy focuses on countering four different types of threats with research and engineering efforts: traditional, irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive. The plan acknowledges that the DOD has a pretty good handle on dealing with the traditional (ie, Cold War-oriented) threats, but has much work to do to counter the other three. As a result, DDR&E is shifting its priorities slightly to focus more effort on addressing irregular threats (urban operations, war on terror, etc), catastrophic threats (WMDs), and disruptive technologies ("those that could render our most significant weapons systems less effective").

    Fortunately, the Department still sees both basic research and research in information technologies as critical to all four efforts. In its list of "enabling technologies that should receive the highest level of corporate attention and coordination," information technology, persistent surveillance technologies, networks and communications, software research, "organization, fusion and mining data," cognitive enhancements, robotics, autonomous systems technologies, and large data set analysis tools all figure prominently. In fact, IT figures in almost all the DOD's "desired capabilities" in the plan.

    The whole plan can be found here and is worth a read.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 01:51 PM
    Posted to Misc. | Policy | Research | Security

    August 27, 2007

    Feds Seeking Input on Networking Research Plan

    The National Coordinating Office for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) -- the ~$3 billion, 14 agency program that constitutes the federal effort in IT research and development -- is looking for comment by the end of September on its draft plan for advanced networking research and development. Here's the notice:

    We are seeking your help in revising the Draft Federal Plan for Advanced Networking Research and Development.  This document was developed to provide guidance to Federal agency networking programs on networking research priorities over the next 7-8 years.  We seek your views on priority areas of networking research and development.  Could you, or someone knowledgeable of networking needs in your organization, please review the draft plan and provide us with comments by September 30, 2007?
     In January 2007, Dr. John Marburger, Director of OSTP, charged the NSTC Committee on Technology to establish the Interagency Task Force on Advanced Networking (ITFAN).  The Charge and Terms of Reference directed ITFAN to develop an interagency Federal Plan for Advanced Networking Research and Development to provide input to the FY 2009 Federal budget planning cycle. A Draft Interim Report was delivered May 15.
    To finalize this report we are seeking inputs from the wide spectrum of the networking research and development communities including university, Federal laboratory, and commercial researchers and developers.  The final report will provide input to the Federal agencies for the FY 2010 and beyond Federal budget planning cycles.  The report including the Charge, Terms of Reference, and findings can be found at the Web site:
    or at: under “What’s New’, “Solicitation for comment …”
    In addition to providing the Draft Interim Report, this Web site provides guidance and formats for providing comments.
    Please provide, by September 30, 2007, your comments, suggestions, and additions on the information and networking research priorities to finalize this report.  Your comments and perspective are important to provide a broad understanding and perspective on future networking needs and priorities.

    If you've got something to say about the federal government's approach to networking research, this is your chance....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:43 AM
    Posted to Policy | Research

    August 08, 2007

    President Will Sign COMPETES Act, Will Be Law Tomorrow!

    It's done! It's done! By now, I expect that everyone has heard that both the House and Senate have agreed on the conference report for H.R. 2272, The America COMPETES Act and that the measure is headed to the President for his signature.

    Word comes from the White House today that the President will sign the bill in a small signing-ceremony tomorrow with the Members of Congress who were instrumental in moving the bill along. While it's a bit of a bummer that the President isn't making a big "to-do" about this with representatives from industry and academia and lots of press -- it does, after all, enact many portions of his own American Competitiveness Initiative, and it's also an issue that polls really well, a fact you'd think would be important to both a Congress and a President who could use a few good examples of positive, bi-partisan legislation to show off -- the important thing is it's getting signed. After nearly two years of wrangling over this particular set of proposals -- and a lot longer than that to get the Administration and the Congress to understand the import of the problems addressed -- the President will sign the bill and its provisions will be law.

    That deserves some kudos, back-patting, and maybe one or two loud "whoo-hoo's."

    Especially because this bill has a lot of good things in it. As Cameron Wilson points out over on the USACM Technology Policy Blog, the bill takes two basic routes to fostering the innovation the country will require to stay competitive in an increasingly global world. It addresses federal support for research -- both authorizing large amounts of new funding for three key science agencies (National Science Foundation, NIST, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science), setting a target to double the agencies budgets over 7 years, and by creating a new high-risk research agency at the Department of Energy (called the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, or ARPA-E, in a nod to the DARPA-like character Congress hopes the agency will adopt). And the bill addresses a diversity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education efforts. For these, I'll simply steal what Cameron has already written:

    The bill authorizes $43.3 billion over the next three fiscal years for STEM education programs across the federal government. The variety is impressive ranging from new k-12 teacher programs to new opportunities for undergraduate and graduate STEM students. Here is a sampling of the proposals:
    • Expands the Robert Noyce program which links students in STEM fields up with education degrees so they can teach STEM in K-12;
    • Authorizes two new competitive grant programs that will enable partnerships to implement courses of study in mathematics, science, engineering, technology or critical foreign languages in ways that lead to a baccalaureate degree with concurrent teacher certification;
    • Authorizes competitive grants to increase the number of teachers serving high-need schools and expand access to AP and IB classes and to increase the number of qualified AP and IB teachers in high-need schools; and,
    • Expands early career grant programs and provides additional support for outstanding young investigators at both NSF and DOE.
    In addition, the legislation has several provisions that expand outreach to women and minorities in STEM fields. The lack of females and minorities has been a key problem in computing, so this is another welcome effort.
    In addition, the bill contains two particular provisions I wanted to highlight because they're of particular interest to the computing community:

    The first is Section 7024, "High-performance Computing and Networking" (if you're following along at home (pdf)) -- the inclusion of the High-Performance Computing Research and Development Act that has been much discussed on these pages since some of the earliest days of this blog. The bill has been proposed in various forms in every session of Congress since the 106th (we're now in the 110th) and has never gained the full approval of the Congress -- almost always for reasons unrelated to the bill. The bill has, in sessions past, been approved by the House only to languish in the Senate due to jurisdictional fights over other bills, approved by the House Science committee only to run afoul of budget disputes with the GOP Leadership, and been held hostage over fights about NASA between the House and Senate. In fact, until the approval of the conference report last week, it was assumed that this version HPC R&D Act might meet a similar fate as word escaped that some of the Senate conferees thought its inclusion might cause some jurisdictional friction between two Senate committees (Energy and Commerce, who both claim HPC jurisdiction). But those problems were resolved, and the bill includes the full House-approved language, plus an extra section that authorizes efforts in "Advanced Information and Communications Technology Research" at NSF, including research on:

    • affordable broadband access, including wireless technologies;
    • network security and reliability;
    • communications interoperability;,
    • networking protocols and architectures, including resilience to outages or attacks;
    • trusted software;
    • privacy;
    • nanoelectronics for communications applicaitons;
    • low-power communications electronics;
    • implementation of equitable access to natinoal advanced fiber optic research and educational networks in noncontiguous States; and
    • other areas the Director [of NSF] finds appropriate.
    The provision also allows NSF to fund multiyear, multidisciplinary "Centers for Communications Research" to "generate innovative approaches to problems in information and communications technology research."

    Otherwise, the HPC R&D Act remains essentially unchanged, which means it includes two provisions we particularly like: it requires the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop and maintain a research, development, and deployment roadmap for the provision of federal high-performance computing systems; and there's now an explicit requirement that the President's advisory committee for IT (now PCAST) review not only the goals of the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, but the funding levels as well and report the results of that review to Congress every two years.

    The second noteworthy provision in the COMPETES bill is one (Sec. 7012) that was originally included in the House-passed NSF Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867), that should help clarify NSF's role in supporting efforts that seek to encourage the participation of women and underrepresented groups in computing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As we noted back in March, this is a response to long-standing concerns from CRA and other members of the computing and science communities about NSF's role. Basically, NSF's general policy is to only support efforts that represent novel approaches. Yet, what's often needed in these cases isn't a novel approach, just a sustained one. The House Science and Technology Committee agreed and included language in the NSF Authorization that addresses the issue by allowing the Director of NSF to review such programs one year before their grants expire and issue extensions of up to three years without recompetition to those efforts that appear to be successful at meeting their stated goals. It also emphasizes that the committee believes this sort of effort -- maintaining the strength and vitality of the U.S. science and engineering workforce -- is appropriately part of the agency's mission. So, we're thrilled that the provision survived the conference and will become law with the President's signature tomorrow.

    This is, of course, not the end of innovation efforts in the Congress or the Administration. While this bill sets nice, juicy funding targets for NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science, it doesn't actually appropriate a single dime, so the focus will continue to be on House and Senate appropriators as they wind their way through the appropriations process later this year. We're still expecting a meltdown in that process, so nothing is guaranteed, despite all the supportive words from Congress and the President. And there will be further efforts to address some of the pieces of the various innovation agendas that aren't represented in H.R. 2272 -- like a permanent extension of the R&D tax credit.

    But for now, I think it's probably appropriate to take a deep breath and savor this win for a day or two. This is a big victory for the science community and a long-time coming for those of us who have been working these issues around the Hill over the better part of the last decade. We commend the President and the Congress for having the vision and the commitment to push ahead on these issues, even when it didn't seem as politically popular as it is today. And we commend the members of the science community for speaking up on these issues, serving on the advisory committees, and partipating in the grassroots efforts to make Congress aware of the issues. Now, just make sure you go out and do world-leading science -- take risks, think audaciously...demonstrate as you've done so well in the past why America needs to continue to be an incubator for invention, discovery, and innovation.

    And keep it tuned here for all the details... :)

    Update: (8/9/07) -- It's official!:

    President George W. Bush signs H.R. 2272, The America Competes Act, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, in the Oval Office. Pictured with the President are, from left: Director John Marburger of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Senator Jeff Bingaman of N.M.; Congressman Bart Gordon of Tenn.; and Senator Pete Domenici of N.M. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

    Update2: (8/10/07) -- Here are the President's comments about the bill and ACI, as well as an OSTP-produced fact sheet.

    July 31, 2007

    Competitiveness Bills Wrapping Up?

    The long effort to address concerns about America's future competitiveness and capacity for innovation may finally result in a bill.

    For the last two years, there's been a fairly constant drumbeat in Congress, the Administration, and federal advisory bodies over the need to prop up the U.S. innovation infrastructure -- by strengthening the federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences (including computing, mathematics and engineering), by investing in new math and science teachers, by increasing the participation of US students in math and science, and by creating new research organizations to help nurture an innovative culture in some federal research agencies. There's been a whole suite of different bills proposed to address these proposals -- many inspired by the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, or many of the other similar reports that have come out of the scientific community and American industry over the past several years. Unfortunately, though many of these bills had passed either the House or the Senate last session, none had passed both and gone on to the President.

    But, that could change. As we've noted previously, this suite of competitiveness proposals has coaliesced into two different pieces of legislation, one House bill and one Senate bill -- both essentially omnibus bills that are collections of most of the previous proposals. The Senate passed its version, S. 761 The America COMPETES Act, in May by bundling a whole bunch of proposals together and having the Senate Leader bring the package directly to the Senate floor, bypassing the Senate committee structure (which would've tied things up for months). The House took a more piecemeal approach, passing the "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Authorization Act (HR 362), the Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Act (HR 363), the High Performance Computing Research and Development Act (HR 1068), the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (HR 1867), and the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act (HR 1868), one-by-one (by overwhelming margins) over the course of several months, then combining them into one giant omnibus bill "The 21st Century Competitiveness Act" (HR 2272), which they passed by voice vote. The plan was to conference HR 2272 and S. 761 and work out a compromise bill both chambers could approve. It appears that negotiation is nearing its end and a final bill may be on its way.

    We just got a notice of a meeting with Speaker Pelosi scheduled for tomorrow at which the House and Senate leadership will discuss the conference agreement. We know that the bills have been exhaustively "pre-conferenced" with the various committee staff over the last couple of weeks. The official conferees -- the Representatives and Senators who were appointed to serve on the conference committee -- will meet tonight to hammer out the final details. So, this time tomorrow we should have a good sense of what made the bill and what didn't.

    We'll have all the details as they are released, of course. There are some provisions in the the House and Senate bills about which the computing research community has had particular interest. More detail on those later. But for now, it's nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Congress -- and the Administration -- has spent a lot of time over the last two years talking about the importance of bolstering the chain of innovation that helps keep America a world leader, but they don't have much to show for it. It appears that could change soon.

    Update: (7/30/07 10 pm ET) -- The conference committee has reached agreement on a compromise bill. It's massive -- 470 pages -- but you can poke through it here (pdf) if you're so inclined. We'll have details on the bill in the next day or so, but after a brief look through the bill it's fair to say there's a lot of good news for the community in there -- including the High Performance Computing R&D Act, which has died every previous Congress since the 106th (this is the 110th). So keep it tuned here for more detail....

    June 28, 2007

    Cyber Security Report Released

    The National Research Council of the National Academies of Science released a new report on cyber security and research called "Toward a Safer and More Secure Cyberspace." The report is available for free online at the National Academies Press.

    The report lists three broad categories that lack of cyber security falls into:

    First is the threat of catastrophe-a cyberattack, especially in conjunction with a physical attack, could result in thousands of deaths and many billions of dollars of damage in a very short time. Second is frictional drag on important economic and security-related processes. Today, insecurities in cyberspace systems and networks allow adversaries (in particular, criminals) to extract billions of dollars in fraud and extortion-and force businesses to expend additional resources to defend themselves against these threats. If cyberspace does not become more secure, the citizens, businesses, and governments of tomorrow will continue to face similar pressures, and most likely on a greater scale. Third, concerns about insecurity may inhibit the use of IT in the future and thus lead to a self-denial of the benefits that IT brings, benefits that will be needed for the national competitiveness of the United States as well as for national and homeland security.

    It also lists a set of ten provisions that could form a Cyber Security Bill of Rights. The provisions are:

    I. Availability of system and network resources to legitimate users.
    II. Easy and convenient recovery from successful attacks.
    III. Control over and knowledge of one's own computing environment.
    IV. Confidentiality of stored information and information exchange.
    V. Authentication and provenance.
    VI. The technological capability to exercise fine-grained control over the flow of information in and through systems.
    VII. Security in using computing directly or indirectly in important applications, including financial, health care, and electoral transactions and real-time remote control of devices that interact with physical processes.
    VIII. The ability to access any source of information (e.g., e-mail, Web page, file) safely.
    IX. Awareness of what security is actually being delivered by a system or component.
    X. Justice for security problems caused by another party.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 09:13 AM
    Posted to Events | People | Policy | Research | Security

    June 12, 2007

    House Science Committee on Globalization of R&D

    Just a quick placeholder here.... The House Science and Technology Committee is holding a hearing today on "Globalization of R&D and Innovation." Here's the hearing website. CRA has provided written testimony for the hearing record, which you can read here (pdf).

    We'll have more when we're back from the hearing.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:19 PM
    Posted to Policy

    May 24, 2007

    First FY08 Approps Numbers: DOE Office of Science Does Well

    The Department of Energy's Office of Science would see significant increases under the FY 2008 House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill marked up by the E&W Approps Subcommittee yesterday. Though we don't yet have all the detail about increases in individual accounts, we do know that the Office of Science would see an overall increase to $4.516 billion in FY 2008, which is $120 million above the President's request for FY 2008 and $719 million above the FY 2007 level, or an increase of 18.9 percent.

    Presumably the increases in DOE Science will be spread reasonably equitably throughout the agency, which would mean the agency's Advanced Scientific Computing Research program should see an equally significant increase in FY 08. But we won't see real detail until the full appropriations committee marks up the bill in June.

    For now, it's good to know that the appropriators appear prepared to continue their commitment to doubling the budgets of key federal science agencies, as spelled out in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda. Next up should be the House version of the Commerce, Science, Justice appropriations, which will include funding for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We'll have all the details as we get 'em...

  • Link to E&W Appropriations Chair Peter Visclosky's (D-IN) statement on the markup (pdf). (Doesn't say much about the research portion of the bill, however.)

  • May 15, 2007

    Computing Research Challenges in Biomedicine

    Last June, CRA and he National Institutes of Health jointly hosted a workshop motivated by the following two observations (from the 2004 NIH Roadmap):

    The success of computational biology is shown by the fact that computation has become integral and critical to modern biomedical research.


    Because computation is integral to biomedical research, its deficiencies have become significant limiters on the rate of progress of biomedical research.

    It seems rational to conclude (as the attendees of the workshop concluded) that the productive synergies between the two fields can accelerate research in both, but only if the challenges are addressed through cooperative effort. So, the workshop attendees -- leaders in computing and biomedicine, along with NIH Program Directors -- aimed to address these challenges by developing a "list of focused recommendations and action items that would guide the NIH and computing communities in addressing current impediments to fully realizing effective collaborations at the interface between computing and biomedical research." Those recommendations are now available (pdf) as a 14 page report.

    The workshop participants ultimately came to agreement on six recommendations, which are listed in some detail in the report but that I'll attempt to summarize here:

    • Recommendation 1: NIH, the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Office of Science should support biomedicine and computing research collaborations by:
      • Initiating small, interdisciplinary planning grants that require conceptual proof-of-principal, but minimal or no preliminary results and that involve both computing and biomedical researchers as full partners;
      • creating (or expanding current programs) to fund computing and biomedicine research projects at the PI level, as well as larger collaborative projects with multiple PIs, that reflect the maturation of teams and projects from the small grants above;
      • establishing a cross-disciplinary, multiagency working group to identify, explore and recommend individual agency opportunities and define and coordinate joint agency programs.
    • Recommendation 2: Federal agencies should enhance support for "training at the interface." These mechanisms would include summer schools for students, post-docs, and professors; increased emphasis on extant undergrad and grad training programs; and funding to transform existing "silo" disciplinary education into new, multidisciplinary structures that support the integration of computing and biomedicine.
    • Recommendation 3: NIH should create a cross-institute software program to create and maintain high-quality, well-engineered biomedical computing software, to assess the quality of existing software, and to create and support for repositories.
    • Recommendation 4: NIH should fund a number of large, distributed transformational centers -- distinct from and somewhat orthogonal to the NIH National Centers for Biomedical Computing program -- to act as "expeditions to the future.
    • Recommendation 5: NIH should invest in a range of computing research technologies (specified in detail in the report) that are motivated by current and future biomedical research and healthcare needs.
    • Recommendation 6: NIH, NSF, DOE and CRA should create a joint "Interface Task Force" (ITF) -- perhaps using the Computing Community Consortium to involve the community -- to recommend specific ways to support advances at the interface between computing and biomedicine.

    The report includes much more detail for each of the recommendations, including a timeline for implementation and an estimated cost for each. The report also includes more detail on the particular computing research areas the participants thought deserved particular attention.

    The whole thing is only 14 pages and is a quick read -- well worth it.

  • CRA-NIH Computing Research Challenges in Biomedicine Workshop Recommendations.

    Update: (5/29/07) -- Dan Reed has a lot more of the backstory for the report on his blog today.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:56 PM
    Posted to CRA | Policy | Research
  • May 03, 2007

    A Little Bit of Press for America COMPETES Act

    David Broder writes about the America COMPETES Act in his column today at the Washington Post. It contains this great quote from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of the sponsors of the Act:

    "Last week," he said, "while the media covered Iraq and U.S. attorneys, the Senate spent three days debating and passing perhaps the most important piece of legislation of this two-year session. Almost no one noticed."

    Alexander has a point. The bill, boldly named the America Competes Act, authorized an additional $16 billion over four years as part of a $60 billion effort to "double spending for physical sciences research, recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers and retrain 250,000 more, provide grants to researchers and invest more in high-risk, high-payoff research."

    Read the whole thing.

    May 02, 2007

    NSF Authorization on the Floor Today

    The National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867), which we've discussed previously, will be on the House floor today. The bill authorizes appropriations at the agency (which is not the same as actually funding the agency -- only the appropriations committee can do that -- but is still a necessary (and symbolic) step in getting funding for the agency) at the levels called for in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda -- a trajectory that would double the agency's budget over the next seven years.

    It's likely the bill will pass today without much difficulty. There are, however, a whole slate of amendments proposed, some of which are pretty awful (though not likely to pass). For example, there are amendments from Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and John Campbell (R-CA) that would specifically prohibit funding of nine already-funded grants in NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economics directorate, based apparently on their "silly" titles. Here are the grants targeted:

  • the reproductive aging and symptom experience at midlife among Bangladeshi Immigrants, Sedentees, and White London Neighbors;
  • the diet and social stratification in ancient Puerto Rico;
  • archives of Andean Knotted-String Records;
  • the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of others’ emotions;
  • bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains;
  • team versus individual play;
  • sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal;
  • social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre’s Leaf Monkeys; and
  • cognitive model of superstitious belief.
  • There are a number of reasons amendments like this are a bad idea. The primary one is that the NSF peer-review system, while arguably not perfect (well, far from perfect), is still likely a much more reliable way of choosing meritorious research than Congressional intervention. It's also pretty reasonable to assert that titles are not the best way to judge the worthiness of research.

    Additionally, there's an interesting (and bad) amendment proposed by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) that would tie any increases in the NSF budget to proportional increases at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The amendment, Weldon says in a press release, would "ensure that NASA's budget is not raided to fund the NSF increase." As someone who has been doing science policy work for the better part of a decade, it amuses a little to think of NASA in the role of victim to NSF, as I've watched innumerable times in the past as NASA increases swallowed up all the available funding room in VA/HUD appropriations bills that shortchanged NSF and NIST. But the Weldon amendment is an innovative approach to "protecting" NASA, by trying to link the two agencies' budgets. It might, however, set an awkward precedent. One could imagine linking the National Institutes of Health and NASA, or NIH and NSF, or NSF and DOE, or NSF and NIST and NIH...the number of permutations just among the science agencies are enormous. But why stop there? We could link NSF and the Veterans Administration. The Department of Labor to NIH. Or NASA and the Department of Transportation (wait, that could almost make sense). In any case, the idea of linking two agencies with disparate missions together is probably not sound policy, and I would argue that the best way to "protect" NASA funding (which isn't actually at risk because of the NSF Authorization) is to ensure NASA is pursuing a compelling mission for the Nation.

    You can find a complete list of amendments being considered today on THOMAS. We'll try to keep score here throughout the day.

    One other piece of news about the bill is that it appears H.R. 1867 will get conferenced with the Senate as part of the S. 761 (the "America COMPETES Act") conference. This is actually very good news as it means the NSF Authorization has a real chance of enactment. While the bill is expected to pass the House without much difficulty, it wasn't clear that the Senate had much of an interest in moving it's own version of the bill, simply because they'd already passed an NSF authorization as part of S. 761. Now it appears that there's an inclination to take the NSF-specific portions of that bill out and use them as a conference vehicle for H.R. 1867. We'll have more as we learn more, but in short, this means that there's a potential path to enactment that is relatively free of big bumps....

    Update: (5/3/07 12:20 am) -- The bill passed overwhelmingly (399-17). The Garrett and Campbell amendments both failed, and the Weldon amendment was subject to a point of order that the NASA provisions weren't germane to the bill -- a point of order that was sustained. So great news all around!

    May 01, 2007

    Two Interesting Posts...

    ...on Jim Horning's Nothing is as simple as we hope it will be blog. The first, on a recent cyber security hearing on the Hill has a nice extended quote from the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and S&T of the House Committee on Homeland Security, complaining about the gutting of the cyber security R&D budget at DHS.

    The second is a summary of a paper by Robert Meyer and Michel Cukier on the impact of (perceived) user gender on the cyber attack threat (quick summary: "females" are much more likely to get attacked), which concludes with this great quote from Jim:

    If this hostility is anywhere near the typical Internet experience, is it any wonder that computing and IT are increasingly losing the women?"

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:28 PM
    Posted to Diversity in Computing | Funding | Policy | Research | Security

    Another Article on the Innovation Agenda

    Interesting article (requires free registration) on the innovation agenda in the San Jose Mercury News. While it does focus mostly on the energy and environmental areas that could be helped, it also touches on almost all aspects of the overall innovation agenda such as funding basic research and increasing STEM K-12 teachers. There is also a good quote from Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) who said, "I'm a fiscal conservative, but the dollars we invest in basic research will come back to us in spades in terms of stimulating economic activity and helping the United States remain at the forefront of global innovation."

    April 25, 2007

    House Innovation Agenda

    Speaker Pelosi has re-released the House Democrats Innovation Agenda, which we have talked about before in this space. The Agenda was first announced in November 2005 and includes many of the provisions called for in the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report and that subsequently ended up in the American Competitiveness Initiative. With this re-release of the Agenda, Speaker Pelosi also released a statement saying:

    “To meet the challenges of today and to create the jobs and economic security of tomorrow, the time to act is now,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “This week, the House is taking the first steps in an Innovation Agenda that will help spur the next generation of discovery and invention. Democrats will continue throughout the 110th Congress to move forward on legislation that asserts our global economic leadership, creates new business ventures and jobs, and gives future generations increased opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

    The re-release is in support of three bills that are going to the House floor this week—HR 362 the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act, HR 1332 the Small Business Lending Improvements Act of 2007, and HR 363 the Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, each released a statement supporting the Innovation Agenda and the three bills.

    This happens at the same time that the Senate is voting on S. 761, the America COMPETES Act, and could mean that a conference between the two chambers’ innovation bills might not be as problematic as it initially appeared.... We'll keep you posted.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 08:38 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    April 24, 2007

    PCAST Approves Draft IT R&D Recommendations

    The President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology met today to approve a draft set of recommendations concerning the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program. In reviewing the program and the overall IT "ecosystem" in the U.S. and abroad for the first time since the PITAC review in 1999, the committee came to the conclusion that while the U.S. continues to hold a dominant leadership position in the IT sector, that leadership is at risk unless steps are taken now to shore up our innovation footing long-term.

    The committee, composed of 35 leaders of industry and academia appointed by the President, approved recommendations in four general areas:

    • Revamp networking and information technology education and training;
    • Rebalance the federal NITRD portfolio;
    • Re-prioritize some NITRD topics;
    • Improve interagency planning and coordination.
    PCAST members Dan Reed (Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC, and Chair of CRA) and George Scalise (President, Semiconductor Industry Association) both co-chair the subcommittee charged with producing the report and led the other members of PCAST through the draft recommendations during PCAST's meeting today at the National Academies.

    Reed began by noting that America's current global success relies in large part on our lead in IT, but that our favorable position in developing and adopting new networking and IT technologies is not assured. Other nations have recognized the value of leadership in IT and are mounting challenges. Our current success rests on our leadership throughout the IT ecosystem -- in the market positions of US IT firms, in our IT commercialization systems, and in the position of U.S. higher education and research systems. The enabling foundation for that ecosystem is clear -- early and continuing federal investments.

    Three independent areas must be strengthened to ensure continued leadership, Reed said: education and training; the structure of the federal NITRD portfolio; and prioritization among research areas.

    Education and Training: The U.S. demand for IT professionals in the coming decade is likely to grow more rapidly than most other employment categories. The current IT curricula do not adequately meet employer and student needs. In addition, women and other underrepresented groups constitute a declining proportion of new IT graduates. The committee recommends assessing the current state of and future requirements for IT graduate and undergraduate education, revising IT curricula, increasing fellowship opportunities, and ease visa processes for students and R&D visitors and green card processes for IT professionals.

    Evolving Nature of IT R&D: The committee finds (as the PITAC did in 1999) that the NITRD program is currently imbalanced in favor of projects that are low risk, small-scale and short term. In addition, universities continue to miss research opportunities because of organizational structures and incentives that emphasize disciplinary studies rather than inter-disciplinary research. The committee will call on NITRD and federal agencies to identify important IT problems and put in place appropriately balanced programs that stress innovation and longer term, multidisciplinary projects. The committee also concluded that universities must rethink their structures -- their organizations as well as their merit and tenure systems -- to become more open to and rewarding of multidisciplinary work.

    Technology R&D Priorities for NITRD: The committee identified eight general research areas it deemed worthy of priority in the NITRD portfolio:

    • Networking and IT systems connecting with the physical world. This includes software monitoring/control via sensors and actuators. The committee recommends that the National Science and Technology Council develop a federal plan for a coordinated multi-agency R&D effort to maximize the effectiveness of federal investments and ensure future U.S. competitiveness in this area.
    • Software. Software is at the center of everything and rapid changes in hardware, like the advent and widespread use of multiple processors per chip, has "strong implications for how we produce software." The committee recommends that academia, industry and government jointly identify the critical issues limiting advances in reliable, efficient software design and development.
    • Networking: The committee simply endorsed the call by the Director of OSTP for an interagency federal plan for Advanced Networking R&D and noted that a key element of the plan should be R&D for advancing the internet.
    • Data/Data Stores and Data Streams: Recognizing that we're facing a "data deluge," the committee recommends that the federal government should develop and implement a national strategy and associated plan to assure the long-term preservation, stewardship, and widespread availability of data important to scientific engineering and technology R&D.
    • High-end Computing: Essentially just reiterated that it should remain a strategic priority and echoed the recommendations of the previous PITAC report (pdf) that called for the development of a federal HPC strategic plan and roadmap.
    • Cyber Security and Information Assurance: Accelerate the activities called for in the Federal Plan for Cybersecurity and Information Assurance R&D.
    • Human Computer Interaction: The science and engineering of HCI underlies nearly all IT applications.
    • IT and the Social Sciences: NITRD should continue to inform public understanding and policymaking.
    The Federal NITRD Program: The committee found that, in general, NITRD has been very effective. However, the NITRD program's current coordination process are inadequate to meet anticipated national needs and to maintain U.S. leadership in a globally competitive world. The NITRD program must evolve to support the challenges of developing and applying advanced networking and IT capabilities that require larger scale, longer term and multidisciplinary R&D. PCAST will call upon the NSTC NITRD Subcommittee to develop a strategic plan -- a vision -- and the roadmap to get it done. To help this process along, the PCAST is calling on the NITRD subcommittee to meet annually with broad agency participation to discuss the plan and roadmap.

    Technology Transfer: Scalise delivered this portion of the presentation and noted that the ability to transition ideas from the nation's R&D institutions to the marketplace has been a key strength of America's science and technology base. However, it wasn't clear to PCAST that there was adequate structure within the NITRD program to maximize transfer possibilities. Scalise said the program needs a technology strategy committee, with representatives from industry and academia, to manage the process of technology transfer, not just oversee it. He sees the FOCUS Center Research Program -- a research partnership between the federal government, the semiconductor industry, and academia -- as a good model. With such a management structure in place, he argued, "the technology transfer problem becomes moot, because it becomes imbedded in the process."

    Scalise also noted that there's one key issue that is missing from the draft report and that's whether the current federal investment of $3.1 billion per year in IT R&D is adequate. It's missing, he said, because the committee didn't feel like it had enough information available to it to assess whether that level of spending is appropriate. The report also doesn't appear to contain any proposals for new agency or federal government-wide initiatives in information technology. Both were key aspects of the 1999 PITAC report -- recommendations that helped propel the growth of the NITRD program and led to the creation the National Science Foundation's Information Technology Research program, a program that ultimately helped more than double the budget of the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate over 5 years.

    But otherwise, the report appears to be pretty solid. The committee discussion after the presentation was very positive, with much of the conversation focused on strengthening the recommendations with the addition of some sort of metrics. Identifying exactly what those metrics might be will likely prove challenging, though. One example given by Scalise was again in the area of semiconductors -- the metric for the FOCUS Center program is essentially "are we keeping pace with Moore's law?" PCAST Co-chair Floyd Kvamme asked if it was conceivable that one could envision a "moore's law" type of metric for each component area, or each strategic area -- something that might force the agencies to agree that the key to area "A" is challenge "X." Scalise responded that he thought that methodology could address "90 percent of the problem."

    One other interesting area of discussion centered around the workforce issue. PCAST member Norm Augustine (former Lockheed Martin CEO and Chair of the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report) asked the committee to "suppose we produce more high-quality IT professionals -- and so do other countries. Why then, under the pressures of the marketplace, won't industry continue to shift work abroad?" Scalise answered that he thought the rate of change of salaries worldwide meant that salaries and costs are going to equalize. So he thought it was a problem, but not an overwhelming one. He said he was convinced that if we decided to compete with China in the semiconductor world -- and we could equalize the one area where there's a substantial imbalance...namely tax policy -- then you could build a fab plant in China and one here in the U.S. and the one in the U.S. would compete favorably. Stratton Sclavos, CEO of Verisign, added another data point in support of the "salaries will equalize" argument by noting that his company's "R&D salaries" in the U.S. are rising at 6 - 8 percent per year; but in India, the rate is closer to 30 to 40 percent a year. Verisign expects the offshore salaries to equalize within 10 years.

    In the end, the committee reached consensus on all the recommendations as presented. The report now goes back to the PCAST IT subcommittee for "final" drafting in preparation for its release this summer.

    Update: (4/26/07) -- Dan Reed has posted his take on the meeting over at his blog.

    Update 2:: (5/2/2007) -- Dan's slides are now up on the OSTP website.

  • Previously on PCAST.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:03 PM
    Posted to Policy
  • April 12, 2007

    Innovation Briefing Event

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation and the House R&D Caucus are hosting a lunch briefing on Tuesday, April 17 at noon. The Role of Basic Research in Innovation, Economic Competitiveness and National Security will include speakers from industry and academia and will be based on the second Benchmarks report, “Measuring the Moment: Innovation, National Security, and Economic Competitiveness” that we have previously covered in this space.

    Speakers will include:

    Dr. Anita Jones from the University of Virginia giving a presentation called, “The Role of Defense Research in the Innovation and Competitiveness Debate”

    Dr. C. Dan Mote, President of the University of Maryland . His presentation is “Progress Since the Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report and What Still Needs Attention”

    Amy Burke from Texas Instruments speaking on “Industry Perspective on the Importance of Federal Investment in Basic Research”

    Task Force Chair Doug Comer, the director of legal affairs and technology policy at Intel, will do the welcome, introductions, and speak to the Benchmark’s report.

    Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), the co-chairs of the House R&D Caucus will also make remarks at the briefing.

    Anyone with an interest in innovation and competitiveness is welcome to attend. RSVP to Jessica Delucchi at 202.646.5046 or by Monday, April 16. Space is limited so reservations are on a first come basis.

    Update: Doug Comer, Dr. Mote, and Amy Burke spoke to a packed room at the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation and House R&D Caucus briefing " The Role of Basic Research in Innovation, Economic Competitiveness and National Security." Over 100 people attended from industry, academia, and the Hill, including Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    15.jpg Comer discussed the Measuring the Moment report issued last year by the Task Force and gave an overview of the continued importance of federal funding for basic research to the economy as a whole.

    As one of the Rising Above the Gathering Storm authors, Dr. Mote discussed the impact the report has had and what is still undone. He emphasized that the states need to be actively engaged in support of basic research at the university level and vocal about their support to their federal delegations.

    Burke presented a specific picture of why federally funded basic research is important to Texas Instruments and how that translates to industry as a whole. She gave specific examples of technologies that have had major economic impact and were begun through basic research.

    22.jpg Maybe just as importantly, each attendee left with a copy of the Benchmarks report (pdf) and other Task Force material and at least one Member of Congress was seen toting the report around later that day....

    All in all, a good, well-attended event.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:25 PM
    Posted to Events | Funding | Policy | Research | Security

    April 10, 2007

    NSF Reauthorization

    The House Science and Technology Committee is set to hold two markups for a National Science Foundation reauthorization bill that Chairman Gordon would like to pass this year. The Research and Science Education subcommittee will hold their markup on April 19 and the full committee will have the markup on April 25. The committee has already had two hearings on the NSF reauthorization in March.

    CRA has seen some draft language and we think it looks pretty good. It includes authorization of funding at levels that fit with the goals of the ACI and the Democratic Innovation Agenda to double NSF over the next seven years. We are particularly pleased with language that could help programs aimed at increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in science. The language allows the NSF Director the option of continuing funding for these programs after their initial grant award expires if they're demonstrating success and the problem they seek to address persists.

    The language implicitly attempts to clarify NSF's role in supporting efforts that seek to encourage the participation of women and underrepresented groups in computing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (CSTEM) disciplines. This is a response to long-standing concerns from CRA and other members of the computing and science communities about NSF's role. In a letter to the Chairman Gordon back in February, CRA along with 11 other organizations laid out the issue:

    NSF, in fulfillment of its mission to "strengthen the U.S. scientific and engineering research potential," has been very supportive of efforts designed to reach out to women and underrepresented groups in CSTEM. Recognizing the magnitude of the problem within computing, NSF has funded efforts within its Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate to address it, including the current Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) initiative. These programs have good track records of funding efforts within the community that have demon- strated effectiveness -- for example, programs and institutions like the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), the Computer Science Teachers Association, and CRA's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing (CRA-W), which received the President's Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2004.

    Our concern is that NSF, while very willing to fund new programs to address these underrepresentation issues, does not have a funding model to support successful efforts on anything approaching a sustaining basis. Unfortunately, there are no other agencies that have shown a willingness to adopt these successful programs once orphaned by NSF, and it has so far proven difficult for industry to fund them on a sustaining level. So successful efforts -- even those that have been independently evaluated and demonstrated effective -- must be restructured substantially to include new approaches in order to satisfy NSF’s guidelines about new programs and receive new funding when their original grants expire (typically in 3 to 5 years). As you can imagine, this is incredibly counter-productive, especially as the need for these programs remains great.

    So we are particularly pleased with the language that allows (but does not mandate) NSF to continue funding programs with proven track records to encourage underrepresented groups to enter CSTEM fields for an additional funding cycle without needing to make significant revisions to the programs. By including the language, it seems clear that the committee is endorsing the view that it's an appropriate a part of the NSF mission to support these efforts, and giving the agency the flexibility to continue those programs that appear to be working.

    We'll keep you posted on the bill as it moves through the markup process.

    Update: HR 1867, the NSF Authorization Act of 2007, was passed today by voice vote out of the Subcommittee on Research and Education with three amendments. The amendments included a request for a yearly report by NSF on the agencies Education and Human Resources funding allocation, a joint report from NSF and the National Academies on the barriers to STEM participation for underrepresented minorities and policy strategies to correct the low participation, and a requirement to fund undergraduate research awards at a sustainable level by calling it out of the general NSF Research and Related Activities account. Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-IL), while not objecting to the last amendment, did cite concerns about designating funds within the general allocation and that doing so could eventually create a line item in the budget that would be vulnerable to cuts in the future.

    The full Science and Technology Committee will mark up the bill next week.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 01:31 PM
    Posted to CRA | Diversity in Computing | Funding | Policy | Research

    March 28, 2007

    Innovation Bill Moves Forward

    The House Science and Technology Committee approved H.R. 362, the “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds” Science and Math Scholarship Act, today and will recommend it to the House for consideration. The bill was passed with five amendments that are meant to improve access for teachers and students from low-income schools and to improve science labs in secondary schools.

    The bill is based on the recommendations of the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report. A press release on the legislation states that the goal of the legislation is “increasing scholarships for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and who are committed to pursuing teaching; establishing a teacher education program at the National Science Foundation to encourage education faculty to work with STEM faculty on ways to improve education for math and science teachers; providing in-service training to math and science teachers to improve content knowledge and teaching skills; and authorizing the development of master’s degree programs for in-service math and science teachers.”

    This is just one of several innovation and competitiveness bills based on the Gathering Storm recommendations that the Committee has or plans to address this year, along with the reauthorization of NSF and the No Child Left Behind Act.

    A webcast of the hearing is available.

    March 21, 2007

    Innovation Funding Featured in House Budget Resolution

    The Chairman of the House Budget Committee today released the "chairman's mark" (both pdf) of his committee's FY 2008 Congressional Budget Resolution that includes funding caps large enough to accommodate the continuation of funding increases at key federal science agencies called for in both the American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda. The resolution contains healthy increases in a number of budget accounts designed to allow congressional appropriators the budget "room" to include increases for ACI agencies -- National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Energy Office of Science -- as well as the National Institutes of Health and additional federal education spending at a variety of agencies.

    The overall budget levels are similar to those found in the Senate version of the Congressional Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res 21), which was introduced back on March 15th and is being considered on the Senate floor now. The House bill is a bit more generous for the science accounts, but because of the convoluted way the budget process works, it's hard to translate either set of numbers to likely actual appropriations. In each case, it's enough to know that both the House and Senate budgeters appear to have factored in the requested increases (or greater) for key science agencies in their budgets. (Update below) The House also included "sense of the House" language that really calls out their support for science funding increases:

    SENSE OF THE HOUSE ON THE INNOVATION AGENDA: A COMMITMENT TO COMPETITIVENESS TO KEEP AMERICA #1. (a) It is the sense of the House to provide sufficient funding that our Nation may continue to be the world leader in education, innovation and economic growth. This resolution provides $___ [this is still to be determined--PH] above the President’s requested level for 2008, and additional amounts in subsequent years in Function 250 (General Science, Space and Technology) and Function 270 (Energy). Additional increases for scientific research and education are included in Function 500 (Education, Employment, Training, and Social Services), Function 550 (Health), Function 300 (Environment and Natural Resources), Function 350 (Agriculture), Function 400 (Transportation), and Function 370 (Commerce and Housing Credit), all of which receive more funding than the President requested.

    (b) America’s greatest resource for innovation resides within classrooms across the country. The increased funding provided in this resolution will support important initiatives to educate 100,000 new scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and place highly qualified teachers in math and science K–12 classrooms.

    (c) Independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies. This resolution will put us on the path toward doubling funding for the National Science Foundation, basic research in the physical sciences across all agencies, and collaborative research partnerships; and toward achieving energy independence through the development of clean and sustainable alternative energy technologies.

    Both House and Senate budget chairs believe they have the votes to move the respective resolutions in their chambers. We'll keep you posted as they move.

    For those who like numbers, here are the funding levels for each budget function in the House resolution, and here are the Senate numbers (click on Sec. 103, Major Functional Categories)

    Update: (6:14 pm 3/21/07) -- It appears I was a little quick in my analysis of the Senate version of the resolution. While the Senate does include increases for some of the budget functions that cover science agencies, it's not clear those increases would be used for science funding. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have an amendment to the resolution that will be voted on this evening that would "restore" $1 billion to the resolution for the President's request and to fund the provisions of the America COMPETES Act. Here's a press release from Alexander's office which spells out the detail.

    We'll have more after the vote.

    Update 2: (8:19 pm 3/21/07) -- The amendment passed overwhelmingly.

    March 14, 2007

    Innovation Press Conference and Hearing

    A proclamation from members of U.S. industry and academia (including CRA) calling on Congress to ramp up federal basic research funding, improve student performance in math and science, enable the U.S. to recruit and retain the best talent, and make permanent the R&D tax credit was officially released at a standing room only press event yesterday hosted by House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), with speakers Norm Augustine, Craig Barrett (Chairman of Intel), Harold McGraw III (CEO of McGraw-Hill), Robert Dynes (Pres of UC Berkeley), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Rep. Dan Lipinsky (D-IL), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The proclamation is online and has over 270 endorsements from industry, academic, and professional groups. The proclamation was printed on parchment (an electronic version of the parchment scroll is available here) and delivered to every congressional office.

    The Committee put out a press release about the event and an audio webcast is also available.

    Directly following the press conference, the Committee held a hearing on two of its innovation bills, H.R. 362 and 363, "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Scholarship Act and Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act. Both bills are designed to enact the recommendations of the oft-cited National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report that are under the House S&T Committee's jurisdiction. The bills are a parallel effort to the Senate's America COMPETES legislation, which was introduced by the Senate leadership on March 4th and will go straight to the Senate floor.

    The written testimony of the witnesses, many of whom spoke at the press conference, and a webcast of the hearing are available online.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 10:57 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    March 12, 2007

    HPC R&D Act Passes House

    The High Performance Computing R&D Act, which we've reported on previously, was approved by the House today on a voice vote. The bill would amend the original High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991 (HPCC) to attempt to provide sustained, transparent access for the research community to federal HPC assets, assure a balanced research portfolio and beef up interagency planning. We like the bill and have endorsed it. (Here's what it does (pdf) to current law.)

    The bill now heads to the Senate. Previous versions of the bill in prior sessions of Congress have not fared well in the Senate, usually for reasons unrelated to the actual bill (Senate traffic jams and disputes between the House Science and Senate Commerce committees over other legislation are the most-often cited difficulties). But, talking with Senate staff, it appears the path to enactment this session is a bit smoother and freer of obstructions than in previous years. We understand that a bill very similar to the HPC R&D Act will be introduced soon in the Senate with a bipartisan set of co-sponsors -- and we'll have more detail soon.

    For now, here's a link to the House Science and Technology Committee's press release marking the passage of the bill, and a snippet:

    Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) sponsored the bill along with co-sponsor, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) – who proposed similar legislation in both the 108th and 109th Congress.

    "Information technology is an engine that drives economic growth in this country," said Chairman Baird.  "It creates high-wage jobs, provides for rapid communication throughout the world, and provides tools for closing the knowledge gap.  This bill will help develop and deploy the fastest, most up-to-date, and technologically advanced super-computing systems that are essential for U.S. scientific, industrial, and military competitiveness."

    Previous coverage.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:57 PM
    Posted to Policy

    March 07, 2007

    Bill Gates Testifies on Competitiveness Issues

    Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on competitiveness issues this morning. A web cast of the hearing is available here. He emphasized three areas: educating students and workers, immigration, and federal funding of basic research and R&D tax credit. His extensive written testimony (where he cites CRA’s own Jay Vegso!) goes into great detail on each of these three issues.

    Gates hit the competitiveness high notes that are found in the Rising Above the Gathering Storm and Tapping America’s Potential reports including recruiting more high school science and math teachers, doubling the number of math, science, and engineering graduates, increasing basic science R&D at the major research agencies by 10% over the next 7 years, and increasing visas for high skilled workers. He used computing as an example in both his oral and written testimony. His written testimony states:

    We cannot possibly sustain an economy founded on technology pre-eminence without a citizenry educated in core technology disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, and the physical sciences. The economy’s need for workers trained in these fields is massive and growing. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that, in the decade ending in 2014, there will be over two million job openings in the United States in these fields. Yet in 2004, just 11 percent of all higher education degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences – a decline of about a third since 1960.

    Recent declines are particularly pronounced in computer science. The percentage of college freshmen planning to major in computer science dropped by 70 percent between 2000 and 2005.3 In an economy in which computing has become central to innovation in nearly every sector, this decline poses a serious threat to American competitiveness. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that every significant technological innovation of the 21st century will require new software to make it happen.

    To combat this decline, Gates takes a recommendation straight from the Gathering Storm report and calls for 25,000 4-year undergraduate scholarships in the STEM fields. He also said that the opportunities for innovation in computing are greater than most people, especially students, realize.

    March 04, 2007

    New Competitiveness Legislation

    The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act will be introduced in the US Senate on Monday. The bill is a compilation of provisions and language from past innovation legislation like the National Competitiveness Investment Act, American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006, and Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Through Energy Act of 2006. We don't yet have a draft of the actual bill language, but a summary of the bill states: “the America COMPETES Act focuses on three primary areas of importance to maintaining and improving United States’ innovation in the 21st Century: (1) increasing research investment, (2) strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school, and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure.”

    Provisions in the bill include:

    • Double funding for NSF and Department of Energy Office of Science by FY2011
    • Direct federal agencies that fund S&T research to set a goal of 8% of their R&D budgets to fund high-risk frontier research
    • Authorize NIST at $937 million by FY2011 and requiring NIST to use a minimum of 8% of its funding for high-risk, high-reward research
    • Authorize competitive grants to States for elementary and secondary education alignment with the requirements of post-secondary education, the 21st century workforce, and the Armed Services
    • Establish training and education programs at summer institutes hosted at the National Laboratories and increase support for the Teacher Institutes for the 21st Century program at NSF
    • Expand the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at NSF
    • Assist States in establishing or expanding statewide specialty schools in math and science that students from across the state would be eligible to attend and providing expert assistance in teaching from National Laboratories’ staff at those schools
    • Increase the number of teachers prepared to teach AP/IB and pre-AP/IB math, science, and foreign language courses
    • Develop and implement programs for bachelor’s degrees in math, science, engineering, and critical foreign languages with concurrent teaching credentials and part-time master’s in education programs for math, science, and critical foreign language teachers to enhance both content knowledge and teaching skills
    • Create partnerships between National Laboratories and local high-need high schools to establish centers of excellence in math and science education
    • Expand NSF graduate research fellowship and traineeship programs, require NSF to work with institutions of higher education to facilitate the development of professional science master’s degree programs, and expand NSF’s science, mathematics, engineering and technology talent program

    Once the bill is introduced and the actual language is available, we will be back with more details.

    Update: We've been told that the bill will not go through a committee and will instead be placed directly on the Senate calendar so that the Leadership can act on it at any time.

    Also, the Senators who are sponsoring the bill and putting it forward are: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), John Ensign (R-NV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bill Nelson (R-FL), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 09:08 PM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    February 27, 2007

    House Science to Mark Up HPC R&D Legislation

    The House Science and Technology Committee plans to meet tomorrow to mark up 4 bills, including the High Performance Computing R&D Act (H.R. 1068). The HPC R&D Act is very similar to previous efforts to amend the original High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991, the act that established what has become the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program.

    This version differs from the most recent attempt (H.R. 28, introduced in the 109th Congress) in that it doesn't attempt to authorize specific agency activities. But otherwise, it contains the two provisions we particularly liked about the previous version. First, it directs the Director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop and maintain a research, development, and deployment roadmap for the provision of federal high-performance computing systems. Second, there's an explicit requirement that the President's advisory committee for IT (now a responsibility of the PCAST) review not only the goals of the NITRD program but the funding levels as well and report the results of that review to Congress every two years.

    In previous Congresses, the various HPC acts have failed to become law for a variety of reasons. It seems the situation this year is slightly more hopeful -- but we should have some better sense in a week or so, so stay tuned.

    The markup will be webcast here beginning at 10 am ET. Should get quick approval by the committee.

    If you're interested in seeing what the bill would actually do to the HPCC, here's an "as amended by" document. Red text is what's added. Strikethrough is what's taken away...

    Update: (March 12, 2007) -- The House passed the measure by voice vote. Details here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:44 AM
    Posted to Policy

    January 24, 2007

    House Science Subommittee Chairs Announced

    The House Committee on Science and Technology has announced its membership and subcommittee chairs for the 110th Congress. The committee membership includes 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans with one vacancy on the minority membership. The subcommittee structure is slightly different with this Congress in that the some subcommittee names have been changed to more accurately reflect their jurisdictions and a Subcommittee on Investigation and Oversight has been added. The complete list of committee members as well as the subcommittees memberships is available here.

    Subcommittee on Energy & Environment
    Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX)
    Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC)

    Subcommittee on Technology & Innovation
    Chairman David Wu (D-OR)
    Ranking Member Phil Gingrey (R-GA)

    Subcommittee on Research & Science Education
    Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA)
    Ranking Member Vern Ehlers (R-MI)

    Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics
    Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO)
    Ranking Member Ken Calvert (R-CA)

    Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight
    Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC)
    Ranking Member F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI)

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 01:08 PM
    Posted to Misc. | People | Policy

    January 23, 2007

    Speaker's Speech Emphasizes Innovation

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid, gave the State of Our Union speech last week at the National Press Club. Pelosi's portion of the speech covered many topics including innovation. Highlights:

    Essential to our children's future is the economic security of their families now. Preparing for the 21st century means bolstering our commitment to keep our nation number one. In our Innovation Agenda, unveiled more than a year ago here at the Press Club, House Democrats made a commitment to competitiveness. We will provide our nation with the tools necessary to unleash the next generation of growth and jobs.

    In his State of the Union address last year, President Bush spoke of keeping America competitive. With Democrats in the majority, we must work together with our Republican colleagues to do so - nothing less than America's economic leadership and our national security is at stake.

    Innovation and economic growth begins in America's classrooms. To create a new generation of innovators, we must fund No Child Left Behind so that we can encourage science and math education, taught by the most qualified and effective teachers.


    Innovation also requires federal grants to our universities, which have long been the spark for great breakthroughs: from the Internet, to biosciences, to fiber optics, to nanotechnology.

    We must commit to doubling federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences and modernize and expand the research and development tax credit. And we will bring broadband access to every American within five years, creating millions of jobs.

    These investments, and initiatives to support a thriving small business environment, will allow us to pursue the long-term, trailblazing research that gives rise to new advances, spawns new industries, and creates good jobs here at home.

    We hope this means that basic science research agencies like NSF will receive the President's proposed increases for the FY07 budget in the forthcoming CR and further increases in future budgets.

    The full text of the speech can be found here.

    January 05, 2007

    Permanent R&D Tax Credit Legislation Introduced

    The new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (MT), introduced legislation on the first day of the 110th Congress to permanently extend the R&D tax credit an article in Congressional Quarterly stated (Sub Req'd).

    The R&D tax credit has always been a priority of the high-tech community on Capitol Hill and there have been previous attempts to make it permanent rather than extending it each year. However, the cost of such a permanent tax credit has generally kept this from happening. After much wrangling (most not related to the merits of the R&D tax credit itself, but rather the other tax proposals it was packaged with), the 109th Congress passed the R&D tax credit for 2006 retroactively in the waning days of the session in December and included the extension through 2007.

    The CQ article also states that competitiveness issues will be a priority for Baucus as the chair of the Finance Committee. We certainly hope that is true, not just for the Finance Committee, but for all of Congress.

    December 12, 2006

    Dems Elect to Punt FY 2007 Appropriations, Placing ACI Increases in Jeopardy

    On Friday we noted that the Republican Congressional leadership had effectively given up hope of resolving the 11 outstanding appropriations bills for FY 2007, including the bills that would provide the increases in science funding called for in the American Competitiveness Initiative we've talked about so frequently in this space. Instead, Congress passed a "continuing resolution" that would fund government at FY 2006 levels or lower through February 15, 2007, when the new Democratic leadership would be able to take its crack at passing the unfinished bills.

    Now it appears the Democrats have decided against trying to complete the process. (sub. req'd) reports today that Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the incoming chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees, have given up hope of solving the FY 2007 impasse and elected to move a yearlong stopgap measure when the new Congress convenes next year:

    "Unfortunately, there are no good options available to us to complete the unfinished work of the Republican Congress," Obey and Byrd said. “After discussions with our colleagues, we have decided to dispose of the Republican budget leftovers by passing a yearlong joint resolution.

    "We will do our best to make whatever limited adjustments are possible within the confines of the Republican budget to address the nation’s most important policy concerns."

    This is obviously bad news for those of us in the science community who have worked hard to win increases contained in the ACI and in the House and Senate FY 07 appropriations bills. Unless ACI merits inclusion among "the nation's most important policy concerns," it's likely that the increases that had been slated for NSF, NIST and the DOE Office of Science in FY 07 will be lost and the timetable for doubling the research funding for those agencies set back another year.

    CRA, along with many members of the science and high-tech industry communities, will be working hard over the next few weeks to make just that case -- that the increases called for in the ACI and the Democratic Innovation Agenda do merit inclusion among the nation's most important policy concerns. There's a chance the Democratic leadership will agree -- though I'm not going to go out on a limb and try and assess that chance yet. The innovation agenda has been one of the top Democratic priorities and was something that incoming Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated would be among the first issues considered under the new Congress.

    We'll bring you updates as we get further information and also detail ways in which you can help make the case for research. For now, if you haven't become a member of CRA's Computing Research Advocacy Network, this would be a great time to join. We're going to need your help....

    November 17, 2006

    Task Force Releases Benchmarks II

    As mentioned previously in this space, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation held a press conference for the release of the Benchmarks II report on Thursday. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, David Abshire, President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and Larry Wortzel, Chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and Vice President for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation addressed a full house of Congressional staff, reporters, and other interested members of the DC crowd. This year’s Benchmarks report, called “Measuring the Moment: Innovation, National Security, and Economic Competitiveness,” focused more on defense and homeland security related research than the previous report.

    National Journal’s Technology Daily and both ran an article on the event and report. A bit from the article:

    A group of high-tech leaders and national security experts is asking President Bush to include basic defense research in his American competitiveness initiative.

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation backed the request Thursday with a new report that warns that while funding for military research and development is at a record high, recent increases have focused on applying existing ideas to new weapons and equipment.

    "We have been under-investing in the basic research needed for the next-generation military technology," the report warned. The task force was formed in 2004 to advocate for more federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering…

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the long-term goal should be not just combating terrorism but leading in science by investing in national security advances. "Otherwise we'll have opponents that have scientific capabilities we don't understand," Gingrich said.

    He added that his biggest mistake as House speaker in the mid-1990s was not also tripling the National Science Foundation budget when Republicans doubled the National Institutes of Health budget.

    We’ll keep you updated on the Task Force’s activities, press coverage of the report, and any impact it might have moving forward as we work with the Congress through the end of the year and into the next budget cycle.

    A PDF of the Benchmarks II report can be found here.

    November 15, 2006

    Task Force Event Thursday!

    In the previous entry, I mentioned that the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member) was planning an event on November 16th to release its "Benchmarks II" report and press Congress to finish its good work on funding the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. Well, we can now share some details about it. Should be a good event!:



    • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House
    • David Abshire, President, Center for the Study of the Presidency, former Special Counsel to President Reagan and former Ambassador to NATO
    • Larry Wortzel, Chairman, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and Vice President for Foreign Policy, Heritage Foundation
    • Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), House Armed Services Committee.

    1. Participants will challenge the Administration and Congress to provide greater Defense Department funding of basic research.
    2. Participants will support full funding of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative.
    3. Release of the 2006 Benchmarks Report of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. To read 2005 report, go to (pdf).

    Reserve Officers Association
    One Constitution Avenue, NE
    5th Floor Conference Room

    WHEN: Thursday, November 16, 11:00 AM to Noon

    - # # # -

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (, comprised of organizations from industry and academia, advocates increased federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering.

    Formed in 2004, the Task Force urges strong, sustained increases for research budgets at the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Defense.

    For more information, to RSVP, or to request an embargoed copy of the report, please contact:

    Anne Caliguiri

    Barry Toiv

    Watch this space for all the details....

    November 10, 2006

    Post-Election: Where do we stand?

    So, the bloodshed appears to have ended for the moment and the Dems are now in charge of both the House and the Senate. The obvious question is: "What's in it for us? (the computing research community)" The short answer at the moment is: I dunno. Lots of questions remain unanswered about how the remainder of the 109th Congress will play out and how the 110th Congress will organize and move forward, but here are some thoughts.

    The immediate legislative concern of many of us in the science advocacy community is the status of the NSF, NIST and DOE appropriations increases called for in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and currently tied up in the unfinished Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Energy and Water appropriations bills. The big question is whether the current congressional leadership will want to make progress on the bills in the lame-duck session starting next week, or simply punt the problems to the Democrats in the new Congress next year. The current conventional wisdom is that the GOP will probably push through a new "continuing resolution" that will continue to fund the federal government at the FY 06 levels through February 2007 and leave the challenge of passing the 11 outstanding appropriations bills to the Democratic leadership to deal with when they take over. Part of the motivation here is that the FY 07 Defense Appropriations bill passed by Congress before the election actually busted the budget caps by about $5 billion -- money that would have to be found in the remaining bills. 

    There is some incentive for taking care of business now on both sides of the aisle, if it can be done. One reason is that these appropriations bills are, as usual, loaded with earmarks for just about every member of Congress to insure their passage. Starting the current approps process over from scratch next Congress puts those earmarks at risk. Another motivation is that the Democrats would rather not have to make the tough decisions that will be required to hit the budget caps with the current approps bills -- and starting from scratch on FY 07, while simultaneously beginning the FY 08 budget process, is a lot to do. 

    As we've noted before, we would much rather Congress take care of business now -- either by passing the appropriations bills individually (under "regular order") or as part of an omnibus that preserves the ACI increases. Passing a continuing resolution and beginning the process anew in February puts all of the ACI gains we've worked hard for this year at risk (at least for FY 07). It does appear that Congress -- or at least the Senate -- will be in session for much of December working on the confirmation of Robert Gates as the new Secretary of Defense (more on that below). So there's at least the opportunity for Congress to act during the lame-duck to finish their work on appropriations. Just not sure there's the will. 

    CRA will help make the case for acting now at an event next week we're participating in as part of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. You'll recall that the Task Force released a report last year ("Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future") that we endorsed (and actually helped produce) that helped drive much of the debate within the Administration about the need to address some of the competitiveness concerns that American universities and, increasingly, American companies were raising. We've updated the report for 2006, added a bit of a national security angle as well, and will be releasing it at a press conference on Thursday, Nov 16th, with some remarks by a few Washington notables (keep tuned here for details...should be worth the wait). The point of the report is to note that though the U.S. continues to hold a dominant position in the global economy, that position isn't guaranteed and, indeed, many trends suggest it's at risk long-term. The report highlights the importance of federal support for fundamental research as a key point in the innovation chain necessary for insuring our continued global competitiveness. We'll use the event to call on Congress to finish their work on ACI-related issues -- especially finishing the already agreed-to but not passed appropriations bills that would fund NSF, NIST and DOE. We'll have more on the report in a few days.

    The industry members of the Task Force have also once again chosen to weigh in heavily. Most recently, the Business Roundtable today ran two nice (pdf) full-page ads (pdf) -- one in the Washington Post, one in the NY Times -- urging Congress to act in a bipartisan way and address the outstanding competitiveness issues.

    Over the longer term (at least for FY 08 and FY 09), we should be in good shape with a Democratic congress. The Democratic Innovation Agenda was very similar to what became the President's American Competitiveness Agenda. Both are heavily influenced by the National Academies "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report. The Democrats might place more emphasis on federal education efforts (NSF EHR) and "applied and industrial" R&D (NIST ATP and MEP) than the Republicans have, and may place more emphasis on workforce/offshoring issues, but should otherwise share a similar commitment to increasing the research budgets of NSF, NIST, NOAA, NIH and DOE.

    There are, however, a few things though that could skew the picture a bit. The first is that it's not clear exactly how Democratic priorities will impact upcoming apporpriations. While support for the federal role in fundamental research is bipartisan at the "meta" level, there are some differences at the agency level. Though the Democrats were generally supportive of the "physical sciences" thrust of the ACI, they were not as pleased with the relative deemphasis of NIH funding in the President's plan. Because the budget environment hasn't changed significantly -- there will still not be any significant amount of "new" money in the budget -- any effort to increase the relatively flat NIH budget will necissitate cuts elsewhere. Will that put other research budgets at risk?

    Another potentially complicating factor is that we have no idea at this point whether the Democratic leadership will want to make significant changes to the existing committee structure -- something well within their power to do. Altering how the appropriations committees are laid out, or even how the authorizing committees are assembled (what subcommittees will exist, what their jurisdictions will be), could have a substantial impact on the way science policy gets implemented in Congress. (You can see here what we thought about Republican plans to reorganize the committee structure back in '05.)

    One other change -- one that has the potential to improve the computing research community's fortunes a bit -- is the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Sec. of Defense and the nomination of current Texas A&M University president Robert Gates to succeed him. As a close friend of the President, Gates has, for the last couple of years, been one of the people the higher-ed community has looked to often to help carry the message of the importance of federal support for fundamental research to the Administration. As a result, he should be familiar not only with our basic issues, but also have a decent familiarity with the science advocacy community here in town. Hopefully, that means he'd be a bit more open to listening to the concerns of our community than the current DOD leadership has been.

    So lots of changes ahead, but much of the agenda -- at least the agenda related to issues important to the computing research community -- will likely remain the same. We'll have additional updates when we have some sense of how the Democrats and GOP will choose to organize their leadership and committee structures. And we'll provide quick updates as soon as we know anything at all about how appropriations are going to shake out. 

    Update: From today's Washington Post:

    Pelosi said that Democratic leaders want to demonstrate their effectiveness, and build up some trust with the White House, by tackling legislation that will have bipartisan support. Bush's "innovation agenda," laid out last year in his State of the Union address, has largely lain dormant. Democrats would like to take up Bush's proposals to expand funding for basic research and alternative energy sources such as ethanol, she said.
    So, that's a good thing.

    From "Reid, Pelosi Expected to Keep Tight Rein in Both Chambers."

    November 03, 2006

    Cyber Security Road Map

    NITRD is asking the computing community for input on a roadmap for cyber security R&D called for in the Federal Plan for Cyber Security and Information Assurance Research and Development. Individuals from academic institutions, industry, government research labs and development centers, and international organizations are encouraged to submit white papers. The request was put out by the Cyber Security and Information Assurance Interagency Working Group.

    The CSIA request includes submission guidelines, background and scope, and questions that the white papers need to address. The broad topics that the questions are under are:

    CSIA R&D Strategic Issues
    CSIA R&D Technical Topics and Priorities (as listed in the request)
    CSIA R&D Roadmap
    R&D Recommendations in the Federal Plan

    CSIA is looking for papers to be submitted by November 30 but the submission guidelines state: “White papers submitted by January 31, 2007 will be used to the greatest extent possible.”

    For questions or more information visit the web site or contact Dr. Ernest McDuffie at or 703.292.4504.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 01:50 PM
    Posted to Policy | Research | Security

    November 01, 2006

    Visiting Congress At Home

    While CRA highly encourages all computing research community members to attend the annual Congressional Visit Days held in Washington, DC throughout the year, we know it is sometimes difficult to take two or three days to come to the Capitol. Since it is important that everyone be involved in the process and meet with their Representative and Senators, we are adding a space to the CRA Government Affairs web site regarding advocacy through district visits. Visiting your members of Congress while they are in your neighborhood is an equally effective and less time consuming way to express how important federal funding for computer research is to you and your community and is usually more low-key and less chaotic than similar meetings in DC. In doing a district visit, please be sure to keep your institutions government affairs contact informed as he or she can give valuable advice and assistance. To find out who your Representative is, visit Write Your Representative.

    The 2007 Congressional and Senate calendars have not been published and things are a bit up in the air regarding sessions at the end of this year. As soon as recess schedules are announced we will list them on the web site. Please visit the new District Visits portion of the web site for updates to the recess listings and as always if you have questions or need assistance with making an appointment, contact Melissa Norr in CRA's Government Affairs office at or 202.234.2111 ext. 111.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 11:02 AM
    Posted to Events | People | Policy

    October 02, 2006

    Homeland Security Appropriations

    The Homeland Security Appropriations were passed last week before Congress went home to campaign. The news is mixed with the total appropriations for R&D coming in at $838 million —more than either the House or the Senate recommended individually. The cyber security R&D program will see an increase of $3.3 million to $20 million, up from $16.7 million in FY2006. While it's nice that there's an increase to the cyber security account, the level is still well below "adequate," as PITAC pointed out last year in its report on the federal cyber security research effort Cyber Security R&D: A Crisis of Prioritization. Ed Lazowska, former Chair of PITAC, put it nicely in this interview with CIO Magazine last year:

    Most egregiously, the Department of Homeland Security simply doesn't get cybersecurity. DHS has a science and technology (S&T) budget of more than a billion dollars annually. Of this, [only] $18 million is devoted to cybersecurity. For FY06, DHS's S&T budget is slated to go up by more than $200 million, but the allocation to cybersecurity will decrease to $17 million! It's also worth noting that across DHS's entire S&T budget, only about 10 percent is allocated to anything that might reasonably be called "research" rather than "deployment."
    Hopefully, this is high on the agenda of the Department's new Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Telecommunications, Greg Garcia, who was appointed to the post on September 18th.

    Further bad news in the R&D section is that University Programs received $50 million, which is less than the $62 million appropriated last year and below the President’s request of $51.9 million.

    Congress used the appropriations bill to express its displeasure with the way Homeland Security S&T has been managed and its expectation that things must improve if S&T is to get any increased appropriations in the future. In fact, Congress expressly withheld $50 million from the R&D budget until the office presents, and Congress approves, “a report prepared by the Under Secretary of Science and Technology that describes the progress to address financial management deficiencies, improve its management controls, and implement performance measures and evaluations.” They also included language requiring a hearing within 60 days of enactment on “the University-Based Centers of Excellence Program goals for fiscal year 2007 and outcomes projected for each center for the next three years.”

    As the bill has not yet been signed by the President (although it is expected to be), the Department is operating under a continuing resolution extending the FY2006 budget numbers.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:51 PM
    Posted to FY07 Appropriations | Funding | Policy | Research | Security

    September 26, 2006

    This is a Big Deal

    Computer scientists testifying before the Committee on House Administration on the security (or lack thereof) and verification of e-voting machines.

    Cameron Wilson of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee has all the details. USACM has been heavily involved in the issues surrounding electronic voting machines and so its appropriate that USACM members Ed Felten and Barbara Simons have been invited to testify. You may have seen Felten recently on Fox News or CNN talking about his research on the security and vulnerabilities of a particular e-voting machine and demoing the relative ease with which an election can be compromised.

    Kudos to USACM (and Ed) for helping bring this attention some much needed focus and for providing Congress with the technical expertise it needs to really assess this situation.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:28 AM
    Posted to Policy

    September 15, 2006

    CRA Members Visit Capitol Hill

    As part of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), CRA brought participants to the 2nd annual CNSF Fall Hill Visits Day this week. The overall visits brought over 80 people from many scientific disciplines to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and staff regarding NSF funding. Robert Constable from Cornell University, Mary Jane Irwin from Penn State University, Joe Kearney from the University of Iowa, Charles Nicholas from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Michael Oudshoorn from Montana State University, below with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), ably represented CRA and met with 30 Congressional offices to emphasize the importance of NSF funding to computer research and innovation. The participants shared their personal research and funding stories and many others from their universities. The message was well received on the Hill with many offices encouraging participants to follow up in the future with stories or problems involving research and funding.

    Baucus and Oudshoorn1.jpg As we’ve noted before, meetings between scientists and members of Congress and their staff are an incredibly effective tool in keeping Congress interested and engaged in the needs of scientists. The examples of research done in a particular district are invaluable to a member of Congress and can be a real boon for science when it comes time for appropriations votes. It’s also important to point out that Congressional offices will not turn away constituents who ask for a meeting although it often means you will meet with a staff member instead of your Senator or Representative. Don’t discount those meetings—Congressional staffers are the eyes and ears of their bosses!

    We highly encourage all members of the CRA community to get in touch with their Congressional delegation, either by visiting Washington, DC or going to their local offices. If you have any questions or concerns about setting up appointments or meeting with Congressional staff, please let us know. We’re happy to help any way that we can.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 02:28 PM
    Posted to CRA | FY07 Appropriations | Funding | People | Policy | Research

    August 04, 2006

    Federal Spending Database

    Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants there to be a single source of information explaining where federal money is spent, and it appears the rest of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee agrees, approving legislation on July 27th that would require the Office of Management and Budget to create and establish a database of government spending. According to an article in the Washington Post, the database would include contracts, subcontracts, grants, subgrants, loans and other forms of financial federal spending. The bill also specifies that the data must “be searchable by agency, geography, industry, congressional district and types of funding.” Apparently, it is meant to be a Google-like search engine that would track a trillion dollars in federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans .

    Other agencies have their own databases that serve the same purpose and are utilized in the same manner (such as the RAND/NSF RaDIUS and the GSA’s Federal Procurement Data System- Next Generation), but there is not one central funding database that is interoperable among all of the agencies. There have also been problems collecting data for these systems, and a centralized database under the department charged with financial oversight may help to streamline this process. This system could provide a strong analysis tool that could be used by agencies, and not simply those who audit them, to see how money is spent.

    CRA's Peter Harsha adds:

    While transparency in government is generally a good thing, there are some issues with the use of this kind of database. It sounds like an interesting tool for higher-resolution reviews of federal funding – “how much did institution ‘A’ receive from all federal sources?” for example (though that kind of question makes a lot of industry types very nervous…one reason the bill might not go anywhere). But for the more meta-level review – “how much is agency ‘X’ spending on computing research?” – I’m not sure it will be particularly useful. I haven’t seen a database implementation that’s able to handle that kind of query particularly well, mainly because the definition of something like “computing research” can be so variable. Last year , the House Government Reform Committee asked a version of that question to the folks at RAND to figure out using their RaDIUS database (actually, they asked how much the federal government is spending, not just one agency) and got back an answer that, depending on how you defined “information technology,” was between $2 billion and $30 billion annually. So the danger in having this sort of database, I think, is in a user / policymaker not knowing what kind of questions are answerable and what really aren’t, despite the fact that the database will be happy to spit out an answer in either case.
    Anyway, it’s not clear that the bill has much of a future, but we’ll post any further developments here.

    Posted by EricaCameseToo at 09:03 AM
    Posted to Policy

    July 28, 2006

    Senate Appropriators Target Cognitive Computing, IT Research Again

    Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its version of the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations bill and once again, as they did last year, included a significant cut to DARPA's "Cognitive Computing" program. In addition, the SAC approved cuts to both the "Information and Communications Technology" account and even the "Computer Science Study Group" activity at DARPA.

    Here are the details:

    Information and Communications Technology: President requested $243 million in his budget for ICT in FY 07, an increase of $47 million (or 24 percent) over FY 06.

    The House included $243 million in their version of the FY 07 Defense Approps.

    The SAC approved $229 million, a cut of $13.4 million, or 5 percent, vs. the request -- an increase of $34 million over FY 06 (17 percent).

    Programs that would suffer cuts are "Responsive Computing Architectures" (-$3.9 million), "Security-Aware Systems" (-$3 million) and "Automated Speech and Text Exploitation in Multiple Languages" (-$6.5 million).

    Cognitive Computing Systems: The President requested $220 million for FY 07, an increase of $57 million (35 percent) over FY 06.

    The House included the full $220 million in their bill.

    The SAC approved $149 million, a cut of $70.8 million (32 percent) vs. the request, and a cut of $14 million over FY 06 (9 percent).

    Programs targeted are "Integrated Cognitive Systems" (-$60 million), "Learning Locomotion and Navigation," (-$3.8 million) and "Improved Warfighter Information Processing" (-$7 million).

    In addition, SAC cut the Computer Science Study Group at DARPA -- established this year to help expose young faculty to DOD-oriented problems in computer science -- from the requested level of $6.6 million in FY 07 to $3 million.

    This is obviously bad news. While the ICT cut is really just the slowing of the rate of growth of ICT programs, the cuts to Cognitive Computing represent a real scaling back of the program -- back to FY 05 budget levels.

    CRA will be working to oppose the cuts along with representatives from a number of the institutions affected. (The cut to the Integrated Cognitive Systems account alone would impact more than 20 universities and research institutions.)

    The SAC bill may come before the Senate as early as Tuesday, August 1st. Senate leadership hopes to have debate on the bill wrapped up by the end of the week, before Congress sets off on its annual August recess. The next chance to contest the cut would then be during the conference for the bill, which could happen in September.

    Keep a watch here for the latest details in the effort to oppose the cuts. The case we laid out last year remains true today:

    Research in learning, reasoning, and cognitive systems is focused on intelligent intrepretations of signals and data, on controlling unmanned vehicles, and on amplifying human effectiveness. Its aim is to reduce U.S. casualties by providing improved command and control and tactical planning against adversaries, as well as improved training systems. Work in this area includes research responsible for the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) -- a software system currently deployed and very widely-used in Iraq to coordinate battle plans and integrate multiple intelligence reports, providing U.S. forces the capability to plan, execute and replan much faster than the enemy's decision cycle and cited by Secretary Rumsfeld as the major contributor to victory in the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's also cricital to the research and development of autonomous, unmanned vehicles that amplify our warfighting capability while reducing the number of U.S. forces in harm's way. Cutting support so significantly for this research will hamper advancements in defense-related IT in the short- and long-term and will slow technological advancements essential to current and future military operations in Iraq and around the globe.

    It also runs completely counter to recent concerns of Congress, PITAC and the DOD's Defense Science Board. All three bodies have raised strong concerns about the shift of DARPA resources away from fundamental research at universities, especially in information technology. The Cognitive Computing program is one area where DARPA has responded positively to these concerns.

    Anyway, this is a bit of a dark cloud over the otherwise very positive news we've received all year long (topped by the House and Senate both approving full funding for the ACI in their approps bills), but we've got a reasonable chance of mitigating this somewhat, provided we start moving now. 

    Update: (Aug 1, 2006) -- It appears now that the Senate won't be able to begin consideration of its version of the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations bill until after the August recess -- which is good news because it gives us a bit more time. However, it also means we're a bit more likely to see another omnibus appropriations bill at the end of the session, which poses its own set of challenges....

    Update 2: (Aug 1, 2006, 9:30 pm) -- So, I should have known that as soon as I posted the update above, the situation would change. The Defense Appropriations bill came to the floor this afternoon and debate will continue for the remainder of the week. The plan is to finish it before the August recess begins -- which means the Senate leadership would like to have it done by Friday or the weekend. One positive is an amendment planned by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that would appropriate an additional $45 million for basic research accounts at DOD. Here are the details:

  • $12 million in additional funds for Army University Research Initiatives (PE 0601103A)
  • $13 million in additional funds for Navy URI (PE 0601103N)
  • $5 million in additional funds for Air Force URI (PE 0601103F)
  • $6 million in additional funds for the DARPA (PE 0601101E) for its University Research Program in Computer Science and Cybersecurity
  • $9 million in additional funds for the SMART National Defense Education Program (PE 0601120D8Z)
  • This amendment is very similar to an amendment Kennedy and Collins introduced to the Defense Authorization early this summer, which passed unanimously after gaining the co-sponsorship of 21 other senators. We'll pass along further details as we get them.

    Update 3: (August 7th) -- The Senate didn't manage to finish up debate on the Defense Approps bill before the recess, so they'll take the bill up again when they return in September. No word on the fate of the Kennedy-Collins amendment, but it appears we've got some time to buttress support for it and for heading off the cuts to Cognitive Computing and ICT....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:14 PM
    Posted to FY07 Appropriations | Funding | Policy

    July 25, 2006

    Getting Scientists and Congress to Mingle...

    One of the most effective "tools" the science advocacy community has in making the case for federal support of science is, well, scientists. Those occasions in which researchers are able to sit down with Members of Congress and discuss their own work do more to advance the cause of science than five meetings with staff like me. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, scientists tend to be pretty smart and well-spoken. They've thought a lot about their work and usually understand how to explain it to lay people (despite the usual stereotypes about scientists, it's a rare exception to this rule). More importantly, they're usually pretty good at conveying why their work matters, and to do it in a way that makes any passion they feel for the research palpable. If they have the opportunity to spend 5, 10, 15 minutes with a Member, it's pretty good odds that Member will leave the meeting with a better appreciation for the work and a sense of connection to the researcher.

    And that's no small thing. When the time comes to make decisions about priorities, a Member's personal connection to a researcher, an understanding of what research goes on in his or her district, and an understanding of the long-term benefits of that research all can help swing the balance in favor of science. They are by no means the only factors that go into that decision, but they're certainly weights we want to have on our side of the balance.

    So I'm especially pleased to point out occasions when members of our community take time out of their schedules to spend time in Washington, mingling with policymakers and trying to convey a little of what it is they do. One occasion CRA tries to take advantage of every year is the Coalition for National Science Funding's Capitol Hill Science Exhibition and Reception, held this year on June 7th.

    Each year, CNSF brings together 30-35 of its members to stage a science fair of sorts on Capitol Hill for Members of Congress and their staff as a way to highlight the important and interesting work enabled by the federal investment in basic research at the National Science Foundation. This year, CRA was well-represented at the Exhibition by Lucy Sanders and Katie Ertz from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). lucy_katie_sm.jpg

    The NCWIT display occupied a unique niche at this year's exhibition. While the great majority of booths highlighted particular research efforts of NSF, NCWIT's was one of the few (if the only) to focus on NSF's broader role of developing the science and engineering workforce. In particular, Lucy and Katie were able to bring some attention to the continued need to focus on increasing the participation of underrepresented populations within that workforce.

    lucy_ehlers_sm.jpgThe event was quite well-attended and Lucy and Katie found a number of willing listeners among Members of Congress (like Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), seen at left), key congressional staffers, and a surprising number of agency personnel. There were times when it was quite difficult to move around the room, the bodies were packed so tightly. CNSF counted more than 300 attendees this year, including six Members of Congress, despite a very busy day in the House -- a very encouraging symbolic display of support for science.

    Thanks to Lucy and Katie for their willingness to travel to DC and participate and for making the case so effectively. They join a growing list of CRA member institutions who have participated in CNSF Exhibitions, including James Hendler and his colleagues from the Mind Lab at the University of Marylandin 2005, DK Panda and his students from Ohio State University in 2004, Tim Finin and his colleagues and students from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2003, and Thad Starner and Janet Kolodner of Georgia Tech in 2002. If you're at a CRA-member institution and are interested in showing of your NSF-sponsored research at a future Hill event, drop me a line!

    This is also a reminder that it's not too late to participate in CNSF's upcoming Fall Congressional Visits Day, scheduled for September 13, 2006 (with an orientation session on September 12th). This is a great opportunity to make sure computing researchers are represented as the research community goes up to the Hill to speak with one voice about the importance of the federal role in supporting research. CRA's Melissa Norr has all the details.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:00 AM
    Posted to CRA | Diversity in Computing | Events | Funding | People | Policy | Research

    July 07, 2006

    Innovation and Competitiveness Authorization Updates

    We have previously mentioned that CRA had signed two letters urging Congressional leadership to bring to the floor a number of measures addressing innovation, competitiveness and elements of the ACI. Here’s the some background on the bills and an update on where these efforts stand:

    The Research for Competitiveness Act (H.R.5356) would authorize the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to give grants to encourage people to enter research as a career by creating a number of new career and research grant programs, including:

    •Early career grants programs at NSF, DOE and NIST – grants would be at least $80,000 a year for five years;
    •NSF and Energy research award “matching” programs that would award grants up to $75,000 a year to early career researchers working on high-risk, high-return research, with the possibility of an additional $37,500 in federal funds available each year with an industry match;

    Additionally, the bill would allow NSF to accept donations for specific prize competitions, establish a program at NSF to award grants for cross-disciplinary research bridging the physical and non-biomedical life sciences, encourage NSF to support research on the process of innovation and the teaching of inventiveness, and allow NASA to establish a workforce training program.

    The Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act (H.R.5358) encourages mathematics, science, engineering and technology education. This bill would reauthorize a scholarship program for teachers, the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which allows schools to set up scholarship, stipend and/or internships for students of math and science who wish to teach within high-need K-12 education programs. $50 million would be set aside for 2007, $70 million for 2008, $90 million for 2009, $110 million for 2010, and $130 million for 2011. The bill also encourages school and university partnerships in mathematics and science education through a specialized master’s degree program for in-service mathematics and science teachers as well as a mentor program for advanced placement teachers and their students. It also seeks to address the shortage of math and science teachers in education by allowing NSF, as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP), to fund Centers to improve undergraduate education.

    Status Update: The House Science Committee has marked-up and approved both bills, but they await consideration on the House floor. There was hope that both bills would be considered “under suspension of the rules,” a special status reserved for non-controversial bills that would have expedited their passage. However, the House Leadership, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear (but likely linked to concerns from conservative Members about “new programs” they believe are created by the bills – an erroneous belief, in our reading), declined to add the bills to the “suspension” calendar, so they are likely to hit the floor under an open rule, which subjects them to amendment and lengthier debate. There’s some concern within the scientific community about the prospect of bringing the bills to the floor under an open rule. Coming on the heels of the House’s approval of FY07 funding for ACI-related research programs, there’s a question whether further debate on the ACI-related authorizations would be useful – especially if there’s a chance that debate could be acrimonious…

    In any case, there’s a chance both bills could come to the floor at any time. Last week, it appeared they’d be headed to the floor as soon as Congress returned from its July 4th recess, but that may have changed. We’ll have the details as soon as we know for sure.

    On the Senate side, the PACE-Energy Act (S.2197) is largely modeled on the energy-related recommendations of the National Research Council’s Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, encouraging basic research programs at the Department of Energy. Under the bill, schools that specialize in science and mathematics could receive National Laboratory scientific and engineering staff as assistant instructors where laboratory equipment is used in the lesson. The bill would also establish an experiment-based internship program, as well as satellite summer programs for the national labs at nearby schools and a worker recognition program at the labs (called the Distinguished Scientist Program). There is also renewed focus on nuclear science education with expansion grants (up to $500 thousand a year for 5 years), competitiveness grants (up to $250 thousand a year for 5 years) and scholarships (up to 150 awards at $40 thousand a year for 4 years) for students in that area. The bill also focuses on the applied energy advanced research projects, with the establishment of an Advanced Research Projects Authority board, and would establish a Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Graduate Fellowship Program, funded at $4.5 million in 2007 for 100 fellowships, growing to $54 million for 1,000 fellowships for 2013.

    Status Update: This bill has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and will likely hit the Senate floor in the near future.

    We’ve covered the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (S. 2802) in a previous post. The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee back on May 18, 2006 but it has not yet been placed on the Senate calendar.

    Given the completely disparate approaches to authorizing innovation and competitiveness-related programs in the two chambers, it’s not clear how Congress will come to agreement on a final package (should any of these actually receive the approval of their respective chambers). Having an authorization package for the ACI-related programs would be a good symbolic development for the community. But, what’s perhaps more important is seeing that the ACI-related programs actually get funded in appropriations – and, as we’ve reported recently, the situation there is “so far, so good.”

    As always, keep watch here for the latest details….

    Posted by EricaCamese at 10:37 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    June 20, 2006

    CRA Signs Letters to Leadership

    CRA has signed onto two letters to the Congressional leadership urging floor time for innovation legislation.

    The first letter to Senator Frist asks for prompt floor time to debate S. 2802, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act and S. 2197, the Protecting America's Competitive Edge through Energy Act. Here is the text of the letter:

    The following leading science, technology, educational, business and trade associations are writing to urge you to consider S. 2802 the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 and S. 2197 Protecting America's Competitive Edge Through Energy Act of 2006 or (PACE-Energy Act) for floor consideration as soon as possible. Both pieces of legislation respond to recommendations contained in the Council on Competitiveness’ Innovate America Report and the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report.

    In a world where many nations compete on the basis of cost and quality, innovation is the key arbiter of competitiveness. Other countries are increasing investments in basic research and better-educating their science and engineering workforce. We must respond by strengthening our capability to innovate in an increasingly challenging, knowledge-based, global economy. America’s strategic role in world affairs is intertwined with the global economic marketplace. We must act now to ensure our leadership role in economic and strategic affairs for generations to come.

    America has many resources to accomplish this task—not the least of which is our ability to recognize when change is required and action is necessary. We urge you to move expeditiously to bring both of these bills before the full Senate. Thank you for your leadership and consideration.

    The second letter to Speaker Hastert and Representative Boehner requests floor time for H.R. 5356 and H.R. 5358, two bills that would authorize STEM scholarships, teacher training, and early-career research funding at NSF and DoE's Office of Science. The text of the letter is:

    As leaders in the science, technology, education, and business communities, we are writing to urge you to schedule floor time to consider important measures approved recently by the House Science Committee—H.R. 5356 and H.R. 5358. These bills would authorize Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics or STEM scholarships, teacher training and early-career research at the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    In a world where many nations compete on the basis of cost and quality, innovation is the key arbiter of competitiveness. Other countries are increasing investments in basic research and better-educating their science and engineering workforce. We must respond by strengthening our capability to innovate in an increasingly challenging, knowledge-based, global economy. America’s strategic role in world affairs is intertwined with the global economic marketplace. We must act now to ensure our leadership role in economic and strategic affairs for generations to come.

    America has many resources to accomplish this task—not the least of which is our ability to recognize when change is required and action is necessary. We urge you to move expeditiously to bring both of these bills before the full Senate. Thank you for your leadership and consideration.

    With the shortened legislative calendar, if the bills don't get floor time soon then they probably won't be debated this year.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 11:17 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Funding | Policy

    May 19, 2006

    Senate Commerce Committee Approves Key Innovation Authorization; Commits to a Hearing on Computing

    The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill yesterday that would increase the authorization for two key science agencies, create a new program of "Innovation Acceleration Grants" at federal agencies, create a council to oversee basic research efforts at NASA, and direct the National Academies to study "forms of risk that create barriers to innovation."

    The committee approved the bill -- the "American Innovation and Competitiveness Act" (S. 2802), introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) -- by a vote of 21-0 after a compromise was reached on a controversial amendment introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). The amendment originally proposed by Hutchison would have directed NSF to place priority on funding efforts in "the physical and natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics" that would help meet "critical national needs in innovation and competitiveness." The proposed amendment was seen as an attack on the social sciences by many in the science community and some of the members of the committee. Hutchison has not been a particular fan of social science research at NSF in recent years. Inside Higher Ed reports that in a hearing earlier this year, Hutchison called social science research a "burden" on NSF that is distracting from the goal of technological competitiveness.

    Hutchison reiterated her feeling that Congress should “focus on science and technology” because “we are responding to a crisis in our country.” Hutchison added that she is “not against social sciences being part of the NSF budget,” but that “I want to make sure we focus on the mission we are after.” Hutchison appeared to be using a broad definition of social science when she noted that biology, geology, economics, and archaeology are worthy pursuits, but can often stray from the innovation and competitiveness path.

    She again cited specific NSF funded social science studies that she thinks should not be funded by the foundation. “I object to the study of … the impact of global changes on 300 women workers in Bangladesh,” she said. “I want good social science research,” she adding, noting endeavors like the development of digital technology for teaching children.

    Amidst pressure from other members of the committee, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) who proposed language that would strip the Hutchison language, and members of the science community (who objected not only to the attack on a particular discipline, but to the idea of congressional micromanagement of NSF), Hutchison modified her amendment. Instead of prioritizing research in the physical and natural sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (a broad collection of disciplines which Hutchison intended to include computer science as well), the modified amendment directs NSF to "include consideration of the degree to which awards and research activities may assist in meeting critical national needs in innovation and competitiveness." The amendment also contains the limitation:
    Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or bias the grant selection process against funding other areas of research deemed by the Foundation to be consistent with its mandate, nor to change the core mission of the Foundation.

    Other provisions in the bill include language that would direct NSF to provide grants to community colleges to establish apprenticeship programs for women pursuing technical training, and to create a mentoring program for women in science, and technology, engineering and math (included in the bill as an amendment by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)); and another to establish a "President's Council on Innovation and Competitiveness" to "develop a comprehensive agenda to promote innovation in the public and private sectors."

    One amendment proposed but not included in the bill would have inserted the text of H.R. 28, the "High Performance Computing Revitalization Act," that passed the House in April of last year. We've covered H.R. 28 previously in this space, and joined with USACM in endorsing the measure. However, Cantwell's amendment faced some resistance from Ensign for reasons that aren't completely clear, but appear to be technical in nature. Apparently a provision in H.R. 28 that would call on PITAC (which still existed as a separate committee at the time of the bill's passage in the House) to review the state of the federal IT R&D portfolio every two years was problematic -- perhaps because the committee has now been folded into PCAST. In any case, as a compromise, Ensign committed to holding a hearing in the "near future" on H.R. 28 -- which has languished in the Senate for more than a year without action -- and the importance of high-performance computing to innovation. In return, Cantwell withdrew her amendment.

    This is actually a positive development for the computing community, I think. H.R. 28, while a good bill, could use some tweaking -- including addressing the issue with PITAC -- and the discipline could surely use the additional exposure to be gained from a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on our issues. CRA will of course do what we can to help the committee prepare for the hearing and we'll have more details as they come available.

    In the meantime, here's some additional coverage of the markup yesterday:

  • Committee press release
  • Coverage from Inside Higher Ed

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:01 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Funding | Policy
  • May 16, 2006

    Commerce Department Wisely Rethinks Deemed Export Plan

    Last June, CRA joined with over 300 other science and university groups in filing comments (pdf) opposing the Department of Commerce's proposed change to so-called "deemed export" regulations that would seriously impact university research efforts. A deemed export occurs when a foreign national "uses" technology subject to export restrictions while in the United States. The proposal would have made a number of significant changes:

    • Deemed export applications would be evaluated not just on country of citizenship and permanent residence, but on country of birth as well;
    • Expand the definition of “use” of controlled technologies to any form of instruction on their operation, including access to manuals and, by a conservative reading, visual access to a machine or source code; and
    • Exclude from the fundamental research exemption all research conducted under government sponsorship that is subject, either by regulation or prudential practice, to prepublication review.
    CRA objected to the rule changes for a number of reasons -- it's unjust and anti-democratic to judge people on their country of birth; the rule changes concerning the word "use" are confusing; the rule would impose tremendous costs on researchers, their institutions and the Department of Commerce; the rule shows a misunderstanding of editorial review and how scientific research works; and we weren't sure that a credible problem exists.

    The Department of Commerce has apparently listened to the community in opposition and decided to step back from it's proposed rule. A Bloomberg story with some of the detail is here. This is my favorite quote:

    "I came to the conclusion it was a much sounder approach to actually think about the overarching policy and revisit basic assumptions and revisit objectives," said [David] McCormick, [U.S. undersecretary of Commerce for industry and security].
    Read the whole thing.

    Here's CRA's original coverage of the proposed rule and our filed comments (pdf).

    A nice win for the science community....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:39 PM
    Posted to People | Policy | R&D in the Press | Research

    May 10, 2006

    Sen. Sununu on Competitiveness and R&D

    Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), known as one of the biggest budget hawks on the Hill (in fact, he's the highest ranked "taxpayers' friend" in the Senate, according to the National Taxpayers Union) has his take on the current push for competitiveness legislation in today's Washington Times. While it's not surprising that he sees lots of "waste" when he looks at the competitiveness bills currently floating around the Senate, it's encouraging that the essence of his Op-Ed is that the federal government's real role in advancing competitiveness is in supporting fundamental research. Here's a liberally-quoted bit from the piece (no pun intended):

    As this debate moves forward, any legislation designed to promote American competitiveness and innovation should adhere to the following rules to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are not wasted or misused:

  • Focus on the basics. Federal funding for research and development should be applied toward basic science and technology, (such as chemistry, physics, material science and computational mathematics) rather than applied research, technology transfer or commercialization efforts. The private sector — not the federal government — has the obligation to advance the findings of basic research into marketable products and technologies. Equally troubling, legislators await the movement of a competitiveness bill in hopes they may attach pet research projects or fund a favored industry. Politicizing the process only undermines the integrity of peer review and dilutes the effectiveness of these resources.
  • Don't over-promise. To date, Senate competitiveness bills are littered with increased authorization levels for various purposes. Billions of dollars would be needed to actually fund programs at such inflated levels. Given this scenario, reasonable authorization levels must be utilized to ensure that funding can actually be secured through the appropriations process. It would not be beneficial to repeat an example from 2002, when Congress reauthorized the NSF with the goal of doubling its annual funding. Ultimately, NSF appropriations never approached such levels.
  • Limit new programs. Like so many other sound-bite driven "debates" in Congress, competitiveness proposals often boil down to the usual simplistic solution: Create more government programs. How many times do we have to go down this same costly road? And when was the last time we dealt effectively with a complex problem by creating new federal programs? One Senate bill would create more than 20 new programs without eliminating a single one. Dozens already exist, including the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and other questionable expenditures of funds. Congress should not create new programs without a thorough review of the value and efficacy of existing programs. Otherwise, we are merely diverting funding to new programs and layers of bureaucracy when such money could be used on basic research.
  • Make hard decisions. Once realistic authorization levels are established, Congress needs to make the necessary adjustments to ensure funding increases actually occur. Spending billions on a competitiveness agenda through deficit spending restricts future economic growth, and stunts future innovation and competitiveness. If we are to increase funding for a competitiveness agenda, legislation needs to include necessary rescissions and program repeals to remain budget neutral.
  • Don't play favorites. Given the popularity of a competitiveness initiative, it is disappointing that agencies integrally involved in basic research are being ignored. For instance, NASA's basic science mission, referred to by many as its crown jewel, results in significant scientific findings. Ironically, the administration recently proposed that planned spending for these accounts be cut by more than $3 billion over the next few years, a decision NASA Administrator Michael Griffin admitted was made solely for budgetary reasons. How is this internally consistent for the administration?

    If done for the right reasons, a successful plan to invest new resources in scientific research can have a positive impact. Without discipline and focus, however, Congress is doomed to repeat the same mistakes, fund more failed programs and expand federal bureaucracy.

    America's technology-driven economy grows despite, not because of, government intervention. That is a lesson we all need to learn before trying to "fix" what ails us.

  • While we could quibble with a lot of that -- the difference between "basic" and "applied" research is often not so cut and dried as he implies, authorizing NSF's doubling sent an important signal, etc -- it's hard to imagine getting a more favorable endorsement from a fiscal conservative of the portions of the ACI we care most about. It's certainly a more thoughtful response to the President's plan than a recent conservative think tank take, which ignored the R&D portion of the ACI completely....

    Anyway, even if you disagree with the perspective, Sununu's OpEd is worth reading.

    March 30, 2006

    PCAST Starts its PITAC Work

    The President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) met Wednesday in Washington to hear about the state of U.S. and global science and technology, to get updates on the research initiatives under its jurisdiction, and to begin work on the committee's new responsibility as overseers of the Networking and Information Technology R&D program.

    This was the first meeting attended by some of the new members of PCAST -- including CRA's Chair, Dan Reed -- who were named last month by the President to augment the committee's expertise in information technology issues. Reed, the only member of PCAST who served on the now-extinct President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), gave a presentation on the work of that former committee as a way of helping the PCAST get a handle on its new responsibilities.

    From the discussion that followed, it appears that the committee's two co-Chairs -- John Marburger, Director of OSTP and Floyd Kvamme -- hope PCAST's examination of NITRD includes a good look at the current structure of the initiative's Program Component Areas to see whether it's still logical, and perhaps determine some appropriate metrics for gauging the quality and effectiveness of the research investment. The review will be undertaken by PCAST's Subcommittee on Information Technology Manufacturing and Competitiveness Networking and Information Technology, chaired by George Scalise, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

    Marburger pointed out that metrics are very important to the President, who wants to measure not only the inputs (how much we spend) for these programs but the outputs (what we get). He thought that folks in the software industry, who had been "so influential" in making the case for basic research to the White House during the run-up to the introduction of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, might be very useful in developing some metrics. PCAST ought to reach out to the industry folks who felt so strongly about the need to support basic research, Marburger said, and find out how they measure success.

    There was also a lot of discussion of whether workforce considerations -- specifically the issue of "outsourcing" -- ought to be part of the PCAST review. I think the consensus was that workforce is a competitiveness issue and "competitiveness issues are very relevant." In part, the workforce issue determines whether the U.S. will continue to be a "center of innovation," the panelists said, so it's very important. They also noted the national security component of the workforce debate (how the use of offshore labor impacts applications we depend upon for national security purposes).

    Scalise, who will be heading the review effort, said the two questions he wants to keep in mind during the review are: Where is the raw innovation in the field coming from? And to what degree is the ecosystem critical to what happens? All members of the panel seemed to agree that IT research community is central to everything -- the economy, health care, national security, the conduct of the sciences -- and the federal government ought then to "keep it innovating."

    It's not clear how this study will move forward yet. The subcommittee met yesterday for the first time to hear from various agency representatives about the PCAs. There was much talk and encouragement from the PCAST co-chairs about adopting the "Technical Advisory Group" model for the IT study, just as PCAST used it for its look at the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The TAG would be a "virtual" advisory committee composed of 30-50 prominent members of the field who could be queried by e-mail or phone about issues before the subcommittee. Kvamme claimed this model worked especially well for the NNI study, though the PCAST executive director wasn't quite as enthusiastic about it in her update to the committee in January (response rates were less than hoped). Perhaps members of the computing community will be more willing to serve in that role....

    The other highlight from Wednesday's meeting was a presentation from Rolf Lehming, curator of NSF's incredibly useful 2006 Science and Engineering Indicators. The S&E website has the full overview, which is worth a read, but here are some of the points that jumped out at me during the presentation:

    • Increasingly, science and technology is seen worldwide as at the core of economic development. Consequently, there has been a broad expansion of S&T activities worldwide.
    • Growth in S&T activities is ubiquitous, especially in Asia outside Japan.
    • Europe and Japan are losing world share.
    • The U.S. is holding its own.
    • China's R&D growth is "unprecedented" for any country in recent memory, in part reflecting an large increase in R&D performed by foreign-owned, China-based firms, but also, increasingly, government investment.
    • Student visas may have turned a corner -- though the number of student visas issued is still 25 percent below the pre-9/11 level, the number has risen significantly over the last two years or so.
    It's still somewhat shocking to me to see that the White House is now open to discussing these indicators so prominently, given where they've been on the issue for the last five years. Now, if they could only get through to the House leadership....

    We'll obviously have more on the efforts of PCAST as they move forward.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:24 PM
    Posted to Policy

    March 02, 2006

    House Republicans Ignore R&D in Innovation and Competitiveness Bill

    Demonstrating how much work remains to be done with the House Republican leadership, the House Republican "High-tech Task Force" led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) today introduced its "Innovation and Competitiveness Act," which wholly ignores the central recommendation of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, two bi-partisan bills in the Senate, the National Academies "Gathering Storm" report, and just about every high-tech industry association (pdf), by not including any commitment to increase funding for fundamental research in the physical sciences.

    Instead, Goodlatte's bill

    is a comprehensive piece of legislation to get Congress engaged in the business of promoting innovation in America by creating additional incentives for private individuals and businesses to create and rollout new products and services so that America will remain the world leader in innovation," said Goodlatte. "This legislation also recognizes that government sometimes is the problem - not the answer to the problem - so it also addresses government-imposed hurdles to innovation."
    Here's what's included:
    • Business activity tax simplification;
    • Attorney accountability changes;
    • An Innovation Scholarship Program;
    • "Promotion of R&D" by making permanent the research credit; increase in rates of alternative incremental credit; alternative simplified credit for qualified research expenses'
    • Health care choice provisions;
    • and, Health IT promotion.


    The bill was actually previewed yesterday at a press conference of the High Tech Working Group attended by a whole slew of Republican House members and the entire Republican House leadership, including Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and new majority leader John Boehner (R-OH). Among the attendees, the only one who mentioned anything about the need to increase research funding in the physical sciences was Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). Boehlert emphasized that this innovation package wouldn't be the only one moving through the House this summer and that he would make sure research funding was addressed in the innovation/competitiveness bills before his committee and in the deliberations of the appropriators this year.

    Still, this has very bad "optics," as they say. The House leadership is clearly behind an innovation plan that bears little resemblance to the one introduced by the President and endorsed by Republicans in the Senate. The House Republican leadership has now had two opportunities to be supportive of bipartisan innovation efforts molded on the recommendations of the NAS and others, and has chosen not to be supportive both times. The first was Majority Leader Boehner's biting response to a Democratic innovation event held last month, which we covered here.

    It will be interesting to see how members of the high-tech industry associations, for whom this Goodlatte plan is ostensibly for, react to this approach. They were, after all, very much supportive of the President's ACI, the Senate bills, and the Democratic Innovation Agenda (which are all very similar). They've gone above and beyond the call of duty in making increased support for research a priority in their own advocacy efforts. But they're needed again. It's time for those companies who believe in this cause to pick up the phone and tell the Republican leadership what's missing from their plan.

    February 27, 2006

    CRA Chair Named to PCAST

    Today President Bush announced he is planning to appoint CRA Board Chair Dan Reed, to the newly-expanded membership of the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology. Reed, who is Vice-Chancellor of IT and CIO for the University of North Carolina, and Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute, joins 13 other members named as the committee prepares to take on the former functions of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, which was rolled into PCAST by presidential order on September 30, 2005.

    Here's the list of those named by the President today [and affiliation, if known]:

    F. Duane Ackerman, of Georgia [CEO, Bell South]
    Paul M. Anderson, of Washington [CEO, Duke Energy]
    Robert A. Brown, of Massachusetts [Dean of Engineering at MIT]
    Nance K. Dicciani, of Pennsylvania [Pres and CEO, Specialty Materials Honeywell]
    Richard H. Herman, of Illinois
    Martin C. Jischke, of Illinois [President, Purdue University]
    Fred Kavli, of California [Physicist, philanthropist]
    Daniel A. Reed, of Illinois
    Hector de Jesus Ruiz, of Texas [Chairman, AMD]
    Stratton D. Sclavos, of California [Chairman, Verisign]
    John Brooks Slaughter, of Connecticut [President and CEO, NACME]
    Joseph M. Tucci, of New Hampshire [CEO, EMC]
    Robert E. Witt, of Alabama [President, Univ of Alabama]
    Tadataka Yamada, of Pennsylvania [Chair of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline]
    Quite an august group. Hopefully this will give the PCAST sufficient depth in IT to make good progress on the broad review of the NITRD program they seemed to be headed towards at the last meeting.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:33 PM
    Posted to CRA | Policy

    February 23, 2006

    ACM Job Study: Despite Offshoring, IT Job Growth Should be Strong

    CRA affiliate organization, the Association for Computing Machinery, today released the results of its year-long, comprehensive study on the globalization and offshoring of software. The study contains six key findings:

    1. Globalization of, and offshoring within, the software industry are deeply connected and both will continue to grow. Key enablers of this growth are information technology itself, the evolution of work and business processes, education, and national policies.
    2. Both anecdotal evidence and economic theory indicate that offshoring between developed and developing countries can, as a whole, benefit both, but competition is intensifying.
    3. While offshoring will increase, determining the specifics of this incrase are difficult given the current quantity, quality, and objectivity of data available. Skepticism is warranted regarding claims about the number of jobs to be offshored and the projected growth of software industries in developing nations.
    4. Standardized jobs are more easily moved from developed to developing countries than are higher-skill jobs. These standardized jobs were the initial focus of offshoring. Today, global competition in higher-end skills, such as research is increasing. These trends have implications for individuals, companies, and countries.
    5. Offshoring magnifies existing risks and creates new and often poorly understood or addressed threats to national security, business property and processes, and individuals' privacy. While it is unlikely these risks will deter the growth of offshoring, businesses and nations should employ strategies to mitigate them.
    6. To stay competitive in a global IT environment and industry, countries must adopt policies that foster innovation. To this end, policies that improve a country's ability to attract, educate, and retain the best IT talent are critical. Educational policy and investment is at the core.
    The report is pretty weighty, but the executive summary (pdf) does a good job of laying out the central findings in more detail. This issue of job migration is a huge concern within the discipline and there's lots of FUD spread around on both sides of the debate, so having a report from a respected professional organization like ACM, generated by a Task Force with representatives from academia, industry, government, economics and labor should go a long way towards putting both sides on some firmer ground.

    There's been pretty good coverage of the report already. First, ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee has its press release and blog post. The New York Times' Steve Lohr had the first coverage of the report this morning. Lohr's piece highlights one of the key messages to come out of the study:

    The study concluded that dire predictions of job losses from shifting high-technology work to low-wage nations with strong education systems, like India and China, were greatly exaggerated.

    Though international in perspective, the study group found that the most likely prognosis for the United States would be that 2 percent to 3 percent of the jobs in information technology would go offshore annually over the next decade or so.

    But more jobs will be created than are lost in the future, they said, as long as the industry in America moves up the economic ladder to do higher-value work — typically, applying information technology to other fields, like biology and business. They noted that employment in the information technology industry was higher today than it was at the peak of the dot-com bubble, despite the growth of offshore outsourcing in the last few years.

    "The global competition has gotten tougher and we have to run faster," said Moshe Y. Vardi, co-chair of the study group and a computer scientist at Rice University. "But the notion that information technology jobs are disappearing is just nonsense. The data don't bear that out."

    Yet the view that job opportunities in computing are dwindling fast is both common and potentially damaging to America's competitive prowess, according to David A. Patterson, president of the Association for Computing Machinery.

    He pointed to the declining interest in computer science as a major among American college students, based on a survey last year of the intentions of students entering college. The results suggested that only 1 in 75 students would major in computer science, compared with 1 in 30 in 2000.

    "The perception among high school students and their parents is that the game is over — that all computing jobs are going overseas," observed Mr. Patterson, who is a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's an extraordinarily widely held misperception."

    The concern, he said, is that misplaced pessimism will deter bright young people from pursuing careers in computing. That, in turn, would erode the skills in a field that is crucial to the nation's economic competitiveness.

    The report also saw coverage in CNN's Money which was subsequently Slashdotted. I'm sure there will be additional coverage of the report in the coming days.

    I'm pleased that a number of CRA volunteers were able to serve on the Task Force, including CRA board members Bill Aspray (who served as the Task Force's Executive Consultant), Moshe Vardi (the TF Co-Chair), Bobby Schnabel, and Dick Waters, as well as Vijay Gurbaxani, who serves on my Government Affairs Committee, and Stu Zweben, who is instrumental in putting together CRA's Taulbee Survey. The study was an enormous undertaking, so kudos to ACM for making the effort to advance the debate. The study deserves to be read.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:05 PM
    Posted to Policy

    Visa Issues: Still a long way to go

    While there has been some progress in straightening out the mess that is the visa process post-9/11, as this Washington Post story indicates, the situation is still pretty bad for those who have research interests in high-tech areas.

    A decision two weeks ago by a U.S. consulate in India to refuse a visa to a prominent Indian scientist has triggered heated protests in that country and set off a major diplomatic flap on the eve of President Bush's first visit to India.

    The incident has also caused embarrassment at the highest reaches of the American scientific establishment, which has worked to get the State Department to issue a visa to Goverdhan Mehta, who said the U.S. consulate in the south Indian city of Chennai told him that his expertise in chemistry was deemed a threat.


    The consulate told Mehta "you have been denied a visa" and invited him to submit additional information, according to an official at the National Academy of Sciences who saw a copy of the document. Mehta said in a written account obtained by The Washington Post that he was humiliated, accused of "hiding things" and being dishonest, and told that his work is dangerous because of its potential applications in chemical warfare.

    Mehta denied that his work has anything to do with weapons. He said that he would provide his passport if a visa were issued, but that he would do nothing further to obtain the document: "If they don't want to give me a visa, so be it."

    The scientist told Indian newspapers that his dealing with the U.S. consulate was "the most degrading experience of my life." Mehta is president of the International Council for Science, a Paris-based organization comprising the national scientific academies of a number of countries. The council advocates that scientists should have free access to one another.

    As Bill Wulf of the National Academy of Engineering points out later in the article, these consular officials overseas are under tremendous pressure to not make mistakes in deciding who to allow in the country. Still, if the process leads to the summary denial of entry for someone like Mehta, the process clearly needs some work.
    "Making the wrong decision would be career-ending, so they play it safe, not really understanding the macroscopic implications of their decision," Wulf said. "Denying a visa to the president of ICSU is probably as dumb as you can get. This is not the way we can make friends."
    You can read the whole thing here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:01 AM
    Posted to People | Policy | R&D in the Press

    January 31, 2006

    State of the Union

    Got a "pre-brief" this afternoon from the White House. We'll like it.

    It'll be webcast live.

    We'll have CRA's reaction here, right after the speech.

    Update (1/31/06 9:20 pm) -- Here's the key passage:

    And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people – and we are going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.

    First: I propose to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

    Second: I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector investment in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

    Third: We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science … bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms … and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America’s children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.

    Preparing our Nation to compete in the world is a goal that all of us can share. I urge you to support the American Competitiveness Initiative … and together we will show the world what the American people can achieve.
    Update (1/26/06 9:21 pm) -- CRA's response:
    January 31, 2006


    WASHINGTON, DC - The Computing Research Association commends President Bush for announcing in his State of the Union address a new focus on U.S. competitiveness and innovation in a plan that would include healthy increases for U.S. science agencies.

    The President's plan, called the American Competitiveness Initiative, would double the federal investment in research sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy's Office of Science over then next ten years, reversing a trend that has deemphasized fundamental research, which is typically performed in U.S. universities and long-acknowledged as the fuel for American innovation. The plan would also bolster math and science education, make permanent the research and experimentation tax credit, provide worker training opportunities, and reform immigration policies to ensure the U.S. can continue to attract and retain the world's best and brightest.

    "The President's proposal is an important step in ensuring the U.S. will have the resources -- the people, the ideas, the infrastructure -- the country needs to continue to lead in an increasingly competitive world," said Professor Daniel A. Reed, Chair of the Computing Research Association and Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute at the University of North Carolina.

    In the last decade, innovations spawned by fundamental research, particularly research in information technology, have driven U.S. productivity increases and fired the new economy. "But the increasing trend toward short--term efforts puts this innovation cycle at risk at exactly the time when our global competitors are expanding and accelerating their own efforts," Reed said. "I am very pleased the President is committed to doubling the investment in long--term research to reverse the trend."

    Computing researchers have grown increasingly concerned that while information technology remains central to the nation's economy, national security, health and the conduct of the sciences, the federal investment in fundamental IT research has been stagnant since 2001, and in fact, declined 4.5 percent in the President's most recent budget submission.

    "That's why it's crucial that any reinvestment in fundamental research include a revitalization of the federal Networking and Information Technology R&D program," said Edward Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington and former co--Chair of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. "While the payoffs of past research have been dramatic, the field remains in relative infancy. Tremendous opportunities remain -- far more can happen in the next ten years than has happened in the last thirty, and it is crucial that America lead the way."

    CRA is also supportive of the effort to increase the participation of American students in science and math education, as called for in the President's plan and featured in bipartisan proposals in Congress. As part of that effort, computing researchers urge policymakers to focus particular attention on reaching out to members of underrepresented groups.

    "The pace of innovation is constrained when significant portions of the population aren't represented in the research and development process," said John King, Dean of the School of Information at the University of Michigan. "Building a diverse workforce not only encourages a diversity of ideas that breed real innovation, but it may be the only way to meet the Nation's workforce needs in the face of the projected growth in the field."

    "The President's innovation agenda creates an important opportunity," Reed said. "We're optimistic that these good ideas are shared by a large and growing number of Members of Congress on a bipartisan basis and look forward to working with policymakers to see them implemented in the coming year. Our nation's future depends critically on increased investments in advanced education and research in information technology and other fields."

    CRA is an organization of 200 of the Nation's leading industrial computing research labs and university computer science departments. For more information, visit the CRA website at:

    Update: (1/31/06 9:51pm) -- Standing ovations for:

    "Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science."

    "With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come."

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:40 PM
    Posted to Policy

    January 30, 2006

    It's about Competitiveness, Stupid...: Competitiveness, Innovation and the State of the Union

    Ok, so that's about the most played-out cliche in politics, but it's hard to come up with another phrase that encapsulates how pervasive the competitiveness meme has become in science policy circles -- and more encouragingly, in the words of administration and congressional policymakers -- over the last year.

    Also, apologies for going sort of radio silent here the last couple of weeks, but there's lots going on surrounding this issue and we're involved in some of it, which makes chatting about it a little dicey. But here's where things stand.

    At the moment, all eyes (ears?) are focused on the President's State of the Union speech tomorrow night. In that speech, among the new programs and initiatives he's expected to announce may be a piece on ensuring U.S. competitiveness, which could feature a number of important planks. Now, I have no specific knowledge about what is actually in the speech, but there's been a bit of press coverage, plenty of rumors floating around town, and a few tea leaves that can be read.

    It seems fairly clear that there will be a focus on education, a focus on workforce/immigration, and a focus on "innovation" that could include increased budgets for federal science angencies. One big clue is the Administration's apparent fondness for the National Academies "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report put together by former Lockheed-Martin CEO Norman Augustine. There have been several mentions of the report by folks within the Administration. Maybe the most prominent mention was by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card during his January 11th talk at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This exchange is about 47:28 into the webcast:

    Question: There's a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences, put together by Norm Augustine, called "The Gathering Storm." It raises some questions about science and technology leadership in the U.S. going forward. Do you have any thoughts on that, especially as it relates to the economy, one of your key issues?

    Card: I would encourage you to read this report, which is The Gathering Storm. It's about our need to have more engineers and scientists in the United States. It is work that was done in the private sector under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, and Norm Augustine did lead the effort. There were some great academics involved.

    I actually read the report, not just the summary, but the report. And it is dramatic in its exposure to that which is a problem in the United States, and how few young people are going into the physical sciences, into math, and how they're not going to college with an expectation that they'll be a an engineer, or a mathematician, or a physicist.

    The life sciences have actually had a little bump up. There's some excitement about the life sciences, but on the physical sciences side, there is a dearth of students, and there is a death of teachers, and a dearth of scholarships and opportunities at some our major institutions. This report highlights that. It outlines a road map toward solving the problem. It's a ten year roadmap.

    We are taking a very close look at it in the Administration. We are very forward leaning in believing it is the right issue to address. Many of the suggestions are appropriate suggestions, but we have to put them in the context of Josh Bolton's budget. And we'll be doing that.

    It is a compelling report.

    We've covered the Gathering Storm report in this space, and it's filled with things we like. If the Administration embraces the report in any meaningful way -- particularly its core recommendation to "sustain and strengthen the nation's traditional commitment to the long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformational to maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life" -- then we'll be very pleased. After all, this represents a pretty signficant (and welcome) sea change for the Administration, which until recently has maintained, as John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said back in March, that "the U.S. is so far ahead in [science and technology] that we are going to be able to maintain our competitive strength. I don't see the same danger signs [that others do]."

    There are other hints that the President may be willing to adopt an "innovation" agenda, including a number of tidbits in the press. Technology Daily reports today (sub. req'd.) that some high-tech officials who have met with White House senior officials in recent days have come away optimistic about the Administrations commitment to innovation. Yesterday's Boston Globe indicates Norm Augustine will play an important role in the President's speech. And the Baltimore Sun has two pieces on the likelihood of "innovation" being a featured part of Bush's remarks. The big question is whether there will be the funding commitment to accompany any rhetorical commitment to innovation by the President.

    If the President chooses to truly embrace the recommendations of the Augustine report, his budget will find a way to provide for a significant increase for the National Science Foundation, and perhaps to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Augustine report specifically recommends an increase of 10 percent a year for the next seven years for "long-term basic research...with special attention paid to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences." This is the approach taken in both the National Innovation Act introduced by Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and the new "Protecting America's Competitive Edge" (PACE) Act, introduced last week by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

    The strong bipartisan support accorded both bills in the Senate is indicative of the traction the "competiveness and innovation" case has in Congress. A year's worth of reports -- most familiar to readers of this blog -- by some of the most influential academic and industrial entities, all making the same essential points that the world has become an increasingly competitive place and that the US isn't currently doing enough to ensure our future scientific and innovative leadership, has clearly had an impact on Members of Congress -- and now, hopefully, the Administration.

    But even if the President does include signficant increases for basic research in his budget, there will be a lot of work remaining. As Congress is fond of pointing out, "the President proposes, Congress disposes." This is, after all, a time of incredibly tight budgets, with lots of pressure in place to hold down increases in discretionary spending. So, step one will be making sure that the Congressional Budget Resolution includes the same support for fundamental research that we hope will be present in the President's budget. This is turn will aid in getting "302(b) allocations" (essentially, the amounts each of the 10 or 12 (House v Senate) appropriations subcommittees are allowed to spend for the bills under their control) that are robust enough to let the subcommittees that oversee the science agencies provide the any increases called for in the budget. Then it will be up to this same coalition of partners in university and industry to make the case to appropriators. In past years, the lack of a budget "cap" room has prevented even some of the most ardent congressional champions of research from providing significant increases. A strong budget request and good 302(b) allocations would remove that constraint.

    So, I'm cautiously optimistic and very eager to hear the President's words tomorrow night. If the Adminstration comes through with a proposal that embraces the best of the Augustine report recommendations, it is hugely important that they, and Congress, hear from the community in support of the idea. As we've noted in the past, the case for bolstering U.S. competitiveness by bolstering U.S. innovation finds strong support in both parties. Supporting the plan need not commit you to supporting any one party.

    But let's see what's in the plan, first.

    The President will deliver the State of the Union at 9 pm, Tuesday, January 31st.

    We'll have more after the speech (or earlier, if we get some scoop...).

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:27 PM
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    January 09, 2006

    PCAST to get NITRD Brief

    The first meeting of the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) since the committee absorbed the functions of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) last October 1st will be held tomorrow in Washington, DC. The committee will hear for the first time in detail about the Networking and Information Technology R&D program -- the $2 billion per year, multi-agency program that constitutes the federal IT R&D effort. Simon Szykman, who now runs the National Coordinating Office for IT R&D and oversees the NITRD effort, will spend 90 minutes providing an overview of the NITRD program for the committee -- though the President hasn't yet named the additional members to the committee he authorized "to buttress PCAST's Information Technology (IT) assessment functions."

    You'll recall when the news first broke that the President was consolidating PITAC's function under PCAST, I was decidedly mixed about it, but leaning towards the positive. The move was spun in Administration press releases as an "elevation" of IT policy issues -- and indeed, the membership of PCAST is august and influential. However my concern then was that the charter of PCAST was becoming too broad for the committee to really spend the time to evaluate the federal IT R&D portfolio in sufficient depth.

    Having thought about it a bit more, I'm much less optimistic now than I was then. I really don't think PCAST can serve as PITAC in the way Congress intended. Congress established what would become PITAC in the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (with some additional responsibilities added in the Next Generation Internet Act of 1998), so that an independent panel filled with experts from industry and academia would review the whole of the federal effort every two years and provide guidance to Congress and the President. In fact, here's what the statute says:

    The President shall establish an advisory committee on high-performance computing consisting of non-Federal members, including representatives of the research, education, and library communities, network providers, and industry, who are specially qualified to provide the Director [of the Office of Science and Technology Policy] with advice and information on high-performance computing. The recommendations of the advisory committee shall be considered in reviewing and revising the Program.

    The advisory committee shall provide the Director with an independent assessment of--
    (1) progress made in implementing the Program;
    (2) the need to revise the Program;
    (3) the balance between the components of the Program;
    (4) whether the research and development undertaken pursuant to the Program is helping to maintain United States leadership in computing technology; and
    (5) other issues identified by the Director.

    Unfortunately, PITAC hasn't really met the intent of the statute since the committee released its 1999 report "Investing in Our Future," a report which found that the US was woefully underinvested in IT R&D, especially given the "spectacular" return on investment that research produced. The most recent incarnation of an independent PITAC, while of suitable composition, was hamstrung by a charter from OSTP that led them to consider only three small subsections of the overall IT R&D portfolio -- health and IT, cybersecurity R&D, and computational science. While the committee produced three excellent reports on the topics, as soon as it became clear the committee was prepared to act on their statutory responsibility to consider the state of the overall federal IT R&D program as the previous PITAC had done, their charter was allowed to expire and the committee was disbanded.

    Instead, the Administration has subsumed PITAC under PCAST, which has become a one-stop shop for science advisory committees. Since it's re-chartering in 2001, the committee of 24 has produced reports on Energy Efficiency, Building Out Broadband, Assessing the U.S. R&D Investment, Maximizing the Contribution of Science and Technology Within the Department of Homeland Security, The S&T of Combating Terrorism, Technology Transfer, Science and Engineering Capabilities, IT Manufacturing and Competitiveness, and most recently, under their role as the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel (another Congressionally-chartered panel whose responsibilities have been turned over to PCAST), The National Nanotechnology Initiative at Five Years: Assessment and Recommendations of the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel.

    So, they've been busy. Even if the President does make timely appointments of additional members, it's not clear to me that the members of PCAST will have anywhere near the time to delve into the issues of most concern to the community in anywhere near sufficient depth. (PCAST intends to devote 90 minutes of tomorrow's 8 hour meeting to IT issues, splitting the rest of the time with sessions on nanotechnology (20 minutes), US-China S&T (60 minutes), and 3 hours of Advanced Energy Technologies.) Instead, it's likely the committee will adopt the "technical advisory group" (TAG) approach, naming 50 "government and private sector" scientists to assist the members of PCAST carry out their PITAC responsibilities.

    It's hard to reconcile this approach -- a large TAG comprised of government and private sector IT experts (though probably not of comparable stature to even the previous incarnation of PITAC), reporting up to a PCAST whose IT-oriented members are in the decided minority -- with the intent of Congress in chartering an independent advisory committee staffed with some of the most-respected members of the field, focused solely on IT R&D. So, given that, and the fact that we're now in the fourth month after the President's order and no new members to the PCAST have been named, despite the fact that the committee is moving forward...well, color me pessimistic. For now, anyway.

    In any case, I'll be at tomorrow's meeting and will have all the details. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    Update: (Jan 11) -- No big surprises, unfortunately. OSTP Director John Marburger (who serves as co-chair of PCAST) noted that the committee will be expanded to accommodate the additional expertise required to take on the PITAC role, but that no new members were ready to be named yet ("in process," he said). They decided to tape the proceedings and will make a copy for the new members to help bring them "up to speed."

    Simon Szykman gave a good overall presentation of the history of NITRD and PITAC and made the case that it was time for another focus on taking an overall look at NITRD, similar to the "Investing in Our Future" report by PITAC in 1999 (which led to structural and budgetary changes in the program) -- as opposed to the narrower focus of the previous PITAC.

    PCAST was in general agreement that that's the sort of study that's required, and Marburger seemed to agree.

    So in that sense, I'm pleased. The committee seemed very engaged, though the audio was awful in the room so it wasn't always possible to hear everyone's contribution. There was a lot of talk about the committee needing to figure out a way to assess the state of the US leadership in IT. Also some question about whether the NITRD Interagency Working Group prioritizes research areas within IT, or just reacts to what the agencies are already doing. PCAST Member (and former NSF Director) Eric Bloch wanted to know if the NITRD IWG was the group that originates IT strategy or is it just "a recording group" for strategies upon which the agencies have already decided. "This question of originating the strategy versus recording is an issue we need to get into."

    If the committee stays this engaged in the process, they could produce a very valuable report. Much will depend on how much work they turn over to the TAG, I suppose, and the level of engagement the TAG membership brings to the issues. One possible warning sign came during the update on the committee's nanotech advisory efforts. PCAST Executive Director Celia Merzbacher reported slightly disappointing response rates from the nanotech TAG to some issues of concern from PCAST -- something like only 17 responses out of 40 or 50 TAG members. But that's probably just the hazard of working with large groups of busy people.

    Anyway, I was encouraged by the emphasis on the scope of the review. This PCAST has a lot on their plate, but they're certainly looking at the issue at the right level I think. We'll see how things move forward as the President starts appointing new members.

    Aliya Sternstein of Federal Computer Week, has more coverage of yesterday's meeting.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:50 PM
    Posted to Policy

    December 15, 2005

    CRA Endorses National Innovation Act

    As mentioned previously, today Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) plan to introduce the National Innovation Act of 2005, a bill that would enact many of the recommendations of the National Innovation Initiative report put out by the Council on Competitiveness last December. The bill would do a lot of important stuff:

    • Establish a "President's Council on Innovation" comprised of the heads of Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy and other agencies to develop a comprehensive annual agenda to promote innovation in the public and private sectors.
    • Establish an "Innovation Acceleration Grants Program" that would encourage federal research agencies to allocate 3 percent of their R&D budgets to "high-risk, frontier research."
    • Authorize a near-doubling of the NSF research budget by FY11.
    • Make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent.
    • Authorize increased funding for NSF graduate research fellowships and DOD science and engineering scholarships.
    • Authorizes DOD to create a competitive traineeship program for undergrad and grad students in defense science and engineering.
    • Authorizes funding for new and existing "Professional Science Master's Degree Programs" to increase the number of qualified scientists and engineers entering the workforce.
    • Authorizes Commerce to support up to three Pilot Test Beds of Excellence in state of the art advanced manufacturing systems.
    • Encourages the development of "regional clusters" of technology innovation throughout the U.S.
    • Empowers DOD to identify and accelerate the transition of advanced manufacturing tech and processes that will improve productivity of the defense manufacturing base.

    CRA is pleased to endorse the bill. Here's what we sent to Ensign and Lieberman today:

    December 13, 2005

    The Honorable John Ensign
    United States Senate
    356 Russell
    Washington, DC 20510

    The Honorable Joseph Lieberman
    United States Senate
    706 Hart
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator Ensign and Senator Lieberman:

    We at the Computing Research Association, an organization of over 200 of the Nation's leading computing research laboratories and university departments of computer science, computer engineering, computing and information, commend you for introducing the National Innovation Act of 2005, which we are pleased to endorse. We believe the Act's focus on buttressing U.S. research capability, improving the education of our science and technology talent, and enhancing the Nation's innovation infrastructure will help ensure the U.S. maintains its innovation leadership in an increasingly competitive world.

    We are particularly pleased that the NIA would increase the national commitment to basic research by authorizing the doubling of research funding for the National Science Foundation and promoting an emphasis on high-risk, frontier research at federal research agencies. As you are well aware, the importance of basic research, especially information technology research, in enabling the new economy is well documented. Innovations in computing and networking technologies supported by agencies like NSF, the Department of Energy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have led to significant improvements in product design, development and distribution for American industry, provided instant communications for people worldwide, and enabled new scientific disciplines like bioinformatics and nanotechnology that show great promise in improving a whole range of health, security and communications technologies.

    At the same time, information technology research is also changing the conduct of research. Innovations in computing and networking technologies are enabling scientific discovery across every scientific discipline - from mapping the human brain to modeling climatic change. Researchers, faced with research problems that are ever more complex and interdisciplinary in nature, are using IT to collaborate across the globe, simulate experiments, visualize large and complex datasets, and collect and manage massive amounts of data.

    The NIA sends a clear message that fundamental research like this is crucial in ensuring the Nation's economic leadership, its stalwart defense, and the health and standard of living of its people.

    Thank you for introducing this bill and for your continued leadership in support of the work of the U.S. research community. CRA is pleased to endorse your efforts and assist in any way we can.


    Daniel A. Reed
    Chair, Computing Research Association

    We'll have more on the bill as it begins its march through the Senate.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:48 AM
    Posted to Policy

    December 05, 2005

    Lots of News Re: The Case for R&D and U.S. Competitiveness

    I'm just back from CRA's Grand Research Challenges in Revitalizing Computer Architecture conference -- held in lovely Aptos, California, just up the road from Monterey (and far sunnier than the snowy DC I've returned to) -- where 50 of the brightest minds in computer architecture research spent 3 days thinking deep thoughts about the field and its biggest challenges for the future. The participants are in the process of finalizing their conclusions, and when they do, you'll see them here first.

    But I only bring this up as a way of explaining the lack of updates during a week that was chock full of good and important developments surrounding the science community's efforts to make the case for federal support of R&D in the physical sciences, mathematics and computing. So this post is an attempt to rectify that in one fell swoop.

    It began on Tuesday:

    National Summit on Competitiveness: Long-time readers may recall that
    back in April
    , as part of the emergency supplemental appropriation to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan, House Science, Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) (with help from Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Vern Ehlers (R-MI)) included language directing the Department of Commerce to convene a meeting of U.S. manufacturers to discuss what could be done to buttress U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. Wolf, who has become one of the strongest champions in Congress for federal support of fundamental research, felt the conference was necessary to expose the Administration to industry concerns about the impact of the federal government's long-term underinvestment in the physical sciences.

    The summit was held Tuesday (December 6, 2005) and attracted over 50 CEOs (pdf), university presidents, and agency directors, as well as four members of the President's cabinet -- Sec. Samuel Bodman (Energy), Sec. Margaret Spellings (Education), Sec. Carlos Gutierrez (Commerce) and Sec. Elaine Chao (Labor).

    The good news is that the CEOs made "support for fundamental research" the primary message they brought to the cabinet officials -- a very important change of emphasis for most CEO advocacy efforts, which tend to focus on tax law changes or regulatory relief as their prime agenda items. The "Statement of the National Summit of Competitiveness" (pdf), released by the conferees immediately following the summit, puts the message bluntly:

    The National Summit on Competitiveness has one fundamental and urgent message: if trends in U.S. research and education continue, our nation will squander its economic leadership, and the result will be a lower standard of living for the American people.
    The participants focused on six specific recommendations:
    • Increase the federal investment in long-term basic research by 10 percent a year over the next seven years, with focused attention to the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics.
    • Allocate at least 8 percent of the budgets of federal research agencies to discretionary funding focused on catalyzing high-risk, high-payoff research.
    • By 2015, double the number of bachelor's degrees awarded annually to U.S. students in science, math, and engineering, and increase the number of those students who become K-12 science and math teachers.
    • Reform U.S. immigration policies to enable the education and employment of individuals from around the world with the knowledge and skills in science, engineering, technology and mathematics necessary to boost the competitive advantage of the U.S.
    • Provide incentives for the creation of public-private partnerships to encourage U.S. students at all levels to pursue studies and/or careers in science, math, technology and engineering.
    • Provide focused and sustained funding to address national technology challenges in areas that will ensure national security and continued U.S. economic leadership, including nanotechnology, high-performance computing, and energy technologies.
    These are recommendations well-grounded in recent reports of the National Academies, the Council on Competitiveness, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, the Business Round Table, and many others (pdf). Whether the recommendations will resonate within the Administration remains to be seen. Until recently, the Administration has adopted a rather head-in-the-sand approach regarding the state of federal support for fundamental research. Members of the Administration continue to note that federal support for R&D has risen 45 percent since 2001, while failing to recognize that the great bulk (pdf) of that increase has been in shorter-term, defense-related development work. Long-term, basic research in the physical sciences, mathematics and computing has been flat or declining over the same period. But the persistent pressure from industry (industry has really stepped up it's involvement in this advocacy this year, as this conference demonstrated) may be having some effect. Members of the Administration (beyond the usual suspects at OSTP) are beginning to allow a level of dialog with the community that wasn't happening six months ago. (That's intentionally cryptic.) There's no guarantee that it will result in anything, but it's an encouraging development.

    Also encouraging is the imminent introduction of two separate, but very similar, bills designed to push forward an "innovation agenda" that both include substantial authorizations for increased funding for fundamental research in the physical sciences:

    Ensign/Lieberman National Innovation Act of 2005: Planned for introduction on December 15th, this bill, co-introduced by Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), would enact most of the recommendations of the Council on Competitiveness' National Innovation Initiative (which we've detailed here). The bill is a pretty massive effort that includes another authorization for "doubling" NSF by 2011; establishes "Innovation Acceleration Grants", which encourage federal research agencies to allocate 3% of their R&D budgets to grants directed toward "high-risk frontier research"; makes permanent the R&E tax credit; increases NSF graduate research fellowship funding; authorizes a DOD competitive traineeship program for undergrad and grad students in defense science and engineering; and authorizes new "Professional Science Master's Degree Programs" to increase the number of qualified scientists and engineers entering the workforce. The bill is actually more of an omnibus -- it contains provisions that will likely result in referrals to six or seven different Senate committees -- which works against it getting passed in its current form. But it's an important placeholder for these issues in Congress and its likely that each of its provisions could find their way into bills that do move. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) plans to introduce a similar measure in the House.

    Alexander/Bingaman Innovation Bill: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) plan to introduce a bill soon that would enact most of the recommendations of the recent National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. We've previously covered the recommendations from that report. Alexander and former Commerce Secretary (and still close friend of the President) Don Evans recently took to the airways to talk up the report and Alexander's legislation, with Alexander telling CNBC that he was calling on the President to focus on this innovation issue in his State of the Union address in January -- which would represent a remarkable elevation of the issue. You can download the clip (about 13 megs, asf format) here.

    Finally, there's been lots of good recent press on the issue. Here's some quick and dirty summaries:

  • Norman Augustine, former Lockheed-Martin CEO and chair of the committee that produced the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, authored an OpEd in the Washington Post on Tuesday, "Learning to Lose: Our Education System Isn't Ready for a World of Competition." A snippet:
    In the five decades since I began working in the aerospace industry, I have never seen American business and academic leaders as concerned about this nation's future prosperity as they are today.

    On the surface, these concerns may seem unwarranted. Two million jobs were created in the United States in the past year. Citizens of other nations continue to invest their savings in this country at a remarkable rate. Our nation still has the strongest scientific and technological enterprise -- and the best research universities -- in the world.

    But deeper trends in this country and abroad are signs of a gathering storm. After the Cold War, nearly 3 billion potential new capitalists entered the job market. A substantial portion of our workforce now finds itself in direct competition for jobs with highly motivated and often well-educated people from around the world. Workers in virtually every economic sector now face competitors who live just a mouse click away in Ireland, Finland, India, China, Australia and dozens of other nations.

  • Morton Kondracke, editor of Roll Call, one of the papers of record for congressional staff and policymakers in the Administration, praised Alexander's proposed legislation in an OpEd yesterday ("Bush Should Offer Science Agenda in State of the Union" (subscription required)).
    In the face of report after report indicating that the United States is at grave risk of losing its technological edge — which in turn is the basis of the high U.S. standard of living — the Bush administration and the GOP Congress so far have been (to be charitable) behind the curve on science and technology.

    Last year, Congress actually cut the budget of the National Science Foundation, and Bush’s 2006 budget called for less funding than the agency had in 2004. Wolf won a small increase, but still not enough to match 2004.

    The Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the primary funder of physics research, got just a 2.9 percent increase in fiscal 2005 and 0.9 percent this year — a cut after inflation.

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the incubator of, among other things, the Internet and laser technology, got a 5 percent increase in fiscal 2005. The House approved 4.2 percent for fiscal 2006, while the Senate called for a 1.8 percent cut.

    At the innovation summit on Tuesday, Deputy Commerce Secretary David Sampson repeated the familiar administration line that research and development funding has increased 45 percent since 2001 and represents 13.6 percent of the federal discretionary budget.

    Sampson also asserted that the U.S. economic growth rate, 4.3 percent, is “the fastest in the world,” that “all of President Bush’s policies — tax, research and development, education and workforce development — are dedicated to making America more competitive.”

    In fact, the U.S. growth rate trails that of China (9.4 percent), Hong Kong (8.2 percent) and India (8 percent), and all the evidence indicates that those countries are far outstripping the United States in the training of scientists and investment in research and development.


    Bush deserves credit for aggressively responding to the No. 1 threat to America’s well-being — terrorism. He needs to do better in responding to the No. 2 threat, foreign economic competition.

  • William McKenzie OpEd ("Math and science add up to our future") in the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday:
    I don't know about you, but I sometimes grow weary hearing big-picture thinkers tell us we need more mathematicians and scientists. Maybe it was because I wasn't very interested in those subjects as a kid. Whatever, all the talk about math and science can leave my politics-and-history mind blank.

    Several students in Allen said the same thing the other day. When I asked a classroom of high schoolers how many wanted to study math and science in college, one student shot up his hand and said we shouldn't forget the "bohemian" side of the brain, meaning the side that worries about things like war and peace. A number of his fellow students nodded.

    I like their independence, but here's the plain truth that people like me need to remember: We either champion math and science, or we lose our footing in the world. That's hard to imagine since we're the Big Cat economically, militarily and politically.

    But if our schools downplay math and science, Americans will become the 7-foot basketball player who stumbled over his own clumsy feet running down the court. While we're trying to get back up, little fast guys will run right by.

  • San Jose Mercury News Editorial, "U.S. leadership isn't a sure thing; Pelosi Rightly Prods Congress to Get Moving on an 'Innovation Agenda' to Secure America's Future" (behind pay wall):
    Tech luminaries, academics, researchers and business leaders have been sounding alarm bells about America's eroding competitiveness in science and technology for more than a year.

    In study after study, groups such as the Council on Competitiveness, the National Academies, TechNet and AeA explained the problems in clear and stark terms. The rise of tech powerhouses in China, India and elsewhere, and the parallel decline at home in math and science education, in research and development investments, and in broadband infrastructure, have put America's economic leadership and prosperity at risk. These groups also provided sensible, detailed and often strikingly similar solutions to ensure America remains No. 1.

    In Washington, however, it all seemed to fall on deaf ears. Until now.


    Both Democrats and Republicans need to stand for something positive going into next year's election, something that addresses the growing fear of middle-class voters that their children won't enjoy the same opportunities that they've had. Unless Congress adopts legislation to restore America's competitive edge, those fears will be warranted.

    Anyway, as this has already turned into the mother of all blog posts, I'll stop there. But I close with the opinion that there's some reason to be reasonably optimistic about the federal priority for fundamental research changing for the better. The pressure is mounting from numerous fronts: industry is now heavily invested in making the case, significant efforts in Congress are underway, the press has cottoned on to the message, and, as I'll detail in a future post, public attitudes about federal support for research are very positive. All that's really left is for the President to make this a national priority.

    Let's hope that he does....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:45 PM
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press
  • November 18, 2005

    Tech CEOs Say "Smarten Up, America!", Dems Introduce Innovation Agenda

    Business Week has a piece that ran yesterday on TechNet's annual innovation summit held earlier this week. The summit brings together TechNet's CEOs and include a few sessions taped with PBS commentator Charlie Rose. I went to the summit last year and was impressed by the event but a little disappointed that the number one focus on the agenda appeared to be the issue of expensing stock options (obviously a big concern to silicon valley CEOs). This year, it appears there's been a lot more emphasis on R&D funding and competitiveness issues, which is a very good thing. Here's a snippet:

    Tech leaders fretted that falling R&D spending could cripple the U.S. in the future. "I'm very worried, as we cut back on our R&D, that we will fall behind the rest of the world," said [John] Chambers[, CEO of Cisco]. [Venture capitalist John] Doerr also lamented the lack of open-ended research at organizations like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which currently is more focused on specific programs.

    Along the same lines, participants in the conference called for fewer limits on immigration. More stringent immigration limits, thanks to post-9/11 security concerns, are a big problem, said Doerr, because they're cutting the U.S. off from foreign research and engineering talent: "Imagine innovation without [former Intel (INTC ) CEO] Andy Grove, without Jerry Yang, without [Google (GOOG ) co-founder] Sergey Brin." Grove hails from Hungary, Yang from Taiwan, and Brin from Russia.

    The result of immigration limits is that we're losing more foreign-born people who get educated here, said Esther Dyson, editor of the tech newsletter Release 1.0. "Right now, we're spending resources on people only to send them back to other countries," she said. "They used to stay here."

    I have to say, one of the big reasons we're getting any traction in the science advocacy community for our issues is because industry leaders are stepping up to the plate, using some of their valuable access to decision makers to deliver this important message.

    The most recent positive result of that traction is Tuesday's release of the House Democrats' Innovation Agenda. Their proposal is chock full of good things, including proposals to:

    • Add 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to America's workforce in the next four years by providing scholarships, other financial assistance, and private sector opportunities to college students;
    • Double federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences and promote public-private partnerships that will translate into ideas for marketable technologies;
    • Create research "centers of excellence" across the country and modernize and make permanent the R&D tax credit;
    • Guarantee that every American will have affordable access to broadband in within five years;
    • Protect the intellectual property of American innovators worldwide.
    Cameron Wilson has more on this on USACM's Technology Policy blog, including a little equal time for the Republicans.

    There aren't many things to disagree with in the Democrats' proposal -- indeed, just about all the ideas proposed have strong bipartisan support. The only worrying aspect of this from my perspective is that it comes crafted as a partisan document. While I would enjoy nothing more than to have the two parties battle it out to show who can support these ideas more emphatically, there's an equal risk (maybe more likely, given the current polarization) of creating a partisan divide where there needn't be one (and there isn't one now).

    There are a couple of other bipartisan efforts in the embryonic state right now to enact many of these same goals. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and John Ensign (R-NV) are working to put the finishing touches on legislation for introduction that would implement the recommendations of the Council on Competitiveness' National Innovation Initiative; and Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) are moving to craft legislation in response to the recommendations contained in the recent National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report (which we've detailed previously).

    So I hope the Democrats get lots of well-deserved kudos for stating so explicitly the things they're prepared to do to promote American innovation and competitiveness, and I hope it drive Congress generally towards being more supportive of efforts like the bipartisan ones noted above so we can see some real progress moving this agenda forward.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:52 PM
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    November 02, 2005

    Sen. Clinton Raises Concerns About DARPA Computer Science

    Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) put the President's nominee for Director of Defense Research and Engineering, John Young, on notice at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that she expects the new Director to address her concerns with DARPA (which DDR&E technically oversees), particularly DARPA support for university-led computer science research. Those concerns turns out to be ones shared by the computing research community, including "nonfiscal limitations such as the classification of work in areas that were previously unclassified; precluding university submissions as prime contractors on certain solicitations; [and] reducing the periods of performance to 18 to 24 months."

    This kind of short-term focus is not conducive to university programs to address broad fundamental technological and scientific challenges, especially when we know that research in computer science will be at the very core of network-centric warfare.

    So I would hope, Mr. Young, that you would look into this and, assuming you are confirmed, that you would take this as a very serious charge, because we just had another study by the National Academy of Sciences that basically said the United States is losing its technological and scientific leadership, and that's going to have long-term consequences certainly for defense but also for our standard of living and our economic prosperity.

    Clinton rightly notes that these concerns are shared by not just the university researchers directly affected by these policies, but many of the industrial and multi-disciplinary users “downstream” who have come to depend on advances in information technology for their own progress. Additionally, the DOD's own Defense Science Board, the National Academies, the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, and several Congressional committees have all raised concerns about the impact of DARPA's move away from long-term, university-led research in information technology and its implications for the country's long-term health and prosperity.

    Unfortunately, as we've noted recently, at the same time these concerns about the state of computer science research at DARPA are being raised, one of the agency's truly positive activities - its Cognitive Computing program - is imperiled by a sizeable cut approved in the Senate version of the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2863). The Senate bill would cut $55 million from DARPA's $114 million “Learning, Reasoning, and Integrated Cognitive Systems” account, a move that would hamper advancements in defense-related information technology in the short- and long-term and would also slow technological advancement essential to current and future military operations in Iraq and around the globe. We at CRA hope that Clinton will help urge her colleagues on the conference committee negotiating the bill to abandon the cut and provide the President's requested funding level, the level approved in the House version of H.R. 2863.

    I've included the whole of her statement -- which is very good -- after the jump. The importance of her remarks are multi-fold. One, she's placed an important marker down for the computing research community -- the concerns of the community will be on the new DDR&E's plate as soon as he takes the job. Second, she's raised the profile of the concerns among the rest of the members on the Senate Armed Services Committee and staff (though they're already pretty sympathetic). And finally, it never hurts to have the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008 using her five minutes at a confirmation hearing to talk about your concerns.

    Anyway, read the whole thing after the jump -- and if you get a chance, especially if you're at a NY institution, drop Senator Clinton a note of thanks for looking out long-term research....

    CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    And I welcome the nominees and I want to especially express appreciation to Mr. Young, whom I have enjoyed working with in your previous position as assistant secretary of the Navy for acquisition, and appreciated greatly your objectivity and fairness in deciding a number of contentious contracting issues, including the Marine One contract.

    Your new position, Mr. Young, will place you in a critical role to help define the DOD research agenda. And, as you may know, the Air Force research laboratory in Rome, New York, is a world leader in the development of revolutionary cybersecurity technologies.

    And I would like you to know you're invited to come up and visit Rome labs for yourself and to see what we're doing in cybersecurity. And my invitation is related to a larger concern I have about the direction of funding for science and research within the Department of Defense.

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, otherwise known as DARPA, has seen some significant cutbacks in the last several years. The department's science and technology programs are absolutely essential. And what they have historically done is to make investments in our nation's universities and innovative, high-tech small businesses in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and the like.

    And we've obviously seen the results of that research grow into new capabilities that have been proven effective in the global war on terrorism operations in Iraq and elsewhere, but also in the civilian world with the spinoff.

    That's why I'm concerned that the department seems to be systematically underinvesting in fundamental and long-term research programs. The department's science and technology requests for '06 was down $2.8 billion from the '05 appropriated levels, and even $28 million below the original '05 budget request.

    In fact, the request is so low it has triggered a congressionally mandated Defense Science Board review of the effects of these lowered science and technology investments on our national security. And I look forward to the results of that review.

    But I think it's important that we stop a minute and think about the consequences of these cutbacks. A particular concern with respect to how DARPA is being treated is that we used to have a division between applied research in DARPA and more innovative almost blue sky research.

    And in fact, much of the blue sky research is what it's most famous for. And the spinoffs have fueled the economy, not just our national security and military capability.

    The National Academy of Sciences, in a recent report requested by the committee, recommended that DOD begin to try to redress the imbalance in its current basic research allocation.

    And I've been surprised to have members of the information technology community come and express their concern. They don't have any stake in the DARPA research, but they know how essential it is to keep our overall national research and science and technology edge.

    The Defense Science Board has raised concerns over DARPA's funding of computer science, and it's particularly concerning because DARPA has further limited university participation in its computer science programs, including: nonfiscal limitations such as the classification of work in areas that were previously unclassified; precluding university submissions as prime contractors on certain solicitations; reducing the periods of performance to 18 to 24 months.

    This kind of short-term focus is not conducive to university programs to address broad fundamental technological and scientific challenges, especially when we know that research in computer science will be at the very core of network-centric warfare.

    So I would hope, Mr. Young, that you would look into this and, assuming you are confirmed, that you would take this as a very serious charge, because we just had another study by the National Academy of Sciences that basically said the United States is losing its technological and scientific leadership, and that's going to have long-term consequences certainly for defense but also for our standard of living and our economic prosperity.

    So I don't have a question so much as a plea, that we try to address this, because we're moving further and further behind.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:01 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 26, 2005

    Governors Urge President to Support Fundamental Research

    The governors of 27 states have sent a letter to President Bush urging him to "ensure that federal funding for university-based research remains a top national priority" in FY 2006 and beyond. In their letter, the 16 Democratic and 11 Republican governors make the case that basic research has been the fuel for innovation in their states -- as well as a creator of high-wage jobs and an enabler of workforce productivity -- and they credit the universities and labs performing the research with being "the training ground for our country's next generation of highly-skilled workers." They also cite the changing competitive environment that challenges current U.S. dominance in technology innovation:

    Through economic globalization, competition in research and development has risen dramatically in the last few years. Asian and European countries have committed new resources to scientific and engineering research programs at nearly unprecedented rates. While the U.S. currently remains a global leader in science and technology, we must continue to be at the forefront of discovery and development. Only by investing in the research of today can we take full advantage of the innovations of tomorrow. Despite a period of scarce resources, basic science and engineering research is a vital national investment.
    This is an important message for the President to hear, especially as the Administration is working now to put together his FY 2007 budget in time for its February release.

    Unfortunately, the U.S. basic research enterprise is going to need all the help it can get. As we've noted before, it appears that pressures will be high on Congress to cut mandatory and discretionary spending (including federal science agencies) to offset the spiraling costs for hurricane relief and a possible tax cut. Yesterday, House Majority Leader Roy Blunt noted that Congress will be focusing on three pieces of budget legislation before they wrap up the current session this fall: a package carving savings from mandatory programs, an across-the-board cut in discretionary spending and a new hurricane relief package. Any across-the-board cut is likely to once again fall on agencies like the National Science Foundation, which suffered a similar 2 percent cut last year.

    So any effort by an influential group like the 27 governors who signed this letter (and thanks to the Science Coalition for "working" this letter), is useful in the attempt to reverse what is becoming a very damaging trend of cutbacks in federal support for fundamental research.

    Here's the full letter (pdf, 1 mb). Did your governor sign?

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:55 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to FY06 Appropriations | Funding | Policy

    October 14, 2005

    New National Academies Report Warns Congress "Decisive Action Needed Now" to Preserve US Competitive Edge

    This by now has been covered all over the place, but I'd be remiss not to add it here, too. The National Academies convened a 20-member panel last summer at the request of Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Bart Gordon (D-TN) to determine the "top 10 actions, in priority order, that federal policymakers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the twenty-first century." The task was fast-tracked, and an august panel was put together, chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine and including folks like Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, President of Texas A&M Robert Gates, CEO of DuPont Charles Holliday, Jr., former Director of Defense Research and Engineering at DOD (and computer scientist) Anita Jones, and MIT president emeritus Chuck Vest. The committee met once, held focus groups on the five issue areas they decided merited attention (K-12 education, higher education, research, innovation and workforce issues, and national and homeland security), then put together the report they released on Wednesday, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.

    The committee actually came up with four major recommendations, supplemented with 20 specific actions to be taken. Hard to quibble with the broad recommendations:

    Recommendation A: Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education.

    • Recruit ten thousand teachers, educate ten million minds -- a program that would award competitive 4-year scholarships for students to obtain bachelor's degrees in the physical or life sciences, engineering or mathematics with concurrent certification as K-12 math and science teachers.
    • Strengthen two hundred fifty thousand teachers' skills, inspire students every day -- provide summer institutes, science and mathematics master's programs, advanced placement training, and a curriculum modeled on world-class standards for current K-12 teachers.
    • Enlarge the pipeline by creating opportunities and incentives for middle-school and high-school students to pursue advanced work in science and math.

    Recommendation B: Sustain and strengthen the nation's traditional commitment to the long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformational to maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life.
    • Increase the federal investment in long-term basic research by 10 percent annually over the next 7 years, with special attention paid to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences and to DOD basic-research funding.
    • Provide new research grants of $500,000 each annually, payable over 5 years, to 2000 of our most outstanding early career researchers.
    • Institute a National Coordination Office for Research Infrastructure to manage a centralized research-infrastructure fund of $500 million per year over the next 5 years.
    • Allocate at least 8 percent of the budgets of federal research agencies to high-risk, high payoff research.
    • Create in DOE an organziation like DARPA [hopefully in the model of "old" DARPA - ed] called ARPA-E which would be charged with R&D to meet the nation's long-term energy challenges.
    • Institute a Presidential Innovation Award to stimulate scientific and engineering advances in the national interest.

    Recommendation C: Make the US the most attractive setting in which to study, perform research, and commercialize technologic innovation so that we can develop, recruit, and retain the best and brightest students, scientists and engineers from within the US and throughout the world.

    • Provide 25,000 new 4-year undergraduate scholarships each year to US citizens attending US institutions.
    • Increase the number of US citizens pursuing graduate study "in areas of national need" by funding 5,000 new graduate fellowships each year.
    • Provide a federal tax credit to encourage employers to make continuing education available to practicing scientists and engineers.
    • Continue to improve visa processing for international students.
    • Provide a 1-year automatic visa extension to international students who receive doctorates or equivalent in STEM or other areas of national need at US institutions to remain in the US to seek employment.
    • Institute a new skills-based, preferential immigration option.
    • Reform the current system of "deemed exports".

    Recommendation D: Ensure that the US is the premier place in the world to innovate, invest in downstream activities, and create high-paying jobs that are based on innovation by modernizing the patent system, realigning tax policies to encourage innovation, and ensuring affordable broadband access.

    • "Enhance" intellectual-property protection for the 21st century global economy.
    • Enact a stronger R&D tax credit to encourage private investment in innovation.
    • Provide tax incentives for US-based innovation.
    • Ensure ubiquitous broadband Internet access.

    Hard to find fault in much of that -- though I'm leeriest of the IP-related "enhancements" (see the report for the details about each of the action items listed). The committee came up with a "back of the envelope" calculation of about $10 billion annually to fully implement the recommendations (the R&D tax credit recommendation is actually the costliest). While that number might seem impossibly high to achieve under the current political mindset for science funding -- after all, NSF suffered a 2 percent cut in the last budget and the smart money is betting something similar for FY 06 when appropriations finally wrap up -- in the grand scheme of things, $10 billion on top of an $840 billion discretionary budget is a relatively small investment for the potential benefit. If the President is looking for an initiative that would enhance his legacy, I think he'd be hard-pressed to find one with a better cost/benefit ratio.

    Anyway, as I said, the report has gathered a reasonable amount of attention in the press. The New York Times has coverage, as does the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required). There are a couple of follow-up hearings planned, including one by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on October 18th, and the House Science Committee on October 20th.

    We'll try and have all the details here.

    (Thanks to Sam Liles and Spaf for the pointers!)

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:01 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    CRA Comments on DOD Export Regulations

    The Department of Defense has proposed a change to its regulations that would strengthen requirements for the control of export-controlled technologies for DOD research contractors, including universities. The proposed rule would require contractors to have an export control program that includes regular audits and training, segregated workplaces for export-controlled technologies, and "unique badging requirements for foreign nationals and foreign persons."

    While we at CRA understand and support the need for export control and deemed export regulation, we're concerned that the proposed rule as it stands would make fundamental research subject to novel restrictions that could seriously impair the ability of colleges, universities, industrial and federal research labs to conduct fundamental research, which would have significant ramifications for America's economic competitiveness and technological leadership in the world.

    This concern stems in large part from the fact that the proposed rule doesn't reference the fundamental research exemption, as found in a Reagan-era National Security Decision Directive still in effect (NSDD 189). Though it appears that the authors of the proposed rule didn't intend to add new burdens for universities -- rather, intended the change to clarify existing regulations -- the worry is that without an explicit mention of NSDD-189, DOD agencies might incorrectly interpret compliance requirements to require access controls in all instances, even when fundamental research is being performed. There's also a concern that the new rule would prompt DOD program managers and contract officers to include overly restrictive language in DOD contracts in order to protect themselves from any potential liability or culpability. As the Association of American Universities points out (pdf), this likely would exacerbate the already significant problems that universities have experienced with troublesome clauses in contracts from industry.

    So, as we did when the Department of Commerce announced they were considering a similar rule change (and still haven't decided), CRA filed comments (pdf) with DOD, along with more than 100 other respondents.

    USACM also filed comments regarding the proposed rule, which you can find -- along with a good blog post from David Padgham highlighting some of the other comments received -- over at the USACM Technology Policy Blog.

    We'll keep track on the rule-making progress as it moves forward at both Commerce and DOD in the coming weeks....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:49 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 07, 2005

    Gingrich and Markoff at CSTB

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich joined yesterday's meeting of the National Academies' Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, ostensibly to talk about health care and IT -- though he probably only spent a couple of minutes total on the topic. Instead, the board and those of us in the audience got Gingrich's take on what's wrong with America's innovation ecosystem and his plan for addressing it. The presentation was very interesting -- Gingrich is a remarkable extemporaneous speaker, even in front of an audience that I suspect was not full of Gingrich "fans." I jotted down some brief notes as he outlined his recommendations and I reprint them here, just because I thought it was a nicely structured approach. According to Gingrich, we need to:

    1) Dramatically, radically overhaul math and science education by:
    • paying students in grades 7-12 a wage equivalent to what they'd make at McDonald's if they earn "B's" or better.
    • eliminating regulation that prevents those with subject expertise from teaching that subject in schools (retired scientists and engineers, for example)

    2) Triple the size of NSF

    • The Administration's budget priorities are wrong. Congress is wrong. Regrets that his biggest mistake as speaker was not tripling NSF when they doubled NIH

    3) Establish a national library of science similar to PubMed

    • especially needed for adults looking to further education

    4) Need to dramatically deregulate our markets (presumably telecom)

    • need to have the highest capital investment in new technologies of any country in the world

    5) We need to have "a vision of a dynamic successful future" in order to recruit the next generation of scientists and engineers

    • President has the right instinct with moon/mars, but the wrong program
    • there's no coherent vision now of a scientifically exciting future

    While he says it's important to have a positive vision of the future for attracting future scientists and engineers, policymakers need to be motivated by the negatives. The current budget situation is a total mess, he said, but messes can be great opportunities. Increasing federal support for fundamental R&D is a really large change and "really large change is a long-wave process." CEOs need to say to policymakers "here is what you have to do" and then communicate the downside:

  • We will lose without investment in NSF - "Do you want US to be the new Europe?"
  • The US is in a dominating position, but that position is not permanent. "We are temporarily and briefly the most powerful country in the world."
  • Unfortunately, making the case is like the challenge of convincing relatively healthy people they should eat healthy and exercise. They don't see a pressing need, even though the change would help them live longer, healthier lives. The US can "decay elegantly forever." The challenge is to reverse that.
  • I thought it was a very interesting talk.

    John Markoff, tech reporter for the NY Times (we've covered a few of his stories, including this really important one, here in this space) also participated in the meeting, running through his history of the rise of the personal computer, as told in his book What the Dormouse Said. Markoff also talked a bit about his frustration with what's happening with tech coverage in journalism and at the Times -- a move to cover much more of the business side of technology with less emphasis on the exciting stories about the science -- but understood the pressures facing the publishers given the absolutely grim financial situations newspapers find themselves in at the moment. We've seen this in the advocacy community. The one "case" for the need to support fundamental research that seems to get the most traction both in the press and among policymakers at the moment is the "innovation" case -- that is, the linkage between fundamental research performed by the nation's universities and federal labs and innovation in U.S. industries. I suppose that's not surprising. But more often it would be nice, I think -- especially if one of our goals is inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers -- to see stories covering the excitement of the path to discovery, the quest for knowledge....

    Anyway, on the whole, I thought it was a very enjoyable morning at the National Academies.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:09 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 03, 2005

    Lazowska on Cyber Security and the Failure of the Administration

    Ben Worthen has a great interview with former President's IT Advisory Committee co-Chair Ed Lazowska in CIO Magazine in which Lazowska, freed from his role as presidential advisor after the President allowed PITAC's charter to expire, pulls no punches describing the failure of the Administration to adequately support and prioritize cyber security research and development. Here's a snippet:

    [Lazowska:] Long-range R&D has always been the role of the national government. And the trend, despite repeated denials from the White House to the Department of Defense, has decreased funding for R&D. And of the R&D that does get funded, more and more of it is on the development side as opposed to longer-range research, which is where the big payoffs are in the long term. That's a more fundamental problem that CIOs aren't responsible for.

    [Worthen:] You feel strongly that the government's treatment of cybersecurity R&D has been particularly neglectful.

    [Lazowska:] PITAC found that the government is currently failing to fulfill this responsibility. (The word failing was edited out of our report, but it was the committee's finding.) Let me talk very quickly about three federal agencies that you might think are focusing on this but are not:

    » Most egregiously, the Department of Homeland Security simply doesn't get cybersecurity. DHS has a science and technology (S&T) budget of more than a billion dollars annually. Of this, [only] $18 million is devoted to cybersecurity. For FY06, DHS's S&T budget is slated to go up by more than $200 million, but the allocation to cybersecurity will decrease to $17 million! It's also worth noting that across DHS's entire S&T budget, only about 10 percent is allocated to anything that might reasonably be called "research" rather than "deployment."

    » Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investing in cybersecurity, but has classified all of its recent new program starts in this field. It's fine to do classified research, but we must also recognize the negative consequences, and we should (but don't) fund nonclassified research to make up for it. One negative consequence is that classified research is very slow to impact commercial IT systems, on which the entire nation, and even much of the Department of Defense, relies. Another negative consequence is that the nation's university-based researchers cannot participate, because universities do not perform classified research. This eliminates many of the nation's best cybersecurity researchers. It also means that students are not trained in cybersecurity—the training of students is an important byproduct of research.

    There's also a great sidebar: Blame the Internet

    And the main editorial for the issue: Who Owns Security?

    All worth the read.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 03:40 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    September 30, 2005

    PCAST to Assume PITAC's Role

    President Bush ordered today that the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology shall now serve as the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), answering the question about what would become of PITAC after the President allowed that committee's charter to expire last June. I'm not sure how the new responsibilities will be handled by PCAST -- presumably the committee will be expanded somewhat to handle the load, but we'll see.

    I'm of two minds about the move. On the one hand, the membership of PCAST is top-notch. Having advisors of that stature become interested and invested in some of the issues of great concern to the IT community (like the overall level of federal support and the changing landscape for computing research) would add even more weight to our position. But I'm worried that the committee, which has a much broader charter than PITAC's narrow focus on IT issues, won't be able to examine the issues with the same depth that an independent IT advisory committee may have.

    Anyway, we'll keep a close eye on developments and report them here.

    Update: (five minutes after I posted above) The National Coordinating Office for IT is calling this an elevation of the role of external information technology advice in the White House. Here's the OSTP press release. (pdf)

    The release points out that PCAST is also the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel and that the committee established a "technical advisory group" comprising of "about 50 top government and private sector nanotechnology scientists" that has proved "highly beneficial" to PCAST's NNI assessments. They plan to do something similar for IT.

    As more details are revealed, I'm thinking the positives outweigh the negatives. ...

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:22 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    September 16, 2005

    House Science Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructures Hearing Wrapup

    As mentioned previously, the House Science Committee met yesterday to focus on the threat cyber security vulnerabilities pose to various critical sectors of the Nation's critical infrastructure. Representatives from the oil and gas, chemical, electrical and communications sectors all testified that their industries are becoming more and more dependent upon public networks, those networks are under serious threat from cyber attack, and the federal government has a clear role both in supporting information exchange and coordination among all the industry stakeholders, and supporting a research agenda aimed at addressing the threat, primarily in the long-term. I'm not sure there's much more I need to add to that, other than to point to the archived video, the hearing charter (pdf), and the testimony of the five witnesses.

    A few observations:

  • Committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) set the tone for the hearing in his opening statement by declaring that despite everything else that was taking place on the Hill that day -- including the Roberts confirmation hearing and the party caucus meeting to choose a new Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee (Rep. Peter King (R-NY) was the choice) -- he couldn't think of another event more important than this hearing on cyber security.
    We shouldn’t have to wait for the cyber equivalent of a Hurricane Katrina - or even and Hurricane Ophelia might serve - to realize that we are inadequately prepared to prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks.

    And a cyber attack can affect a far larger area at a single stroke that can any hurricane. Not only that, given the increasing reliance of critical infrastructures on the Internet, a cyber attack could result in deaths as well as in massive disruption to the economy and daily life.
    So our goal this morning is to help develop a cybersecurity agenda for the federal government, especially for the new Assistant Secretary. I never want to have to sit on a special committee set up to investigate why we were unprepared for a cyber attack. We know we are vulnerable, it’s time to act.

  • Despite federally-supported research and development in cyber security being cited as a critical need by each one of the industry witnesses, the only federal witness -- Andy Purdy, Director of the National Cyber Security Division at DHS -- didn't mention R&D in his oral remarks other than to hope that he'd get a chance to talk about it during questioning (alas, he didn't). In his written testimony, Purdy noted that DHS' R&D goals are almost exclusively short-term:
  • Perform R&D aimed at improving the security of existing deployed technologies and to ensure the security of new emerging systems;
  • Develop new and enhanced technologies ofr the detection of, prevention of, and response to cyber attacks on the nation's critical infrastructure; and
  • Facilitate the transfer of these technologies into the national infrastructure as a matter of urgency.
  • Of course, as PITAC found in its review of the nation's cyber security R&D portfolio, even this narrow commitment to the short-term suffers from a severe lack of priority within the agency. The agency has requested only $17 million for FY 06 ($1 million less than last year) for cyber security research, out of a total S&T budget of over a billion dollars. I was disappointed that the members of the committee didn't spend more time questioning DHS' priority when it comes to funding cyber security R&D.

  • The hearing was well-attended by members of the committee. Despite lots of other events on the Hill, the hearing drew at least 23 different Members of Congress, with many sticking around to ask questions. There was plenty of room in the audience and the sections reserved for press however, which led Chairman Boehlert to complain that cyber security is still greeted with a "muffled yawn" outside his committee room and that he hoped it wasn't going to take a "cyber Katrina" to wake people up about the dangerous threat.

  • I was pleased that Boehlert took a few minutes out of the question period to suggest to the industry representatives (SBC, British Petroleum, Dow Chemical, and American Electric Power were all represented) that they make use of their exceptionally persuasive "hired guns" in DC to advocate for more R&D and better coordination. The lobbyists need to be out there putting focus on the importance of this subject, he said.

  • Finally, an odd tack during the question and answer portion of the hearing: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) used his five minutes to berate DHS and the industry representatives for failing to plan and prepare adequately for the "ultimate low-probability, high-impact event" threatening the nation: a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack. An EMP attack (by detonating a large yield nuclear weapon many miles in the atmosphere above the US) would potentially render every non-hardened microprocessor in the country completely inoperable, which given the ubiquitousness of microprocessors in just about everything, would have a devastating effect on the country. Bartlett was especially interested in hearing how the energy companies would cope, given that every transformer they operate would likely be destroyed, including ones we no longer have the ability to manufacture domestically. None of the witnesses could point to any significant preparation in their sectors.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:02 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Events | Policy | Security
  • September 12, 2005

    Things Will Get Busier...

    Apologies for the dearth of timely updates recently. As many readers familiar with the congressional calendar are aware, Congress disappears for the entire month of August so that members can find their way back to their home districts, partake in a few county fairs and local parades, and generally get a longer-than-usual glimpse of how people outside the Beltway actually live. Consequently, you can see the tumbleweeds blow through the streets of DC until about Labor Day.

    Now that Congress is back in town and focused on confirming a Chief Justice, dealing with the aftermath of Katrina, and finishing all the must-pass appropriations bills -- ideally before the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30th (they've finished just 2 of 12) -- things are already heating up quickly, so expect this space to get a bit busier as well.

    For example, three events worthy of note are scheduled for this Thursday (September 15th). First, at 10 am, the House Science Committee will revisit federal support for cyber security R&D in a hearing that will focus on the risk cyber vulnerabilities pose to critical industries in the U.S. and what the federal government can do to help. Scheduled to testify are:

  • Mr. Donald "Andy" Purdy, Acting Director, National Cyber Security Division, Department of Homeland Security;
  • Mr. John Leggate, Chief Information Officer, British Petroleum Inc.;
  • Mr. David Kepler, Corporate Vice President, Shared Services, and Chief Information Officer, The Dow Chemical Company;
  • Mr. Andrew Geisse, Chief Information Officer, SBC Services Inc.; and
  • Mr. Gerald Freese, Director, Enterprise Information Security, American Electric Power.
  • Presumably, the committee hopes to hear from the industry representatives how significant the cyber threat is to their industries what the Department of Homeland Security is doing about it. Hopefully the committee and the industry witnesses press DHS about its minimal efforts to engage in long-range research to counter the threats. The hearing, like all Science Committee hearings, will be webcast live (10 am to noon) and archived on the Science Committee website.

    Also on Thursday are two policy lunches on Capitol Hill relevant to federal support for R&D. The Forum on Technology and Innovation, an offshoot of the Council on Competitiveness and co-chaired by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), will hold a policy briefing on "Basic Research -- The Foundation of the Innovation Economy." Scheduled to speak are George Scalise, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association; Carl A. Batt, Director of the Cornell University/Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Partnership; and Brian Halla, Chairman of the Board and CEO of National Semiconductor. The event is scheduled from 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm, in the Senate Hart building, room 209. Readers in DC can register to attend here. It looks like the forum archives video of their events, so those unable to attend might want to check afterwards for the video stream.

    Over on the House side, unfortunately at exactly the same time, is a briefing put on by the House R&D Caucus (CRA is a member of the advisory committee for the caucus) focused on the R&D tax credit. The event is sponsored by the R&D Credit Coalition, which is chock full of industry representatives. From the invite:

    Microwaves, laptops, car airbags, life-saving medical technologies and even your MP3 player have one thing in common.

    U.S.-based research helped create these innovative products. Research makes our lives better.
    Come learn how we can encourage U.S.-based research through the strengthening and extension of the R&D Credit. See real examples of how research continues to improve America.

    The briefing will be in 2325 Rayburn House Office Building, from Noon - 1:30 pm. DC-area folks wishing to attend can find the RSVP info here (pdf). Apparently attendees can also sign-up to drive "the latest hydrogen fuel cell cars," which could be fun.

    The presence of so many U.S. manufacturers and companies on the panels and sponsor-cards for the briefings should add a little heft to the message of both events. I only wish that they hadn't been scheduled for almost exactly the same time....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:48 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Events | Policy | Security

    September 08, 2005

    Bay Area Industry, University, and Lab Group Urges Increased Fundamental IT Research

    In a letter (pdf) to John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium -- a group that includes representatives from IBM, HP, SIA, Lockheed-Martin and representatives from Bay Area universities and federal labs -- urged the Adminstration to address concerns about federal support for fundamental research in IT. The letter makes a case that should be very familiar to readers of this blog -- namely, that "at a time when the U.S. faces enormous challenges to its scientific and technological leadership, U.S. policy is headed in the wrong direction."

    For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is reducing university participation by: (1) classifying research, even in broad, enabling areas such as embedded software for wireless networks; (2) focusing more on shorter-term deliverables, and dramatically reducing its traditional levels of investment in high-risk, high-return research; and (3) evaluating success of projects on one-year time-scales. Between 1999 and 2004, DARPA's research funding at the top-ranked computer science departments (Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, and Stanford) declined by 38-54 percent. These trends are not limited to IT research, but are evident in a broad range of fields.
    In fact, beyond just the top schools, the overall DARPA investment in university-led IT research has declined precipitously since FY 2001, falling from $199 million to $108 million in FY 2004 (in constant dollars).

    The letter goes on to point out the burden placed on NSF as a result of DARPA's "retrenchment," noting the precipitous fall of proposal success rates and the impact that has on the peer-review process -- it becomes more conservative, resulting in proposals that tend not to be as high-risk and potentially high-return as we need to be supporting to keep the U.S. at the cutting-edge of technological innovation.

    BASIC makes two specific recommendations:

    1. DARPA should be given a clear mandate to dramatically increase its support of high-risk, unclassified, university-based research.
    2. The National Science Foundation should be given additional funding in the Administration's FY 2007 budget for a "Pioneer Award" for IT research.
    These ~$500k awards would be for "individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering approaches to major contemporary challenges." The coalition urges an immediate funding increase for NSF to fund at least 25-50 of these pioneer awards, with an eventual "steady state" of 100-150 awards.

    It's an interesting approach, and it makes essentially the same case we've been making about IT research -- and many other groups have been making about the physical sciences and engineering generally. But the more groups that make this case -- especially groups with significant industry membership like BASIC and the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation and the Council on Competitiveness and the American Electronics Association and the Telecommunication Industry Association and the Business Roundtable and many others, the harder it is for the Administration to ignore the message.

    You can read the full letter here (pdf).

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:09 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    August 26, 2005

    Wall Street Journal on H1-B Visas

    The Wall Street Journal editorial page leads today (subscription required) by arguing that Congress should lift the cap on H1-B visas and that the market should dictate skilled labor immigration policy. Let's see how much I can quote and claim a fair use exemption:

    [The H1-B visa cap means that] any number of fields dependent on high-skilled labor could be facing worker shortages: science, medicine, engineering, computer programming. It also means that tens of thousands of foreigners -- who've graduated from U.S. universities and applied for the visas to stay here and work for American firms -- will be shipped home to start companies or work for our global competitors.

    Congress sets the H-1B cap and could lift it as it has done in the past for short periods. Typically, however, that's a years-long political process and cold comfort to companies that in the near term may be forced to look outside the U.S. to hire. Rather than trying to guess the number of foreign workers our economy needs year-to-year, Congress would be better off removing the cap altogether and letting the market decide.

    Contrary to the assertions of many opponents of immigration, from Capitol Hill to CNN, the size of our foreign workforce is mainly determined by supply and demand, not Benedict Arnold CEOs or a corporate quest for "cheap" labor. As the nearby table shows, since the H-1B quota was first enacted in 1992 there have been several years amid a soft economy in which it hasn't been filled. When U.S. companies can find domestic workers to fill jobs, they prefer to hire them.

    And let's not forget that these immigrant professionals create jobs, as the founders of Intel, Google, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Computer Associates, Yahoo and numerous other successful ventures can attest. The Public Policy Institute of California did a survey of immigrants to Silicon Valley in 2002 and found that 52% of "foreign-born scientists and engineers have been involved in founding or running a start-up company either full-time or part-time."

    They also include this handy and condescending guide to H1-B visa figures:

    The August void has been filled, to some degree, by discussion about immigration of skilled and unskilled foreign workers; among other things, the governors of Arizona and New Mexico have declared "states of emergency" along their borders and a debate in Herndon, Virginia over the establishment of a day laborer gathering site has brought immigration into the spotlight in the Washington newspapers and has spilled over into the Virginia gubernatorial race.

    So if there is a coming national debate about immigration of both skilled and unskilled workers, the computing research community has to be ready to voice our side and claim a seat at the table.

    Posted by DanRothschild at 11:30 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    August 15, 2005

    MSNBC Highlights NCWIT and Computing's Image Problem

    A nice follow-up to last week's post on the "science gap" and some of the ways the computing community is dealing with its "image problem" can be found today over
    at MSNBC in a piece focusing on the new National Center for Women in IT (CRA and CRA-W form one "hub" of NCWIT -- other hubs include the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, ACM, The Colorado Coalition for Gender and IT, Georgia Tech, The Girl Scouts of the USA, and The University of California). The piece is called Fewer women find their way into tech and here's a tease:

    The number of women considering careers in information technology has dropped to its lowest level since the mid-1970s -- and one local nonprofit organization intends to do something about it.

    Based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) wants to know why women are losing interest in technology -- and what can be done to bring them back.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:25 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to CRA | Policy | R&D in the Press

    August 11, 2005

    Thoughts on the "Science Gap" and the Appeal of Computing

    The Washington Post's Politics Columnist (and resident contrarian) Robert Samuelson has an interesting Op-Ed in yesterday's edition dealing with the fact that the U.S. is producing "a shrinking share of the world's technological talent." After noting that there's a pay disparity between science and engineering PhDs and other "elites" like MBAs, doctors and lawyers that probably leads to the production disparity, Samuelson rightly points out that the simple fact that other countries are producing more S&E PhDs doesn't mean that we necessarily lose.

    Not every new Chinese or Indian engineer and scientist threatens an American, through outsourcing or some other channel. Actually, most don't. As countries become richer, they need more scientists and engineers simply to make their societies work: to design bridges and buildings, to maintain communications systems, and to test products. This is a natural process. The U.S. share of the world's technology workforce has declined for decades and will continue to do so. By itself, this is not dangerous.

    The dangers arise when other countries use new technologies to erode America's advantage in weaponry; that obviously is an issue with China. We are also threatened if other countries skew their economic policies to attract an unnatural share of strategic industries -- electronics, biotechnology and aerospace, among others. That is an issue with China, some other Asian countries and Europe (Airbus).

    What's crucial is sustaining our technological vitality. Despite the pay, America seems to have ample scientists and engineers. But half or more of new scientific and engineering PhDs are immigrants; we need to remain open to foreign-born talent. We need to maintain spectacular rewards for companies that succeed in commercializing new products and technologies. The prospect of a big payoff compensates for mediocre pay and fuels ambition. Finally, we must scour the world for good ideas. No country ever had a monopoly on new knowledge, and none ever will.

    Putting aside the fact that Samuelson apparently unwittingly puts his finger on the need for producing more US-born and naturalized S&E Phds -- after all, given current agency practices, they are essentially the only ones able to do the defense-related research that will preserve "America's advantage in weaponry" -- he's generally right on. The simple fact that other countries are producing S&E PhDs at rates higher than U.S. production isn't the worry. The worry is when America's global competition uses that newly-developed capacity for innovation and technological achievement to target sectors traditionally important to America's strategic industries. IT is one such crucial sector.

    As Samuelson points out, one way to insure the U.S. remains dominant, especially in a sector like IT, is to make sure the U.S. continues to attract the best minds in the world to come study and work here. Unfortunately, as we've noted frequently over the last couple of years, the environment for foreign students in the U.S. is not nearly as welcoming as it once was.

    Another is to nuture and grow our own domestically-produced talent in the discipline. But the challenges here are also tall. The most recent issue of the Communications of the ACM contains a very interesting (and on point) piece (pdf) about whether the computing community in the U.S. needs to do a better job of evangelizing what's truly exciting about the discipline to combat dropping enrollment rates and dropping interest in computing. The piece by Sanjeev Arora and Bernard Chazelle (thanks to Lance Fortnow for pointing it out on his excellent Computational Complexity blog), identifies the challenge:

    Part of the problem is the lack of consensus in the public at large on what computer science actually is. The Advanced Placement test is mostly about Java, which hurts the field by reducing it to programming. High school students know that the wild, exotic beasts of physics (black holes, antimatter, Big Bang) all roam the land of a deep science. But who among them are even aware that the Internet and Google also arose from an underlying science? Their list of computing "Greats" probably begins with Bill Gates and ends with Steve Jobs.
    We feel that computer science has a compelling story to tell, which goes far beyond spreadsheets, java applets, and the joy of mouse clicking (or evan Artificial Intelligence and robots). Universality, the duality between program and data, abstraction, recursion, tractability, virtualization, and fault tolerance are among its basic principles. No one would dispute that the very idea of computing is one of the greatest scientific and technological discoveries of the 20th century. Not only has it had huge societal and commercial impact but its conceptual significance is increasingly being felt in other sciences. Computer science is a new way of thinking.
    A recent study by the Pew Internet Project demonstrates that American teenagers are tied to computing technology: 89 percent send or read e-mail; 84 percent visit websites about TV, music or sport stars; 81 percent play online games; 76 percent read online news; 75 percent send or receive instant messages. Yet that increasing use of technology doesn't appear to make them any more interested in studying the science behind the technology. Maybe that's not surprising -- the fact that most teenagers probably have access to and use cars doesn't appear to be swelling the ranks of automotive engineers. Maybe there's a perception among bright teenagers that computing is a "solved" problem -- or as John Marburger, the President's science advisor put it at a hearing before the House Science Committee early in his tenure, maybe it's a "mature" discipline now, perhaps not worthy of the priority placed on other more "breakthrough" areas of study like nanotechnology. I think Arora and Chazelle do a good job of debunking that perception, demonstrating that computing is thick with challenges and rich science "indispensible to the nation" to occupy bright minds for years to come.

    But the perception persists. Computing has an image problem. Fortunately, the computing community isn't standing still in trying to address it (though maybe it's only just stood up). At the Computing Leadership Summit convened by CRA last February, a large and diverse group of stakeholders -- including all the major computing societies, representatives from PITAC, NSF and the National Academies, and industry reps from Google, HP, IBM, Lucent, Microsoft, Sun, TechNet and others (complete list and summary here (pdf)) -- committed to addressing two key issues facing computing: the current concerns of research funding support and computing's "image" problem. Task forces have been formed, chairmen named (Edward Lazowska of U of Washington heads the research funding task force; Rick Rashid of Microsoft heads the "image" task force), and the work is underway. As the summary of the summit demonstrates, no ideas or possible avenues are off the table.... We'll report more on the effort as it moves forward.

    As Arora, Chazelle and Samuelson all point out, the challenges are tall, but the stakes for the country (never mind the discipline) are even higher.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:00 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to People | Policy | R&D in the Press

    August 09, 2005

    ...Or you sleep with the dropped packets

    It will come as a surprise to no reader of this blog that gangs and organized crime have moved into cyberspace. And it will also come as no surprise that the media, legislative staff, and elected officials are usually a bit slow to grasp advances in technologies and their commensurate threats. (Let us not forget House Majority Leader Tom Delay's invective aimed at Justice Kennedy for the heinous practice of "[doing] his own research on the Internet." Which of the many "Internets" it was, Delay did not specify.)

    The tech world has been abuzz for some time now over the role of organized crime and street gangs on the internet. Finally, after much pushing and prodding, it appears that the media may be paying attention.

    Today's New York Times includes an article entitled "The Rise of the Digital Thugs."

    Stealing and selling data has become so lucrative, analysts say, that corporate espionage, identity theft and software piracy have mushroomed as profit centers for criminal groups. Analysts say cyberextortion is the newest addition to the digital Mafia's bag of tricks.

    "Generally speaking, it's pretty clear it's on the upswing, but it's hard to gauge how big of an upswing because in a lot of cases it seems companies are paying the money," said Robert Richardson, editorial director of the Computer Security Institute, an organization in San Francisco that trains computer security professionals. "There's definitely a group of virus writers and hackers in Russia and in the Eastern European bloc that the Russian mob has tapped into."


    Among 639 of the survey's respondents, the average loss from unauthorized data access grew to $303,234 in 2004 from $51,545 in 2003; average losses from information theft rose to $355,552 from $168,529. The respondents suffered total losses in the two categories of about $62 million last year. While many cyberextortionists and cyberstalkers may be members of overseas crime groups, several recent prosecutions suggest that they can also be operating solo and hail from much less exotic climes - like the office building just down the street.

    Additionally, a story in the March/April 2005 issue of Foreign Policy discusses the role of street gangs online and hints at their potential to bring gang-related financial dealings online. What starts as cybertagging will likely end up becoming something much worse as gangs increasingly become sophisticated business entities.

    This is something that the community needs to proactively address in Congress and in the states. Cybercrime is being committed by organized enterprises here and abroad and it costs businesses annually millions, if not billions, in lost revenues, protection money paid, theft, and loss of reputation.

    Posted by DanRothschild at 12:35 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    Bereft of Life, PITAC Rests in Peace... but still garners attention

    Gene Spafford passed on an article from VARBusiness which illustrates the technical media's attention to PITAC even two months after its expiry. The article speaks glowingly of PITAC, which it describes as "a group of technology-industry luminaries and academics assembled to act as a council [sic] to the president, Congress, and the federal agencies that are involved in [NITRD]." Adjectives used in describing the committee and its work include "insightful," "expert," "valuable." The article quotes Harris Miller, president of the ITAA, at some length:

    "It's really disappointing," says Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America.... "What you had was a group of leading people in the IT arena who came together to provide advice and thoughts on critical topics, and they'd really done some interesting and thoughtful work. It's unfortunate."

    Harris, whose background falls on the public-policy side, speculates that some of the group's recommendations may not have been taken well by the administration. Although he doesn't know exactly why the group was dissolved, he says that, "If you want honest advice, you have to realize it's sometimes not going to be praiseworthy." And while the group might someday be reinstated, Harris says he hasn't picked up on any indication that it will happen soon. "Obviously, the cybersecurity report had some pretty strong language about some shortcomings," Harris says. "But it wasn't like others weren't saying the same things."

    The bigger point here is this: while PITAC may be dormant, it is still getting extremely favorable attention from the tech and mainstream media. In addition, the media seem to be inclined to believe that a major reason for PITAC's current hibernation is its frank and well-founded criticisms of current policy. This is encouraging and, with sustained pressure, may mean that PITAC will someday return to doing its "insightful," "expert," "valuable" work.

    Posted by DanRothschild at 11:28 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    July 28, 2005

    Examiner Editorial on Math and Science Incentive Act

    The DC Examiner ran an editorial today using the Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005 (CRA blog entry here) to focus on the lack of emphasis that primary, secondary, and university education place on teaching science and math. The editorial praises the Act, introduced by Frank Wolf (R-VA) in the House and John Warner (R-VA) in the Senate, which would forgive up to $10,000 in student loan interest for post-college work or teaching in mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering.

    The piece notes, however, that this bill alone is insufficient:

    Last week, the NSF's congressionally-mandated Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering reported measurable but uneven gains in underrepresented groups. However, as Committee Chairman Robert Lichter put it, "bold, innovative and long-term initiatives are still needed, especially at the institutional level." Interest-free student loans are not quite in that league, but at least they're a start.
    Updates on the status of the bill will appear in the blog if and when it gains traction in committee (Education and the Workforce in the House and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in the Senate).

    Update posted June 29: The provisions of this bill have been rolled into the College Access and Opportunity Act, which was part of the higher education authorization. ACM has followed this issue in their blog.

    Posted by DanRothschild at 03:34 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    July 27, 2005

    Industry Group Calls for Increased Cyber Security R&D; Congress Hears Message from Former PITAC Members

    In a report released this week, the Cyber Security Industry Alliance -- a group consisting of information security software, hardware and service vendors -- called on Congress and the Administration to ramp up support for fundamental research in cyber security R&D and increase the prominence of cyber security at key federal agencies. CSIA's report, Federal Funding for Cyber Security R&D (pdf) reiterates the findings of the most recent Presidential IT Advisory Committee (PITAC) report (pdf) on the state of federal cyber security research, concluding that the overall investment in cyber security research is inadequate and too focused on the short-term. The CSIA report agrees with the PITAC report's recommendation to increase funding for long-term research in cyber security, noting a number of key security technologies -- firewalls, intrustion detection systems, fault tolerant networks, operating systems, cryptography and advanced authentication -- that bear the stamp of federally-sponsored, long-term research.

    The report differs from the PITAC report slightly in that it calls for the creation of a "designated entity" within DHS to coordinate the federal government's cyber security R&D effort; whereas, PITAC recommended that function remain within the interagency working group activity of the Networking and IT R&D program. CSIA rightly points out that the IWG of NITRD has very little actual influence on priority-setting at the agencies. Instead, they recommend that the new Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security at DHS serve as "the logical choice to drive the prioritization of requirements for research and development." My only concern with that recommendation is that DHS hasn't yet bought into the idea that long-term research efforts should be a priority. DHS's own budget for cyber security R&D remains a paltry $18 million for FY 05, out of an overall science and technology budget of just over a billion dollars. And of that $18 million, barely $2 million could realistically be described as "long-term" research efforts. (DHS's lack of priority for cyber security R&D has been a frequent topic here).

    Otherwise, the CSIA report marches in lockstep with the PITAC report on cyber security R&D (pdf) issued back in March. We strongly endorsed that report and I'm pretty thrilled with the industry report issued this week.

    Coincidentally, two former PITAC members (former because PITAC has been "disbanded" since June 1, 2005...) were on the Hill yesterday to participate in a briefing on cyber security R&D hosted by the Congressional Research and Development Caucus and put together by IEEE and IEEE-CS. Former PITAC Subcommittee on Cyber Security R&D Chair Tom Leighton (Chief Scientist and Co-Founder of Akamai) and former PITAC member Gene Spafford "Spaf" (Professor and Director of CERIAS at Purdue University) told the assembled congressional staffers, science community folks and assorted press about the problems we face in the cyber security arena and what PITAC recommended.

    The briefing was the latest in a series of briefings on the PITAC report and follows a number of hearings on the scope of the cyber security challenge. In April, for example, Spaf and Leighton, along with former PITAC co-Chair Ed Lazowska, participated in a number of focused briefings for Hill staff on the PITAC report. The House Science Committee, as well as the House Homeland Security committee have both held numerous hearings on the subject over the last several years. Yet the extent of the problems we face -- the risk posed by cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, the exposure internet users have to fraud and abuse because of security vulnerabilities, the cost to industry due to cyber extortion and malicious acts -- still appears to shock to congressional staff. I'm not sure they really believe that companies have paid "protection" money to criminals who threatened to take down their web presence with massive distributed denial of service attacks. I'm not sure they really believe that "phishing" and "pharming" attacks are real threats to individual internet users. I'm not sure they understand that IT systems are in the control loop of just about every piece of critical infrastructure in the nation and are vulnerable. I think many believe that the impact of a concerted cyber attack would be limited to something like Amazon being unavailable for the day.

    So despite the reports and briefings and hearings, we in the community haven't done a great job breaking through the noise around homeland security and conveying the importance of cyber security, or by extension cyber security R&D. In part, I think this is because the homeland security debate is really dominated by the specter of a nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) attack (perhaps rightly so). The idea that a cyber attack could exist on the same scale as any one of the big three isn't so easily embraced by staff. Yet in terms of cost to industry and cost to government, the daily onslaught of cyber attacks must add up to dollar losses that exceed even some of the more dramatic NBC scenarios. But the investment in research to mitigate those losses, or prevent them entirely, pales in comparison to the investments in NBC research at DHS.

    In any case, the continued efforts of folks like Spaf and Leighton, and industry partners like the members of CSIA and ITAA, are helping to educate members of Congress and their staff to the challenges in the area. And, for better or worse, the growing frequency of breeches of customer data held by credit card companies, banks, universities and others is forcing Congress to climb the learning curve....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:57 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | Security

    Cerf in WSJ: America Gasps for Breath in the R&D Marathon

    Turing Award winner Vint Cerf and ITAA head Harris Miller have a fantastic op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal raising concerns about US competitiveness in light of a declining federal R&D budget. The article is behind the WSJ pay wall, but can be viewed online for the next seven days here. Some snippets:

    America will soon find its grip on the levers of international commerce slipping as we turn our backs on a proud tradition of technology innovation. The stewards of our national destiny are busily tightening the tap on the federal R&D budget, the most important source of funding for programs that seek to answer fundamental questions of science and technology.


    In the 1960s and '70s, a collection of academics and private-sector technologists, including a co-author of this piece, used findings funded by the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (now DARPA), to participate in implementation of the first wide-area packet switched network (the ARPANET) and the subsequent integrated collection of packet-switched networks (the Internet).

    Now DARPA officials have revealed a shift in focus away from its history of open-ended long-range research, which typically has been performed in universities and nonprofit institutions. According to recent news reports, DARPA funding for university researchers in computer science has fallen from $214 million to $123 million from 2001 to 2004. Moreover, the focus of DARPA R&D is more near-term and more immediately defense-oriented than before. While this is defensible in some ways, the largest impacts of long-term research funded in the past by DARPA have been in areas that have wider or dual application to defense and the civilian sector.

    The U.S. is already lagging behind in R&D funding. Our total national spending on R&D is 2.7% of our GDP, and now ranks sixth in the world, in relative terms, behind Israel (4.4%), Sweden (3.8%), Finland (3.4%), Japan (3.0%) and Iceland (2.9%). The federal government's share of total national R&D spending has fallen from 66% in 1964 to 25%.

    Some of the outright cuts in the president's proposed R&D budget include the following:

  • The Department of Energy's Office of Science would see its R&D funding fall 4.5% to $3.2 billion.
  • The Department of Agriculture would see its R&D funding decline 14.6% to $2.1 billion.
  • Funding for all three multi-agency R&D initiatives would decline in FY 2006, a category that includes programs such as the National Nanotechnology Initiative and the Networking and Information Technology R&D initiative.
    The proposed cuts come at a time when other nations have fixed their sights firmly on overtaking our technological lead, especially in information technology. For those of us in industry and academia, this shift in policy represents a major detour in the marathon race for global economic leadership.
  • The piece goes on to quote a number of indicators -- many of the same ones cited in the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation's influential Benchmarks of our Innovation Future report -- that show that while the U.S. remains in the leadership position in innovation and R&D investments, all of the trendlines are slanting the wrong way.
    The facile solution is to turn to private industry and academia to make up the difference. But R&D funding from private industry is currently growing above inflation. It is susceptible to general economic cycles, and by its nature it is focused on the here and now. Meanwhile, many academic institutions are battling lagging enrollment and turning to unconventional fund-raising means merely to stay afloat. The difficulty in obtaining visas for foreign scientists has also restricted an important source of talent in the research community.

    In a very real sense, today's R&D agenda determines where America will find itself in the future. The benefits of vigorous, federally funded academic R&D programs reaped by American society at large have been enormous. Our domestic and global economies thrive on the results of such work. Private sector programs alone cannot produce comparable results, in part owing to an ethical obligation to deliver bottom-line business results for their stockholders. The U.S. government needs a long-term strategy for continued economic growth. A strong and thriving academic R&D program is critical to that strategy. To choose otherwise is a recipe leading to irrelevance and decline.

    I'm thrilled to see this piece in the WSJ today....

    I'll have a bit more comment on this later when I have a few minutes, but I wanted to get the pointer to the article up asap. Read the whole thing, while it's still available!

    Update: The article is finding it's way around Congress. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) circulated the piece in a "Dear Colleague" letter along with this text:

    Once again, high technology leaders are warning that declining federal investments in research and development are allowing the rest of the world to catch up. This isn't a problem that can be blamed on Europe or developing economies in Asia. It's a problem that we're creating. If we're to maintain our economic leadership for future generations, we need to increase the federal commitment to R&D instead of cutting it.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:52 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    July 19, 2005

    Gates on CS/CE Enrollment and Funding has coverage of the opening of Microsoft Research's sixth annual Faculty Summit, a "a unique opportunity for faculty members and Microsoft researchers, architects, and executives to collectively discuss a vision for the future of computing." Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates had some interesting comments to open the event (along with ACM past-President Maria Klawe). Here's a sample:

    But today, Gates and Klawe focused on the present; specifically, how to encourage more students to enroll in computer-science programs so that the industry will have enough qualified engineers to work on those future innovations.

    Klawe presented some grim figures: The popularity of computer science as a major has fallen more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2004, she said, even though the software engineering and several related jobs will be among the fastest growing through 2012.

    Some of that slack might be taken up by girls if they didn't have such a seeming aversion to the field. Klawe said participation of women in computing has gone down over the past 25 years, with only around 15 percent of computer-science Ph.D.s going to women.

    When Klawe asked Gates what could be done, he seemed to flounder. When he responded, "There's no magic answer. Maybe get women in the field to be more visible?" Klawe hooted him down.

    "No, that's not the answer," she said. "We all do it, but we're not getting anywhere with it."

    "You lose them at about five stages," Gates agreed. "And, if there aren't enough women in field, it makes it less attractive, even if everything else is good. There's a critical-mass element to this."

    The decline in federal funding for academic research and graduate education doesn't help, the two agreed. Money from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) dropped by half last year.

    "The biggest payoff for federal funding or research is in computer science," Gates said, pointing to the economic and technology boom of the 1990s. "Department of Defense money was one of the elements that allowed us to turn this into one of the greatest success periods the U.S. has ever had."

    Computer science could fuel another such boom in the next 10 years, according to Gates.

    "Computer science is becoming the toolkit for all the sciences," he said. As all disciplines become more data-driven, they're turning to computer science to make sense of the huge amounts of data. "Computer science helps model the world," he added.

    Newsday also has coverage of the event, focusing on the declining enrollment in CS/CE question:
    Speaking to hundreds of university professors, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said Monday that he's baffled more students don't go into computer science.

    Gates said that even if young people don't know that salaries and job openings in computer science are on the rise, they're hooked on so much technology _ cell phones, digital music players, instant messaging, Internet browsing _ that it's puzzling why more don't want to grow up to be programmers.

    "It's such a paradox," Gates said. "If you say to a kid, 'Yeah, what are the 10 coolest products you use that your parents are clueless about, that you're good at using,' I don't think they're going to say, 'Oh, you know, it's this new breakfast cereal. And I want to go work in agriculture and invent new cereals or something.' ... I think 10 out of 10 would be things that are software-driven."


    Gates said computer scientists need to do a better job of dispelling that myth and conveying that it's an exciting field.

    "How many fields can you get right out of college and define substantial aspects of a product that's going to go out and over 100 million people are going to use it?" Gates said. "We promise people when they come here to do programming ... they're going to have that opportunity, and yet we can't hire as many people as we'd like."

    Both pieces are chock full of interesting quotes and worth reading. We'll have more on how the computing research community is organizing to take on these issues soon, so watch this space....

    Update: Here's the transcript from Gates and Klawe's opening remarks. And here's a video.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:20 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | People | Policy | R&D in the Press

    July 15, 2005

    Science Funding's Unintended Consequences

    There's an interesting article by Sallie Baliunas at Tech Central Station today on research funding. The piece notes a recent Nature article that suggests scientific misbehavior might be linked to "perceptions of inequities in the [science] resource distribution process" and connects that with tendency among federal funding agencies to shift emphasis from basic to applied research.

    Since 1970, total federal non-medical research spending as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product has declined by about one-third. No formal history has tracked research misbehavior, leaving it impossible to say if ongoing stresses on budget allocation systems would partly explain current misbehavior.

    Continual budget pressures, though, are transforming U.S. research and development. Funding agencies now weigh more heavily a proposal's aim toward practical applications, especially those with near-term payoff.

    The rest of the article focuses on this trend, citing as an example PITAC's 1999 report "Investing in our Future" that noted that federal funding in computing research was "excessively focused on near-term problems" (a problem that persists) and providing examples of the sort of serendipitous discovery that doesn't occur in that environment.

    Though I'm not sure what to make of the linkage between this change in focus and scientific misbehavior, the article's point on the real cost of the push towards applied research is well-taken. "Questions of how funding is distributed are as critical as how much funding."

    Here's the whole thing.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:59 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy | R&D in the Press

    July 13, 2005

    High End Computing Remains a "Priority" in Administration's FY 07 Plans

    [Back from vacation. Blogging resumes...]

    The Administration has released its annual guidance (pdf) to Federal agencies instructing them on the areas of research and development they should make priorities in their forthcoming FY 2007 budget requests to the White House. The memo, a joint production of the White House Office of Science and Technology and budget gatekeepers, the Office of Management and Budget, "provides general guidance for setting priorities among R&D programs, interagency R&D efforts that should receive special focus in agency budget requests, and reiteration of the R&D Investment Criteria that agencies should use to improve investment decisions for and management of their R&D programs."

    As it was last year, High End Computing and Networking R&D remains a priority for the Adminstration, even at the expense of other items within the Networking and Information Technology R&D portfolio. HEC joins Homeland Security R&D, the National Nanotechnology Initiative, Priorities in the Physical Sciences, Understanding Complex Biological Systems, and Energy and Environment as focal points in the Administration's R&D portfolio. Here's the relevant language from the computing section:

    While the importance of each of the Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) program areas continues, investments in high-end computing and cyber infrastructure R&D should be given higher relative priority due to their potential for broad impact. Agency plans in high-end computing must be consistent with the 2004 Federal Plan for High-End Computing and should aggressively focus on supercomputing capability, capacity and accessibility issues by emphasizing coordination, leveraging the efforts of all agencies and, where appropriate, use of coordinated multi-agency investments. Advanced networking research (including test-beds) on hardware and software for secure, reliable, distributed computing environments and tools that provide the communication, analysis and sharing of very large amounts of information will accelerate discovery and enable new technological advances. Agency requests should reflect these program priorities by reallocating funds from lower priority efforts. Agencies supporting R&D in these and all NITRD areas are expected to participate in interagency planning through the NSTC to guide future investments. Reflecting the importance of cyber security, agencies should continue to work through the NSTC to generate a detailed gap analysis of R&D funding in this area.
    Even though the FY 2006 budget process is still unsettled, this memo gives a good peek at the Administration's thinking for FY 2007. Not surprisingly, the memo implies that next year's budget will likely be as flat as this year, noting that
    Agencies may propose new, high-priority activities, but these requests should identify potential offsets by elimination or reductions in less effective or lower priority programs or programs where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate.
    So, it will again be critically important that the computing community work with agencies to make sure that the right priorities are struck in this zero-sum game....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:29 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy

    June 27, 2005

    Commerce seeks to change "deemed export" regs

    The Bureau of Industry and Security at the US Department of Commerce has promulgated an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to change American policy regarding deemed exports. A deemed export occurs when a foreign national "uses" technology subject to export restrictions while in the United States. The proposed rule would make a number of significant changes:

    • Deemed export applications would be evaluated not just on country of citizenship and permanent residence, but on country of birth as well;
    • Expand the definition of “use” of controlled technologies to any form of instruction on their operation, including access to manuals and, by a conservative reading, visual access to a machine or source code; and
    • Exclude from the fundamental research exemption all research conducted under government sponsorship that is subject, either by regulation or prudential practice, to prepublication review.

    Clearly, these changes would have a significant impact on the way that fundamental research is conducted in the United States. On Sunday, CRA submitted these comments to inform rulemakers about our objections to these proposals.

    There are a number of problems with these proposals. First, it is unjust and anti-democratic to judge people based on their country of birth. The country of birth rule would create the perception that America is hostile towards foreign scientist and students at a time when their presence here is vital to our economy and national security. Worse, it would create castes of citizens so that, for instance, some British citizens would be more equal than others.

    Second, the rule changes are confusing, especially as they relate to the word "use." The report from Commerce's Inspector General that gave rise to these proposed rule changes dilutes the definition of "use" to the point that it lacks meaning. Even seeing a machine could count as "use" under the report's rules -- but the burden of determining when "use" occurs would fall on researchers and their institutions.

    Third, there would be tremendous costs to researchers, their institutions, and the Department of Commerce if these rules pass. The number of deemed export applications would skyrocket and institutions -- still trying to understand SEVIS compliance rules -- would have another bureaucratic hurdle to jump, which is especially detrimental as Congress continues to cut research funding.

    Fourth, the proposal shows a misunderstanding of editorial review and how scientific research works. The proposal would remove the fundamental research exemption from any research that is internally vetted prior to publications. It is not hard to see that this turns editorial review on its head: the reason review takes place is to double-check that nothing sensitive is published, not because researchers expect to release sensitive information.

    Fifth and finally, we have not seen any credible evidence that a problem exists. Much of the information protected by export rules is freely available on the internet, and some technologies -- such as computers that exceed 190,000 MTOPS -- are hardly cutting edge. We are unaware of any evidence that the current regulations create any serious threats to America's ability to control the flow of sensitive information that would be remedied by the new provisions.

    The American economy and our national security depend on the work done here by foreign scientists, engineers, and graduate students. As then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice wrote in November 2001:

    The key to maintaining US technological preeminence is to encourage open and collaborative basic research. The linkage between the free exchange of ideas and scientific innovation, prosperity, and national security is undeniable.

    We couldn't agree more.

    Keep your eyes on this blog for news as it breaks. We don't know when these rules will be accepted or rejected -- it could be weeks or it could be months -- but we will blog about it when a decision comes down.

    Posted by DanRothschild at 03:00 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    Grokster Loses Unanimously

    The Grokster decision is out. USACM has been following the case (and joined an amicus brief (pdf) on the case themselves) and is one of a whole bunch of sites with info on the impact of today's ruling against Grokster (and StreamCast) on technology and innovation.

    My non-lawyerly, first reading of the ruling (pdf) is that the "loss" for Grokster in the case may not be the blow to innovation technologists were concerned it could have been. The court seems to have ruled against the software companies not because they thought the safe harbor established in the Betamax case was too broad (Betamax established the concept of relief from secondary liability for companies that produce products that could be used to infringe copyright if there are "substantial non-infringing uses" of the technology); rather, the court felt that these two defendants had actively induced the infringement and profited from it. Here's what the ruling says:

    We adopt [the inducement rule] here, holding that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting is use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties. We are, of course, mindful of the need to keep from trenching on regular commerce or discouraging the development of technologies with lawful and unlawful potential. Accordingly, just as Sony [the Betamax case] did not find intentional inducement despite the knowledge of the VCR manufacturer that it's device could be used to infringe...mere knowledge of infringing potential or of actual infringing uses would not be enough here to subject a distributor to liability. Nor would ordinary acts incident to product distribution, such as offering customers technical support or product updates, support liability in themselves. The inducement rule, instead, premises liability on purposeful, culpable expression and conduct, and thus does nothing to compromise legitimate commerce or discourage innovation having a lawful promise.
    There's much more informed discussion of the ruling over at the SCOTUSblog, including the participation of computer scientist Ed Felten (who normally lives at Freedom-to-Tinker).

    Update: Felten has some deeper analysis than mine with reasons to be concerned.

    Update: Cameron Wilson has more deep thoughts (and USACM's press release on the decision) at the USACM Tech Blog.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:05 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    June 24, 2005

    FCW Covers PITAC's Expiration

    Aliya Sternstein of Federal Computer Week has a piece today on the demise of the latest iteration of PITAC. It's a good summary of the situation, which we've covered in this space previously. Plus, it's got a good quote from Dan Reed, the incoming Chair of CRA:

    "People are a little demoralized about the fact that PITAC hasn’t been renewed," Reed said.

    It would be unfortunate if PITAC does not get the chance to review the nation's IT research, Reed said. "Six years in the information technology business is a lifetime, and it seems opportune," he said today. "My personal hope is that PITAC will be reconstituted quickly."

    Read the whole thing here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 04:32 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy | R&D in the Press

    June 17, 2005

    PITAC Issues Computational Science Report

    The last report of the most recent incarnation of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee -- now expired -- has been released. Computational Science: Ensuring America's Competitiveness is the committee's in-depth look at the state of the federal R&D effort in computational science -- an effort, the committee found, that is hobbled by "inadequate and outmoded structures within the Federal government and the academy."

    The committee's principal finding:

    Computational science is now indispensable to the solution of complex problems in every sector, from traditional science and engineering domains to such key areas as national security, public health, and economic innovation. Advances in computing and connectivity make it possible to develop computational models and capture and analyze unprecedented amounts of experimental and observational data to address problems previously deemed intractable or beyond imagination. Yet, despite the great opportunities and needs, universities and the Federal government have not effectively recognized the strategic significance of computational science in either their organizational structures or their research and educational planning. These inadequacies compromise U.S. scientific leadership, economic competitiveness, and national security.
    In order to address the inadequacies, the committee made two principal recommendations: universities and the Federal government need to make "fundamental, structural changes" to remove the boundaries that inhibit multidisciplinary science; and the community (led by the National Academies) must develop and maintain a "multi-decade roadmap for computational science and the fields that require it."

    The committee also found that the "computational science ecosystem" is unbalanced, especially in the area of research in enabling software and applications. "[T]he imbalance forces researchers to build atop inadequate and crumbling foundations rather than on a modern, high-quality software base. The result is greatly diminished productivity for both researchers and computing systems." The committee recommends building an interconnected environment of software sustainability centers -- whose charge is "to harden, document, support, and maintain vital computational science software whose useful lifetime may be measured in decades" -- national data and software repositories, and national high-end computing centers that are "readily accessible and available to researchers with the most demanding computing requirements."

    Finally, the committee recommends "long-term, balanced R&D investments in software, hardware, data, networking, and human resources." The committee finds the current federal effort is "inadequately investing in robust, easy-to-use software, an excessive focus on peak hardware performance, limited investments in architectures well matched to computational science needs, and inadequate support for data infrastructure." The Federal government must rebalance the computational science R&D portfolio to invest in a new generation of software that can reduce the "complexity and time to solution" and create accurate models and simulations; design new hardware architectures "that can deliver larger fractions of peak hardware performance on key applications"; and, focus on sensor- and data-intensive applications.

    The universality of computational science is its intellectual strength. It is also its political weakness. Because all research domains benefit from computational science but none is solely defined by it, the discipline has historically lacked the cohesive, well-organized community of advocates found in other disciplines. As a result, the United States risks losing its leadership and opportunities to more nimble international competitors. We are now at a pivotal point, with generation-long consequences for scientific leadership, economic competitiveness, and national security if we fail to act with vision and commitment. We must undertake a new, large-scale, long-term partnership among government, academia, and industry to ensure that the United States possesses the computational science expertise and resources to assure continuing leadership, prosperity, and security in the 21st century.
    The report was produced by the PITAC Subcommittee on Computational Science, which was chaired by Dan Reed, Vice-Chancellor and CIO of UNC, Director of the Institute for Renaissance Computing, and incoming chair of CRA. The report is here (pdf).

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:11 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    June 07, 2005

    PITAC Allowed to Expire

    After two productive years in which they produced three important reports on various aspects of the federal IT R&D portfolio, the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) ceased to be on June 1st after the President's executive order establishing the most recent committee expired and the committee member's terms were not renewed. The committee had completed three reports requested by the Administration -- on IT in the health care sector (pdf), cyber security R&D (pdf), and the state of computational science (pdf) -- and appeared ready to take what they had learned in that process and apply it to a review of the overall federal IT R&D portfolio when their charter lapsed. Despite prodding from a number of different sources, including questions at a recent hearing by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) to the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Marburger, the President opted to allow the review to stop and the committee memberships to expire.

    This is very disappointing for the computing research community, which endured two years after President Bush was elected in which the statutorily-madated committee was chartered but was without members (the President didn't name the most recent PITAC members until May 28, 2003). PITAC performs an important cross-check on the federal Networking and Information Technology R&D program -- the overall federal IT R&D program -- serving as a largely independent review of the interagency planning process. The most recent PITAC was directed to review slivers of that process and in doing so, learned that the federal IT R&D landscape had changed considerably since the last "full" review of the program by the last PITAC in 1999.

    At the last full meeting of the most recent committee, there appeared to be consensus among the members that because work on the three reports requested by the President was then complete, it was time to turn the committee's attention to the full portfolio, executing their statutory obligation to assess the overall federal investment in IT R&D and applying the lessons they'd learned in the process of completing the three requested reports. The last report on the overall portfolio, the '99 PITAC report Investing in Our Future, found that the nation was considerably underinvested in IT R&D given the "spectacular" return on the federal investment in long-term IT R&D. That committee's recommendations included specific funding levels for the program through FY 2004 -- funding levels that the federal government has never met (the FY 2006 budget request is still $527 million short of the PITAC recommendation for FY 04).

    There is undoubtedly concern within the Administration whether a new review of the overall IT R&D portfolio would find similar problems with the current federal effort, perhaps recommending funding increases that would prove politically challenging in the current budget environment. But as we've noted here frequently, the federal landscape for computing research has changed dramatically since that last review -- agencies that have typically been strong supporters of university computing research have significantly curtailed that research, other agencies have stepped up their investments considerably, policy changes at agencies across the board have affected the character of the research that's funded. The most recent PITAC reports show the evidence of all of those changes. It not only makes sense for PITAC to undertake a review of the overall portfolio, it is, in fact, what PITAC was chartered by Congress (in the original 1991 High Performance Computing Act) to do. This point is emphasized in the High Performance Computing Authorization Act of 2005, already approved by the House, which would require that PITAC undertake such a review every two years.

    So, I hope that the President acts quickly to either re-charter the committee and reinstate the current members (who have climbed a steep learning curve in learning about the intricacies of federal IT R&D portfolio) or to move swiftly to name new members of equal stature to the committee to undertake the review of the overall effort that's sorely needed. As Congress continues to demonstrate its concern with the current state of computer science research in the U.S., the one advisory body most well-suited to the task of assessing that state shouldn't be allowed to lapse.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:18 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    May 26, 2005

    HASC Believes DARPA Should Focus on Short-term Development

    So, while the Senate Armed Services Committee generally has been very supportive of the idea that there's much value to the nation and the Department of Defense in a DARPA that funds long-term, risky research, the House Armed Services Committee hasn't been quite so enamored with that position. In the committee report accompanying the House version of the FY 2006 Defense Authorization Act (HR 1815) that passed the House yesterday, the committee lays out its short-term vision for the agency:

    Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been a leader and innovator in basic scientific research and defense science and technology for decades. Originally chartered to prevent technological surprise, DARPA promotes revolutionary technology innovations by focusing on high-risk, high-payoff technologies that offer new military capabilities and complement the military departments' nearer-term science and technology programs. The committee has supported ever increasing funding for DARPA as the only agency not tied to a military service mission and the demands of a service budget to produce quick results. Recognizing that some of DARPA's high-risk programs may not be successful, the committee encourages DARPA to continue its focus on the development, demonstration, and transition of high-risk, high-payoff technology to the military departments and to U.S. industry.

    At the same time, the committee recognizes that the pursuit of the more futuristic technologies must be tempered by the hard fact that we are a nation at war and our armed forces have immediate needs for innovative technical solutions across a variety of disciplines. The committee commends DARPA on its quick reaction support and fielding of advanced innovative technologies to meet emerging critical operational needs of our forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere in support of the global war on terrorism.

    The committee believes DARPA should continue to redirect some of its more futuristic efforts to the solution of today's combat problems. Those immediate needs involving detection, sensing, protection, surveillance, and a host of other issues that may well be `DARPA hard' problems that the Agency should be examining, rather than some of the more futuristic efforts in the DARPA program. Therefore, although the committee is pleased with the overall progress in the defense science and technology program, the committee believes that increased priority must continue to be given to the nearer-term requirements of the combatant commanders and U.S. armed forces in the field.

    As we, and others, have noted, DARPA's long-range vision and willingness to place big bets in university-led, high-risk, high-reward areas of research have have been responsible for a large share of the innovations that drive the U.S. economy and have made our military the most lethal and effective fighting force in history. This vision survived the Vietnam War and the constant pressure of the Cold War. There's no doubt that DARPA can do much to contribute to solving today's combat problems, and it may indeed be appropriate for the agency's focus to shift in that direction. But it is critically important that there remain a home for long-range research vision focused on defense problems somewhere in the federal research portfolio. Failing to invest in the future leaves the country at the risk of suffering the technological surprise DARPA was originally chartered to prevent.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:31 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    May 24, 2005

    Chronicle of Higher Ed Article on Computer Science Hearing, and Some Thoughts

    The Chronicle of Higher Ed today has coverage (free until 6/2 apparently) of the May 12th House Science Committee hearing on "The Future of Computer Science Research in the U.S." that's generally pretty good. But it makes an odd point at the end that doesn't accurately represent what went on at the hearing. Here's the paragraph:

    [DARPA Director Tony] Tether challenged Mr. [Tom] Leighton [, co-founder and Chief Scientist at Akamai Industries] and Mr. [Bill] Wulf [, President of the National Academies of Engineering] to supply examples of important projects that the agency has refused to support, and they did not immediately offer any. That shows, Mr. Tether said, that the agency's priorities are properly placed.
    At the end of the 2 hour, 19 minute hearing, in response the committee's very last question, Tether told the panel that in dealing with the university computer science community he saw "a lot of hand-wringing" but didn't get many "actionable ideas" from the community. Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert then turned to Wulf and Leighton and asked if they could take that as a challenge and provide a list to the committee and to Tether. Both responded that they'd be happy to and Boehlert noted that he'd make that part of the post-hearing questions that will be put to the witnesses (and noted the challenge in his press release).

    I understand both Wulf and Leighton are eager to respond to the challenge. Leighton told me after the hearing that he was getting ready to wave the PITAC report on Cyber Security R&D as a start (the focus of much of his testimony), which contains specific recommendations in 10 areas of cyber security research currently under-supported. Both Leighton and Wulf will be reaching out to the community to craft a list that will be most useful to DARPA and DOD and most responsive to the committee's request (which hasn't yet been received, as far as I know). There are plenty of resources from which to draw -- PITAC's Cyber Report, Defense Science Board, CRA's Grand Challenges conferences, National Academies reports, etc.

    The idea that either Wulf or Leighton were dumbstruck by the question is just wrong, and the idea that the community lacks an adequate response to the committee's challenge is equally wrong.

    Otherwise, the article does a decent job of summarizing the hearing. From my perspective, the hearing was incredibly useful. I could spend a lot of space here dissecting the testimony of Marburger and Tether -- though frequent readers of the blog won't need my dissection to spot the points of contention in both sets of testimony. Tether essentially argued in his oral testimony (and half of his written testimony) that DARPA has reduced its funding for university-led computer science research because maybe it's focusing on multi-disciplinary research now; something Tether apparently deduced by looking at university web pages, he says. But in the appendix to his testimony, he provides the response to the same question he gave to the Senate Armed Services Committee, compiled by the DARPA comptroller, which includes these five reasons for the shift:
    1. A change in emphasis in the high performance computing program from pure research to supercomputer construction;
    2. Significant drop in unclassified information security research;
    3. End of TIA-related programs in FY 2004 due to congressional decree, a move that cost universities "a consistent $11-12 million per year" in research funding;
    4. Research into intelligent software had matured beyond the research stage into integration;
    5. Classified funding for computer science-related programs increased markedly between FY 2001 and FY 2004, but Universities received none of this funding.

    From my perspective, having the DARPA director stand before the committee (literally) and affirm that the agency has significantly reduced its support for university-led, long-range computing research was very useful. The community can raise concerns about DARPA's priorities, but ultimately it's up to the Director and the Administration to set them as they see fit. What's more important to me is that the impact of DARPA's (now undisputed) withdrawal on the overall IT R&D enterprise be adequately assessed and addressed. The gap that DARPA leaves is substantial -- both in terms of monetary support and in losing a funding model that has contributed so much to the extraordinarily productive environment for innovation that is the computing research community. NSF is great at what it does -- funding individual investigators and research infrastructure at universities -- but there was substantial value from DARPA's approach of focusing on particular problems and nourishing communities of researchers to address them. Without DARPA, that approach is largely absent in the federal IT R&D portfolio.

    It was also useful for the Science Committee to get exposure to the concerns the community has had with DARPA over the last several years. Tether's performance -- literally standing before the committee (I staffed a lot of hearings for the House Science Committee under two different chairmen and never once saw a witness rise before the committee and wander around the hearing room while testifying...), delivering remarks 15 minutes over the 5 minute time limit imposed by the committee, and most importantly, being largely unresponsive to the three questions the committee posed to him prior to the hearing -- confirmed to the committee Chair and staff that the concerns the community had shared with them had merit. The result is that the committee intends to remain engaged on this issue, which is to the community's great benefit, I think.

    The committee plans to proceed with the issue in the coming months in non-hearing venues. I'll bring you developments as this moves forward during the summer and fall.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:07 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy | R&D in the Press

    May 23, 2005

    SASC Expresses Concerns with DOD Computer Science Research

    Responding to concerns from the community (pdf), two reports, a hearing, and a set of answers from DARPA that all suggested DOD has curtailed much of its university-led long-term efforts in computing, the Senate Armed Services Committee included language in their version of the FY 2006 Defense Authorization bill that calls on DOD to review "the long-term practical and policy implications of the Department's investment strategy for computing research" and report back to Congress as part of the agency's FY 2007 budget request. Here's the language from the committee report accompanying the legislation:

    Department of Defense computer science research
    The committee is concerned that the Department of Defense is reducing its investment in long-term computer science research, without due consideration of the potential negative ramifications of such reductions on the development of next generation networking, information technology, and information assurance systems on which our military will depend in the future. The committee notes that the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee and the Defense Science Board have both released reports this year that call attention to the potential impacts of reduced funding on the part of the Department in fundamental computer science.

    The committee directs the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology to carefully examine the long-term practical and policy implications of the Department’s investment strategy for computing research and to provide the outcome of this review to the congressional defense committees with the fiscal year 2007 budget request. The review should include an explanation of the Department’s role in the overall federal computing research portfolio and a review of the Department’s structure and investment plan for these programs.

    The full Senate is slated to take up the bill immediately after the chaos surrounding judicial confirmations subsides.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 04:29 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    May 19, 2005

    Norm Augustine, Frank Wolf, and John Marburger on the Future of US Competitiveness

    Retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, testified today before a House Committee on Education and Workforce hearing on "Challenges to American Competitiveness in Math and Science." Augustine, who has also been the former Undersecretary of the Army and a past-chairman of the National Academies of Engineering, put together a great written statement from which I thought I'd cite some snippets.

    In addressing the future quality of life in America one cannot help but notice warnings of what appears to be an impending Perfect Storm. The elements which underlie this possibility are, first, the pervading importance of education and research in the fields of science and technology to America's standard of living, and the disrepair in which we find many of our efforts. Second, the precipitousness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost. Third, the prolonged period of time it takes to recover once a lead has in fact been lost, if indeed it can be regained at all.

    What, then, must America do? There is but one answer: We must compete. And we must do so while suffering a disadvantage in the cost of labor. We must be more innovative than ever before; we must have a vastly better K-12 educational system then we now have; we must unburden our companies from excessive regulation, litigation and health-care costs; we must significantly increase our federal investment in research.

    In between the ellipsis there, he makes a compelling case that the US is at real risk for ceding it's dominant position in science and technology and the benefits that leadership accrues. I've uploaded the testimony (pdf) (it doesn't seem to be on the committee site yet), so read the whole thing for more details. His testimony lists eight specific recommendations for addressing the problems:
  • Bringing the "free enterprise system to K-12 education";
  • Provide K-12 teaching credentials to subject-matter experts;
  • Fully fund the undergraduate and graduate education in the physical sciences, math biosciences or engineering of the outstanding 1,000 high school seniors in the nation each year;
  • Double in five years federal spending on basic research in mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering;
  • Provide non-citizen graduates of America's universities in fields of science and technology special consideration for visas, work permits and citizenship;
  • Provide a tax credit to corporations that fund basic research in science and technology at our nation's universities;
  • Provide tax incentives to companies that fund continuing education for their employees in science and technology; and
  • Revise the capital gains tax law so that assets held a short term are heavily taxed, while long term (ten years or more) are untaxed.
  • A number of interesting ideas. Augustine's voice adds to a growing chorus of voices coming from decidedly industrial backgrounds -- Craig Barrett of Intel and former Gov. John Engler of the National Association of Manufacturers are two other recent examples -- that are really giving some impetus to efforts to increase federal support for basic research, especially in the physical sciences. The issue -- as we say here in DC -- has some traction. Unfortunately, there isn't much room to maneuver in the current budget environment, so significant increases are still unlikely. But the longer the chorus continues, and the louder it becomes, the more pressure there will be to address the concerns in future budget cycles.

    To that end, I meant to include a note here last week about efforts by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Science, Commerce, Justice, State; Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chair of the House Science Committee; and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Chair of the Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards; to include a provision in the recently passed supplemental appropriations bill that would fund the convening of a "National Innovation Summit" this fall. The purpose of the summit is, according to Wolf, "to bring together the nation's best and brightest to help develop a blueprint for the future of American science and innovation. It also will look at where there has been slippage and why, and what needs to be done to reverse the trend."

    The summit was inspired by the work of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member and we've mentioned a few times in this space). Key to the summit's moving forward is the involvement of several very influential industrially-oriented groups -- including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Electronics Association, the Business Roundtable, and the Council on Competitiveness. They make a compelling case to those in Washington not terribly swayed by the voiced concerns of academics over the state of federal support for research.

    So it's heartening that they all find themselves heavily engaged in this overall effort to advocate to greater support for basic research, and even more heartening that their engagement is capturing the attention of lawmakers on the Hill. However, at this point, the enthusiasm for this case is not shared by the President's science advisor, John Marburger. In recent weeks, Marburger has found himself on the defensive about these concerns that the U.S. is putting it's future competitiveness at risk by underinvesting in the physical sciences. He gave a fascinating interview (sub. req'd) to National Journal's TechDaily last week in which he lashed out at groups like the Task Force for trying to benchmark US competiveness against international competition.

    TechDaily: It's rare in Washington that you get as many groups agreeing on one set of data and one position. They're all saying the same thing: We are at risk of losing our innovative edge. You seem to have some problems with that position.

    Marburger: I would put it differently. I would say we have to be vigilant and we have to spend our money wisely, and we have to make priorities. And we have to learn what this new economy means. And we can't be lax. Are we in danger? We're not in any kind of danger we haven't always been in, namely missing the future and what it's all about. But we're very well prepared to face that future. We are going into this enormous global change in technology-based economies with a very high level of accomplishment and capability and we're going in as the leader.

    OK. So what is the country going to do? What is a rational approach for the administration? The United States has enormous capabilities to make changes in the world. This administration has well-defined priorities, they are big challenges. We had a shock we didn't expect from [the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks] that caused us to incur enormous burdens on our economy and despite that, billions of dollars in new funding, permanent new funding, have been invested in the technical fields, in R&D. There's just no question about that. The basic sciences include the physical sciences.

    You can define deflators and denominators to the funding numbers to get conclusions, but I don't think that anyone can disagree with the concept that this nation has placed a very high priority on basic science that that's going to pay off. As the indicators come in after 2001, I expect them to show an impact in publications, in graduation rates, in patents and licenses. I expect those types of indicators to go up in absolute terms. They have to go up because of the enormous money that has been pumped into these areas.

    So, let's be realistic about this. Even in this year's budget. This is the first year the administration is really trying to cut the deficit. It's cutting all of the domestic discretionary programs -- except for science. It has left it alone at the top of a base that has been deliberately built.

    As we've pointed out before, Marburger uses some number tricks as well in his answer. He claims "billions of dollars in new funding, permanent new funding" that have been invested in "the technical fields, in R&D. There's just no question about that. The basic sciences include the physical sciences." But this is odd logic.
    As this graphic shows, the build-up of "new funding" in R&D that Marburger claims credit for is almost entirely basic research in the life sciences funded by the National Instutes of Health. So, arguing that basic research has gone up because basic research in the life sciences has gone up is true, but it doesn't follow that because overall basic research has gone up that support for basic research in the physical sciences has gone up, too. The graphic shows that, in fact, funding at all the agencies traditionally supportive of basic research in the physical sciences has essentially been flat.

    In any case, what this all shows is that despite the traction developing as a result of the increasing involvement of industry in making the case for federal support of basic research, we've got a long way to go to convince all the folks who need to be convinced if we're going to address the problem in any meaningful way.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:19 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    May 12, 2005

    The Future of Computer Science Research in the U.S., Part 1a

    In lieu of a proper update about the hearing (coming, I promise), here's CRA's press release:

    Computing Researchers Tell Congress US IT Dominance at Risk

    Washington, DC, May 12, 2005 - Computing researchers today told a receptive congressional panel that the nation's dominant leadership position in information technology is at risk from cuts in research funding and changes in focus at federal mission agencies. The Computing Research Association, in written testimony endorsed by five other computing-related organizations, told the committee that the changing landscape for federal support of computing research threatens to derail the “extraordinarily productive” research enterprise that has enabled the innovation that drives the new economy.

    "The impact of IT research on enabling of innovation resonates far beyond just the IT sector," said James D. Foley, Chair of CRA and professor of computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology. "IT has played an essential - many argue the essential - role in the economic growth of the US in the past 20 years. In fact, the seeds of this economic growth are in the fundamental discoveries, most of which are pre-competitive and occur in the nation's universities and research laboratories," said Foley.

    The joint testimony notes a number of factors that imperil U.S. long-term leadership in IT, including DARPA's withdrawal from its historical support of university-based computer science research and cuts to the proposed IT research budgets at NIST, NASA, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. "These changes appear to indicate that the national commitment to fundamental research in IT has waned," Foley said.

    Committee members shared the research community's concerns. Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) noted the importance of IT and acknowledged that problems were evident. "Current federal funding is not properly balanced," Boehlert said. "It does not adequately continue our historic commitment to longer-range, more basic research in computer science, and it does not focus sufficiently on cybersecurity."

    "This is not a matter of questioning the policy or budget of any single agency," he said. "This is a matter of having a critical, high-profile national need that is not being addressed by an overall, coordinated federal policy or by overall federal spending."

    Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN), the panel's ranking Democrat, agreed. "We cannot afford to squander our technological edge in a field that will only grow in importance."

    In his testimony, DARPA director Tony Tether suggested computer scientists might be to blame for failing to identify specific research that is currently underfunded.

    "This is, frankly, a shocking assertion," Foley said. "The National Science Foundation's computer and information science directorate is currently awash in proposals it finds meritorious, but unable to grant due to funding constraints. The President's IT Advisory Committee report on Cyber Security R&D lists 10 areas of research need that are currently inadequately funded. The CRA Grand Research Challenges conferences recommended dozens of specific research areas tuned to address long-term problems in computing. And finally, the Pentagon's own Defense Science Board Task Force on High Performance Microprocessors concluded in February 2005 that there were fundamental research areas in that area that were no longer being addressed."

    The computing research community testimony concluded with a call for the U.S. to maintain leadership in IT. "The U.S. still has the world's strongest capability in fundamental research in IT, and the most experience in how to leverage that capability towards economic growth," Foley said. But there are risks in letting uncertainty about funding that research linger.

    "We taught the rest of the world how to grow from such investment," Foley said, "and they learned the lesson well. Those other countries are now ramping up their investment in basic research and higher education in computing while support in the US is declining. The US cannot long maintain the lead in such an environment"

    A copy of the computing research community statement may be found here (pdf, 1.6 megs)

    For more on the current state of IT R&D:

    Organizations endorsing the testimony: the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC), Computing Research Association (CRA), Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA), Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), and the US Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery.

    About CRA: The Computing Research Association (CRA) is an association of more than 200 North American academic departments of computer science, computer engineering, and related fields; laboratories and centers in industry, government, and academia engaging in basic computing research; and affiliated professional societies.

    CRA's mission is to strengthen research and advanced education in the computing fields, expand opportunities for women and minorities, and improve public and policymaker understanding of the importance of computing and computing research in our society.


    Update: Science Committee Chairman Boehlert has issued an interesting (and slightly unusual) press release following the hearing. It seems as though Boehlert is bothered by the concerns raised by the community and perhaps more bothered that Tether's answers today never really addressed them head on. But Tether did issue a challenge for computer scientists to identify research being neglected. "I see a lot of hand-wringing," Tether said, "but I never get an answer to the question of what we're not doing." So Boehlert is using that challenge as a hook to keep the committee involved in the issue -- he says he wants the committee to act as an honest broker. I'm not sure I can think of a better outcome from this particular hearing....

    Anyway, here's the release.

    May 12, 2005
    Contact: Joe Pouliot, 202-225-0581
    Boehlert Plans Continued Efforts to Ensure Long-term Research Needs
    are Adequately Addressed
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a Science Committee hearing today on t he future of computer science in the U.S., Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) expressed concern that federal funding of computer science is shifting away from fundamental, long-term research, potentially damaging the future of the U.S. information technology industry and the economy as a whole.
    Boehlert and the non-governmental witnesses particularly expressed concern about the balance between short- and long-term research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  DARPA's  director, Dr. Anthony Tether, defended the agency at the hearing.  Tether challenged DARPA's critics to be specific about what areas of research they thought DARPA was neglecting, and Boehlert asked the two critics who were also testifying to respond to that challenge in writing to both Tether and the Science Committee.  The two critics were Dr. William Wulf, a computer scientist who heads the National Academy of Engineering, and Dr. Tom Leighton, Chief Scientist and co-founder of Akamai Technologies.  Leighton also serves on the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), although he was not representing PITAC at the hearing.
    After the hearing, Boehlert said the hearing was just the first step in addressing concerns that computer scientists have raised about DARPA's research priorities.  "We had a vigorous discussion today that I want to see continue.  I want the Science Committee to be an honest broker that can bring together DARPA and its critics to help Congress and the Administration create a computer science funding policy that will address the nation's future and current needs.  We will continue to pursue this issue.  Dr. Tether offered important information about DARPA's programs that now needs to be reviewed and responded to by the academic community.  I remain concerned about the direction of federal computing policy, but this is a tough issue - a question of balance - and we're going to need a lot more discussion and debate to sort things out.  I hope our efforts will be of use to DARPA and the entire Administration and the Congress in allaying concerns and in forging the appropriate policy."
    In his opening statement, Boehlert said, "We cannot have a situation where university researchers can point to sharp declines in DARPA funding, reviews of research results that reflect telescoped time horizons, and increased classification.  We cannot have a situation where proposal approval rates at the National Science Foundation drop by half in just a few years.  We cannot have a situation where a Presidential advisory council declares that our information technology infrastructure is 'highly vulnerable' and that there is 'relatively little support for fundamental research to address the larger security vulnerabilities.'  We cannot have a situation where a Pentagon advisory board similarly expresses deep concern over the lack of long-term computing research."
    Boehlert asked the other witness at the hearing, Dr. John Marburger, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, if the President was going to recharter PITAC.  PITAC was established by statute, but it operates pursuant to an Executive Order that is about to expire.  Marburger said the matter was under review.  Boehlert has urged that PITAC be rechartered.
    House Science Committee Press Office -- 2320 Rayburn Building -- Washington, DC 20515
    202-225-4275 (phone), 202-225-3170 (fax)

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:07 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    The Future of Computer Science Research in the U.S.

    Today the House Science Committee (full committee) meets to examine the current and future state of computing research in the U.S. Appearing before the committee will be John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Tony Tether, Director of DARPA; Bill Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering; and Tom Leighton, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Akamai Industries and member of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. This is obviously a very important hearing for the computing research community as it represents the first time in several years that congress will take an in-depth look at whether the federal government is doing all it can to maintain U.S. leadership in IT.

    In addition to the testimony from the witnesses present at the hearing, the computing research community's perspective will be represented by written testimony (pdf, 1.6 megs) jointly endorsed by CRA, the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC), the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA), the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery.

    The testimony (pdf), which I strongly encourage you to read, examines how the U.S. came to assume its dominant position in IT and the benefits that role conveys to the nation; why the changing landscape for federal support of computing research imperils U.S. leadership in IT, and in turn, U.S. economic performance in the coming decades; and finally, what the community believes should be done to shore up that leadership.

    Also, for those not in DC, the hearing will also be webcast live on the Science committee website. It begins at 10 am ET. I'll be there. Unfortunately, there isn't usually very good cell coverage in the Rayburn building for my wireless service, so I probably won't be able to liveblog the hearing, like all the cool kids do. But I'll be back after the hearing with all the details.

    In the meantime, press coverage of the hearing has already begun. Business Week was the first out of the blocks with this piece, including some key quotes from Science Committee Chairman Sherry Boehlert (R-NY) and ACM President Dave Patterson.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:40 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    May 06, 2005

    LA Times on DARPA R&D: "The Imagination Drain"

    Apparently inspired by this week's Science editorial by Ed Lazowska and Dave Patterson (covered here), the Los Angeles Times today editorializes on DARPA and university IT research.

    Since 1961, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, has distributed IT research dollars in largely open-ended grants to universities. The grants encouraged basic research aimed not at marketable innovations but at basic scientific mysteries. DARPA and its investments have paid off handsomely nevertheless.

    Its legendary role in developing the Internet as a free-for-all instead of a commercially owned space is widely known. Less so are its militarily and commercially important developments, such as global positioning satellites, the JPEG file format for efficiently storing photographs and Websearching technologies like those later refined by Google.

    Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, however, Homeland Security officials have pushed DARPA to rein in its democratic funding systems. Grants once available to universities can now flow only to military contractors, and graduate student support once open to the most excellent thinkers can be offered only to U.S. citizens. Administration officials say the changes are needed to keep technological innovations out of the hands of potential terrorists. The effect may be instead to dampen imagination itself.

    Here's the whole thing.

    The collection of articles and editorials addressing this issue since the story first ran in the New York Times back on April 1, 2005 (covered previously) is almost too long to list. But I've done my best here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:47 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    May 05, 2005

    Science OpEd: An Endless Frontier Postponed

    Edward Lazowska and David Patterson (both former CRA board members and current members of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee) have penned an excellent OpEd (sub. req'd) in this week's issue of Science magazine on the impact of the changing federal landscape for support of computing research. The OpEd makes a case that will be familiar to readers of this blog: the unique environment responsible for the IT innovations that drive much of the new economy is at risk by recent shifts within the federal IT R&D portfolio.

    U.S. IT research grew largely under DARPA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF relied on peer review, whereas DARPA bet on vision and reputation, complementary approaches that served the nation well. Over the past 4 decades, the resulting research has laid the foundation for the modern microprocessor, the Internet, the graphical user interface, and single-user workstations. It has also launched new fields such as computational science. Virtually every aspect of IT that we rely on today bears the stamp of federally sponsored research. A 2003 National Academies study provided 19 examples where such work ultimately led to billion-dollar industries, an economic benefit that reaffirms science advisor Vannevar Bush's 1945 vision in Science: The Endless Frontier.

    However, in the past 3 years, DARPA funding for IT research at universities has dropped by nearly half. Policy changes at the agency, including increased classification of research programs, increased restrictions on the participation of noncitizens, and "go/no-go" reviews applied to research at 12- to 18-month intervals, discourage participation by university researchers and signal a shift from pushing the leading edge to "bridging the gap" between fundamental research and deployable technologies. In essence, NSF is now relied on to support the long-term research needed to advance the IT field.

    Other agencies have not stepped in. The Defense Science Board noted in a recent look at microchip research at the Department of Defense (DOD): "[DARPA's] withdrawal has created a vacuum . . . The problem, for DOD, the IT industry, and the nation as a whole, is that no effective leadership structure has been substituted." The Department of Homeland Security, according to a recent report from the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, spends less than 2% of its Science and Technology budget on cybersecurity, and only a small fraction of that on research. NASA is downsizing computational science, and IT research budgets at the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health are slated for cuts in the president's fiscal year 2006 budget.

    The OpEd's conclusion is stark:
    At a time when global competitors are gaining the capacity and commitment to challenge U.S. high-tech leadership, this changed landscape threatens to derail the extraordinarily productive interplay of academia, government, and industry in IT. Given the importance of IT in enabling the new economy and in opening new areas of scientific discovery, we simply cannot afford to cede leadership. Where will the next generation of groundbreaking innovations in IT arise? Where will the Turing Awardees 30 years hence reside? Given current trends, the answers to both questions will likely be, "not in the United States."
    As I mentioned previously, the piece contains a link to the a page here at CRA HQ that's sort of a one-stop shop for information relating to IT R&D policy. Ed has also placed a link to a pdf version of the article on his website.

    The OpEd appears in an issue of Science devoted to distributed computing issues, with articles on Grassroots Supercomputing, Grid Sport: Competitive Crunching, Data-Bots Charting the Internet, Service-Oriented Science, and more. The timing of the issue also couldn't be better, given the the House Science Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "The Future of Computer Science Research in the U.S." on Thursday, May 12th. You can catch the details here, or watch it live on the Science Committee's real-time webcast (also archived).

    And keep an eye out for future editorials....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:04 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy | R&D in the Press

    May 03, 2005

    Defense Science Board on the Impact of Changes to DARPA IT R&D

    As I was updating the IT R&D policy resources page here in anticipation of it appearing as a link in a soon-to-be published Science magazine OpEd on the state of federal support for computing research (titled "An Endless Frontier Postponed" -- watch this space for details), I realized that I hadn't yet posted a link to this recently released report (pdf) from the Defense Science Board. The report includes an excellent appendix that notes the impact policy changes at DARPA will have on the Defense Department's long-term mission. Here's what I wrote on the IT R&D page:

    In February 2005, the Defense Department's Defense Science Board -- an independent advisory committee comprised of researchers from academia, government, and industry -- released an examination of the microelectronics industry, which provides hardware capability that "underlies much of America's modern military leadership technology." Part of that examination involved a review of DOD's research efforts in the space to determine if the Department is doing what it can to "secure continued 'Moore's Law' improvements in processing capacity that will enable it to maximize the advantages inherent in its superior sources of information and the superiority of the algortihms and networks that are used to process and benefit from them." What they found is that changes in emphasis at DARPA have impacted DOD-related research long-term:

    Historically, the rapid rate of growth in U.S. microchip capability resulted from a robust national portfolio of long-term research that incorporated both incremental and revolutionary components. Industry excelled in evolutionary technology developments that resulted in reduced costs, higher quality and reliability and vastly improved performance. DOD now is no longer perceived as being seriously involved in -- or even taking steps to ensure that others are conducting -- research to enable the embedded processing proficiency on which its strategic advantage depends. This withdrawal has created a vacuum where no part of the U.S. government is able to exert leadership, especially with respect to the revolutionary component of the research portfolio.

    This development is partly explained by historic circumstances. Since World War II, the DOD has been the primary supporter of research in university Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) departments, with NSF contributing some funds towards basic research. From the early 1960's through the 1980's, one tremendously successful aspect of the DOD's funding in the information technology space came from DARPA's unique approach to the funding of Applied Research (6.2 funding), which hybridized university and industry research through a process that envisioned revolutionary new capabilities, identified barriers to their realization, focused the best minds in the field on new approaches to overcome those barriers and fostered rapid commercialization and DOD adoption. The hybridization of university and industry researchers was a crucial element; it kept the best and the brightest in the university sector well informed of defense issues and the university researchers acted as useful "prods" to the defense contractors, making it impossible for them to dismiss revolutionary concepts whose feasibility was demonstrated by university-based 6.2 efforts that produced convincing "proof of concept" prototypes. As EECS grew in scale and its scope extended beyond DOD applications, a "success disaster" ensued in that EECS essentially "outgrew" the ability of the DOD to be its primary source of directional influence, let alone funding. Furthermore, DOD never developed a strategy to deal with this transition. With pressures to fund developments are unique to the Defense (e.g., military aircraft, tanks, artillery, etc.), the DOD withdrew its EECS research leadership. Recently, DARPA has further limited university participation, especially as prime contractors, in its Computer Science 6.2 programs, which were by far its most significant investments in university research (vastly outstripping 6.1 funding). These limitations have come in a number of ways, including non-fiscal limitations, such as the classification of work in areas that were previously unclassified, precluding university submission as prime contractors on certain solicitations, and reducing the periods of performance to 18-24 months.
    -High Performance Microchip Supply, Defense Science Board, February 2005, Appendix D, p. 87-88

    The entire report is available here (pdf).

    So add the DSB to the growing list of organizations, advisory committees, congressional committees, and the press that have noted their concern for the impact of DARPA's policy shift.

    A reminder: the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on "The Future of Computer Science Research in the U.S." on May 12, 2005. Appearing as witnesses before the committee will be Jack Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Anthony Tether, Director of DARPA; Bill Wulf, President of the National Academies of Engineering; and Tom Leighton, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Akamai Industries, and also the Chair of the PITAC Subcommittee on Cyber Security. All Science Committee hearings are webcast live (and then archived for later viewing as well). And, of course, we'll have all the details here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:15 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    April 26, 2005

    High Performance Computing Act Passes House

    CRA commends the House for its swift passage today of the High Performance Computing Revitalization Act (H.R. 28). The bill, which would provide sustained access by the research community to federal HPC assets, assure a balanced portfolio in HPC research pursuits and beef up interagency planning, passed by voice vote. The measure now moves on to the Senate, where previous efforts to reauthorize portions of the Networking and Information Technology R&D program have failed to receive timely consideration.

    Here's our previous coverage of the bill, which has a bit more detail.

    CRA and USACM joined in issuing a press release applauding the bill's authors and the members of the House for moving the legislation. A copy of that release can be found after the jump.

    The House Science Committee's press release has further (positive) reaction from Chair Sherwood Boehlert.

    "This is very important legislation that deals with the competitiveness of the United States of America in the global marketplace. We are not going to be preeminent in the competitive world if we don't invest wisely and direct our resources in the proper way, because the competition is all over the place. It isn't one state against another.  It's the United States against the world.  Right now, we're ahead. That's the position I like.  But when we look back, we see a lot of people following closely behind.  That's why it's critically important that we do things like invest in high-performance computing so that we maintain our competitive edge."

    CRA Press Release

    CRA Contact:
    Peter Harsha
    CRA Director of Government Affairs
    P: 202-234-2111 ext 106

    ACM Contact:
    Cameron Wilson
    ACM Director of Public Policy
    P: 202-659-9712

    Computing Researchers, Professionals Applaud Passage of High Performance Computing Legislation

    WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2005 - Two leading computing societies today praised the House of Representatives for approving a measure that would authorize efforts in high-performance computing research and development. The Computing Research Association and the Association for Computing Machinery's U.S. Public Policy Committee commended the passage of the High Performance Computing Revitalization Act (H.R. 28), which demonstrates the continued importance of federal investment in computing research and development.

    “Innovations in IT - the fruits of computing research, including high performance computing research - continue to drive U.S. productivity and enable the new economy,” said CRA Chairman James D. Foley. “The House today sent an important message that a sustained commitment to U.S. leadership in computing research is a prerequisite to future innovation and competitiveness.”

    “We commend Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN) for introducing the bill, as well as Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) and the other co-sponsors for their continued leadership in making the case for federal support of fundamental IT research and development.

    “The bill comes at an important time for the computing research community,” Foley said. “Recent changes to the landscape for federal support of computing - most notably, the shift away from support of fundamental IT R&D at universities by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - have left gaps in the federal portfolio that threaten to constrain future innovation in IT. The passage of the HPC Revitalization Act, as well as a planned May 12, 2005, hearing of the House Science Committee on the issue, demonstrates that Congress is sensitive to these concerns and to the important role federal support plays in the innovation process.”

    Eugene H. Spafford, Chair of USACM and a member of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, also lauded the action. "IT R&D -- and especially investment in basic research and infrastructure -- is an investment that pays enormous dividends," said Spafford. "It fuels innovation that will help the U.S. retain world leadership in business, develop new jobs and industries, enhance public safety and national defense, and provide means to support research to live longer, healthier lives."

    Spafford continued, "Investing in basic research may not often show immediate results, and is thus a difficult choice to make in times of strained budgets. However, history has proven, time and again, that a significant investment strategy in scientific research -- and especially in computing-related research -- pays huge dividends in the future. Fundamental breakthroughs cannot be discovered and matured for the market in a short time scale."

    “We commend the House for its quick passage of the HPC Revitalization Act, and encourage the Senate to take up and pass similar legislation soon,” Foley said.


    The Computing Research Association (CRA) is an association of more than 200 North American Academic departments of computer science, computer engineering, and related fields; laboratories and centers in industry, government and academia engaging in basic computing research; and affiliated professional societies. For more information:

    USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, which is the world's first educational and scientific computing society with almost 80,000 members worldwide. It is widely recognized as the premier organization for computing professionals, delivering resources that advance the computing and IT disciplines, enable professional development, and promote policies and research that benefit society.


    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:32 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy

    April 25, 2005

    Roll Call OpEd Calls on Congress to Support Science

    Roll Call's Morton Kondracke writes in an OpEd (sub. req'd) that Congress must act to increase federal support for fundamental research or risk future competitiveness. The good news is, he notes, is that Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, Commerce committee, appears to be up to the challenge.

    Wolf, who has led Congressional campaigns against gambling and has focused national attention on religious persecution and other human rights violations around the world, is now putting together an agenda to reverse America's decline in science.

     On April 12, he and two House colleagues - accompanied by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) - announced the introduction of legislation to have the U.S. government pay the interest on undergraduate loans for students who agree to work in science, math or engineering for a five-year period.

     Wolf also favors holding a blue-ribbon national conference on technology, trade and manufacturing where leaders of industry would highlight the danger to U.S. leadership. He wants to triple funding for federal basic-science programs over a period of years.

     Wolf told me in an interview, rather diplomatically, that "I personally believe that [the Bush administration is] underfunding science. Not purposefully. I think we have a deficit problem, and previous administrations have underfunded it also."

     Gingrich is less diplomatic. "I am totally puzzled by what they've done with the basic-research budget," he told me. "As a national security conservative and as a world trade-economic competition conservative, I cannot imagine how they could have come up with this budget."

     He continued: "There's no point in arguing with them internally. They're going to do what they are going to do. But I think if this Congress does not substantially raise the research budget, we are unilaterally disarming from the standpoint of international competition."

    Much of the credit for influencing Wolf's position has to go to the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member). Their Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future (pdf) report seems to be resonating well with congressional offices, and special efforts to reach out to Wolf (who has been very receptive) seem to be paying off.

    Now the trick is to turn that enthusiasm into real appropriations -- something that remains a real challenge in current budget environment. We'll keep you posted.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:06 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    April 17, 2005

    The Drumbeat Continues: SJ Merc News on DARPA IT R&D and Universities

    Following in the wake of news stories and OpEds in the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News editorializes today on the negative impact of DARPA's shift away from university researchers in computer science and engineering.

    Of all the government sources of funding for basic technology research, few have delivered more breakthroughs for Silicon Valley and the U.S. economy than the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

    That's why a shift away from basic and university research in DARPA funding is alarming for the valley and for the future of innovation in the United States. Long-term casualties could eventually include America's competitiveness and military readiness.


    The shift at DARPA is all the more troubling as it goes hand in hand with decreases in funding for basic research across the Pentagon and at the National Science Foundation. What's more, these subtle yet significant changes have occurred without a national debate.

    The time to have that debate is now. If these trends continue, America will pay dearly for them.

    Fortunately, it appears that Congress is getting interested in having that debate. In early May the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the issue. Testifying before the committee will be John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Tony Tether, Director of DARPA; Bill Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering; and Tom Leighton, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at Akamai Industries, and Chair of the PITAC Subcommittee on Cyber Security, which just released it's review of the federal government's cyber security R&D programs. We, of course, will bring you all the details.

    In the meantime, read the full editorial.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:43 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    April 16, 2005

    NY Times' Friedman OpEd on Bush Failure to Support Innovation, U.S. Competitiveness

    Since Sue, Ed, Andy, and a whole host of my relatives have all sent me a pointer to this OpEd by Thomas Friedman in the NY Times, you may have already seen it. But that doesn't make it any less worth noting.

    Friedman picks up where former Clinton defense officials Perry and Deutch left off earlier in the week (which we covered here), who picked up where NY Times reporter John Markoff left off a couple weeks earlier (which we covered here), arguing that the Bush Administration, by cutting the U.S. investment in fundamental research, has put not only our national security at risk (as noted by Perry and Deutch), but our economic security at risk as well.

    The Bush team is proposing cutting the Pentagon's budget for basic science and technology research by 20 percent next year - after President Bush and the Republican Congress already slashed the 2005 budget of the National Science Foundation by $100 million.

    When the National Innovation Initiative, a bipartisan study by the country's leading technologists and industrialists about how to re-energize U.S. competitiveness, was unveiled last December, it was virtually ignored by the White House. Did you hear about it? Probably not, because the president preferred to focus all attention on privatizing Social Security.

    It's as if we have an industrial-age presidency, catering to a pre-industrial ideological base, in a post-industrial era.

    Of course, when Friedman writes regarding the National Innovation Initiative
    Did you hear about it? Probably not...
    he's obviously not referring to readers of this blog, who read all about the Council on Competitiveness report back on December 15th. :)

    Friedman has hit the Administration and Congress hard (and repeatedly) for allowing NSF to be cut in the FY 2005 appropriations, so I'm glad to see him continue to bang the drum for federal support for fundamental research.

    So, read the whole thing, and thanks to Sue, Ed, Andy and my relations for pointing it out.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:37 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    April 13, 2005

    Former Clinton DOD Officials Note Lack of DOD S&T Support

    The New York Times has an interesting OpEd today from former secretary of defense William Perry and his former undersecretary John Deutch on the lack of support for basic research, applied research and advanced technology development (collectively, "Defense Science and Technology") at the Department of Defense.

    Of the Pentagon's $419.3 billion budget request for next year, only about $10.5 billion - 2 percent - will go toward basic research, applied research and advanced technology development. This represents a 20 percent reduction from last year, a drastic cutback that threatens the long-term security of the nation. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should reconsider this request, and if he does not, Congress should restore the cut.

    These research and development activities, known as the "technology base" program, are a vital part of the United States defense program. For good reason: the tech base is America's investment in the future. Over the years, tech base activities have yielded advances in scientific and engineering knowledge that have given United States forces the technological superiority that is responsible in large measure for their current dominance in conventional military power.

    While it's not earth-shattering that members of the previous administration might question the priorities of the current administration, the OpEd adds to the chorus of voices expressing concern about DOD R&D trends.

    Worth reading the whole thing.

    And watch this space for news of yet another influential voice raising concerns....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:38 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    April 09, 2005

    Washington Post OpEd: "Our Incredible Shrinking Curiosity"

    Washington Post science and technology writer Rick Weiss riffs off of the recent news that NASA plans to pull the plug on the Voyager missions to demonstrate that the U.S. support for research has become too mundane -- too evolutionary rather than revolutionary, too focused on short-term gains versus long-term results. The two Voyager probes, three decades after being launched on their tour of the outer planets, are now tickling the edge of interstellar space and still sending back data. NASA's FY 2006 budget request eliminates funding for the Voyager program and a suite of other space probes (total cost savings = $23 million in FY 06) as part of the agency's effort to refocus on the President's Moon/Mars initiative -- an initiative that has led to significant cuts elsewhere in the agency as well. Unfortunately, the problems aren't just limited to NASA:

    It would be less disheartening if the move to kill the Voyager program were an isolated example. But the U.S. scientific enterprise is riddled with evidence that Americans have lost sight of the value of non-applied, curiosity-driven research -- the open-ended sort of exploration that doesn't know exactly where it's going but so often leads to big payoffs. In discipline after discipline, the demand for specific products, profits or outcomes -- "deliverables," in the parlance of government -- has become the dominant force driving research agendas. Instead of being exploratory and expansive, science -- especially in the wake of 9/11 -- seems increasingly delimited and defensive.

    Take, for example, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- arguably the nation's premier funder of unencumbered scientific exploration, whose early dabbling in computer network design gave rise to the Internet. Agency officials recently acknowledged to Congress that they were shifting their focus away from blue-sky research and toward goal-oriented and increasingly classified endeavors.

    Similarly, in geology, scientists have for years sought funds to blanket the nation with thousands of sensors to create an enormous, networked listening device that might teach us something about how the earth is shifting beneath our feet. The system got so far as to be authorized by Congress for $170 million over five years, but only $16 million has been appropriated in the first three of those years and just 62 of an anticipated 7,000 sensors have been deployed. Only in fiscal 2006, thanks to the South Asian tsunami, is the program poised to get more fully funded -- out of a narrow desire to better predict the effects of such disasters here.

    The Department of Energy in February announced it is killing the so-called BTeV project at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., one of the last labs in this country still supporting studies in high-energy physics. This field, once dominated by the United States, promises to discover in the next decade some of the most basic subatomic particles in the universe, including the first so-called supersymmetric particle -- a kind of stuff that seems to account for the vast majority of matter in the universe but which scientists have so far been unable to put their fingers on.

    "We seem to have reached a point where people are so overwhelmed by the problems we face, we're not sure we really need more frontiers," said Kei Koizumi of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, noting that the only segments of the nation's research and development budget enjoying real growth are defense and homeland security.

    We've covered the DARPA story and its impact on computer science research pretty extensively (latest here).

    Anyway, it's a good piece -- it even starts with a Star Trek quote. Read it all here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    April 06, 2005

    USACM Weighs in on Real ID Act

    Just want to note that CRA-affiliate organization ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) has crafted a sharp analysis of some of the technical pitfalls contained in the controversial Real ID Act, which attempts to set minimum standards for state driver's licenses and an interstate compact to govern the sharing of driver's license data between states. The bill has already passed the House and was included in a rider on a must-pass supplemental funding bill to be considered by the Senate. The Senate, however, has indicated they will strip the controversial bill from the supplemental they consider, guaranteeing a fight over the issue in conference.

    Cameron Wilson has a summary of the situation as well as a copy of the letter USACM sent to Sen. Lamar Alexander, who recently expressed support for the concept of a national ID (but not this particular bill). USACM adds considerable value to the policy debate with this kind of analysis.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:45 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    April 01, 2005

    Must Read: NY Times - "A Blow to Computer Science Research"

    John Markoff writes in detail in Saturday's NY Times about DARPA's diminishing investment in university-based computer science research and its potential impact.

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon - which has long underwritten open-ended "blue sky" research by the nation's best computer scientists - is sharply cutting such spending at universities, researchers say, in favor of financing more classified work and narrowly defined projects that promise a more immediate payoff.

    Hundreds of research projects supported by the agency, known as Darpa, have paid off handsomely in recent decades, leading not only to new weapons, but to commercial technologies from the personal computer to the Internet. The agency has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to basic software research, too, including work that led to such recent advances as the Web search technologies that Google and others have introduced.

    The shift away from basic research is alarming many leading computer scientists and electrical engineers, who warn that there will be long-term consequences for the nation's economy. They are accusing the Pentagon of reining in an agency that has played a crucial role in fostering America's lead in computer and communications technologies.

    "I'm worried and depressed," said David Patterson, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who is president of the Association of Computing Machinery, an industry and academic trade group. "I think there will be great technologies that won't be there down the road when we need them."

    Markoff's piece is largely based on answers the agency provided the Senate Armed Services Committee in response to the committee's questions about DARPA's historical support of IT R&D and the role of universities. In their response, DARPA noted that their overall support for computer science activites has averaged $578 million a year (inflation adjusted) for the last 13 years and that university participation in that research over the last 4 years has plummeted. (Due to "data constraints" they don't have figures prior to FY 01.) In FY 01, DARPA funded $546 million in IT research overall, $214 million in universities. By FY 2004, the overall funding had risen to $583 million, and the university share had dropped to $123 million.

    DARPA cited five "factors for the decline":

    1. A change in emphasis in the high performance computing program from pure research to supercomputer construction;
    2. Significant drop in unclassified information security research;
    3. End of TIA-related programs in FY 2004 due to congressional decree, a move that cost universities "a consistent $11-12 million per year" in research funding;
    4. Research into intelligent software had matured beyond the research stage into integration;
    5. Classified funding for computer science-related programs increased markedly between FY 2001 and FY 2004, but Universities received none of this funding.

    Essentially, they conceded that their focus in IT R&D is increasingly short-term (at least in the unclassified realm) and that universities are no longer significant performers of DARPA IT R&D (classified or unclassified). Not surprisingly, these are the two major concerns CRA has repeatedly cited about the agency.

    Anyway, the article is a must read.

    Update: (4/3/2005) - Noah Shactman at Defense Tech has a bit more: Darpa may be investing more in super-secret computer science research. But overall, the agency's proposed classified budget has shrunk by over a third, a Congressional source tells Defense Tech.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

    March 28, 2005

    Budget Cuts Mean Layoffs for Supercomputing Staff at NASA

    Federal Computer Week has a depressing article today on the impact of recent and planned cuts to NASA's IT programs. The agency's IT R&D programs are due to decline $66 million in FY 2005, with a further cut of $89 million requested in the President's FY 2006 budget -- a figure that would represent a total cut of 60 percent since FY 2004. The Administration says that NASA's investments in IT R&D in FY 2006 will be reduced across the board, largely due to redirected funding to the President's Moon/Mars initiative and the Space Shuttle Return to Flight program -- the same reason given for the FY 2005 cuts that are putting pressure on agency supercomputing efforts now.

    FCW says the cuts in FY 05 will result in 15 to 20 layoffs of NASA Ames' supercomputing staff and 20 to 25 layoffs in its robotics staff (currently at 70 and 100, respectively). Buyout packages are being offered.

    Chris Knight, vice president for negotiations at Ames Federal Employees Union and a Computational Sciences Division employee, said the buyouts apply to all IT workers except three in visualization and robotics. But the amounts will not be enough to convince most people to leave, he said.

    “A lot of the research centers are being basically bled dry,” Knight said.

    Read the whole article.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | People | Policy | R&D in the Press

    March 25, 2005

    Concerns about the Status of the Federal Effort in IT R&D

    For the last several years, CRA has provided an analysis of computing research in the Administration's budget request for AAAS' annual look at R&D in the President's Budget Request. The book containing the CRA analysis won't be available until April, but I thought I'd post some of the core of that effort here. After the jump (the "Continue Reading..." link below) you'll find CRA's look at the current policy environment -- why we're concerned about the significantly changed landscape for federal IT R&D funding, including an examination of DARPA's diminished role and NSF's enhanced one. When the book is released, I'll post a link to it as well. CRA's chapter is just one of 26 or so focused on just about every aspect of the overall R&D portfolio.

    Current Policy Environment

    The landscape for computing research funding has changed significantly since PITAC began its review of the federal IT R&D effort in 1997. Since the early 1960s, the two federal agencies arguably most responsible for supporting computing research, the development of computer science as a discipline and much of the innovation that has resulted are NSF and DARPA. At the time PITAC began its review, both agencies bore an about equal share of the overall federal investment in IT R&D. In FY 1998, DARPA funding constituted 30 percent of federal IT R&D spending, compared to NSF's 27 percent share. However, as the overall investment has increased, DARPA's share of the research -- both as a percentage of the overall effort and in absolute dollars -- has declined. While NSF's $795 million investment in IT R&D in FY 2005 represents 35 percent of overall federal IT R&D (an increase in its total share since FY 1998), DARPA's $143 million in FY 2005 represents just 6 percent of the overall IT R&D budget, a significant decrease in its share since FY 1998.

    There are concerns within the computing research community about the reasons for DARPA's diminished role in supporting computing research and the impact that it will have on the discipline, DARPA's mission, and the nation as a whole. Central to these concerns is the idea that the discipline -- and hence, the nation -- benefited greatly by having the two different approaches to funding computing research represented by the NSF model and the DARPA model. While NSF has primarily focused on support for individual investigators at a wide range of institutions -- and support for computing infrastructure at America's universities -- DARPA's approach has varied over the years. DARPA has had a number of "freedoms" that other funding agencies like NSF have not. Historically, DARPA program managers could fund individual researchers, or even "centers of excellence" -- typically university research departments -- without the requirement for equitable distributions of funding based on geography or any other factor beyond scientific capability. DARPA's requirement for competitive selection did not involve peer-review in the same way that competitive grants at NSF were evaluated. DARPA program managers had great flexibility in funding projects they believed to be promising. In this way, DARPA was able to create and nourish communities of researchers to focus on problems of particular interest to the agency and to the Department of Defense, with great success.

    The combination of the two different approaches has proven enormously beneficial to the nation, the community argues, and to DARPA's overall mission of assuring that the U.S. maintains "a lead in applying state-of-the-art technology for military capabilities and [preventing] technological surprise from her adversaries." DARPA-supported research in computing over a period of over four decades, beginning in the 1960s, has laid down the foundations for the modern microprocessor, the internet, the graphical user interface, single-user workstations, and a whole host of other innovations that have not only made the U.S. military the lethal and effective fighting force it is today, but have driven the new economy and enabled a whole range of new scientific disciplines.

    However, the computing research community argues that through a series of policy changes, including the use of "go/no-go" decisions applied to critical research at 12 to 18 month intervals and the increasing classification of research sponsored by the agency, DARPA has shifted much of its focus in IT R&D from pushing the leading edge of computing research to "bridging the gap" between basic research and deployable technologies -- in essence relying on NSF to fund the basic research needed to advance the field.

    These changes at DARPA, the community argues, have discouraged university participation in research, effectively reducing DARPA "mindshare" -- the percentage of people working on DARPA problems -- at the nation's universities. This fact, combined with an overall growth in the number of researchers in the field and an increase in the breadth of the discipline, has placed a significant burden for funding basic IT R&D on NSF. The agency reports that in FY 2004, NSF supported 86 percent of federal obligations for basic research in computer science at academic institutions -- and the agency's Computing and Information Science and Engineering directorate (CISE) is beginning to show the strain. In FY 2004, the funding rate for competitive awards in CISE fell to a decadal low of 16 percent, lowest of any directorate at NSF and well below the NSF average of 25 percent. Programs in critical areas like information security and assurance are enduring even lower success rates -- NSF's CyberTrust program reported an 8.2 percent success rate for FY 2004. Such low success rates, the community argues, are harmful to the discipline and to the nation as a whole.

    PITAC began to explore these issues in 2004 as a result of its work on its report on the current state of the federal investment in cyber security R&D, Cyber Security: A Crisis in Prioritization, due for release in early 2005. [Ed. Note -- the report is out (pdf)] The committee found that DARPA's cyber security efforts were too short--term focused and that its increasing use of classification was limiting the participation of university researchers and likely limiting the benefits of the research. The committee also recommended that the Federal budget for fundamental research in civilian cyber security must be dramatically increased or the Nation's security and technological edge will be seriously jeopardized. As a first step, the committee agreed to recommend an immediate increase of $90 million per year to NSF's Cyber Trust program.

    Because the cyber security report exposed the PITAC members to concerns about how the changed landscape of funding for computing research has impacted cyber security R&D, it also suggested that the problems likely go beyond cyber security R&D and extend to the overall IT R&D effort. As a result, it is likely that the committee will push forward with some effort to review the overall federal IT R&D program in the coming year. How that effort will move forward is unclear, and there is additional uncertainty whether the committee will be re-appointed when its current charter expires on June 1, 2005.

    The committee could get further impetus to undertake an overall review of federal IT R&D from legislation introduced in January 2005, by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Lincoln Davis (R-TN), and House Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). The High-Performance Computing Revitalization Act of 2005, H.R. 28, would require PITAC to review NITRD every two years and report to Congress, in addition to helping assure researchers have access to high-performance computer systems and assuring "balanced progress" in high-performance computing research. The bill is identical to H.R. 4218, introduced by the same Members in the 108th Congress, which passed the House but failed to get consideration in the Senate. Previous efforts to reauthorize NITRD programs in the 106th and 107th Congress also failed to gain the approval of both chambers. Prospects for passage this year are better, given the early start and the uncontroversial nature of the legislation.

    In addition to efforts to revitalize high-performance computing, Congress is likely to take interest in cyber security, though congressional reorganization has made the question of who will take the lead in coordinating cyber security policy difficult to answer. For now, the fact that four House committees share jurisdiction over the issue -- Energy and Commerce, Government Reform, Science, and Homeland Security -- likely means that prospects for any overarching legislation are slim. However, the release of the PITAC cyber security report will probably generate action in Congress and may lead to oversight hearings for the key agencies involved (NSF, DARPA and DHS).

    Budget Request

    Seven agencies included requests for FY 2006 funding as part of the NITRD activity. Under the President's plan, NSF, as the recipient of the largest amount of NITRD funds, would once again be designated as the lead agency for the initiative, with NSF Computing and Information Systems and Engineering (CISE) directorate head Dr. Peter Freeman serving as the head of the NITRD Interagency Working Group. For FY 2006, the President has requested $2.2 billion for the NITRD initiative, a decrease of 4.5 percent over the FY 2005 enacted level (see table I-10). Under the President's plan, NSF, Commerce, Defense, and EPA would see small to moderate increases in FY 2006, while Energy, HHS and NASA would see cuts of 7.8, 3.4 and 54.6 percent respectively.

    National Science Foundation: NSF has requested $803 million in NITRD-related funding, an increase of $8.0 million over the FY 2005 request, or 1.0 percent. The bulk of IT-related funding in the NSF request is contained within the request for the CISE directorate, which would grow 1.1 percent over FY 2005 to $621 million. CISE program funding is detailed in table II-7. The Foundation's Information Technology Research (ITR) activity ended in FY 2004, so funding included in the ITR line reflects commitments to multi-year grants awarded prior to FY 2004. As with last year, NSF continues to invest the funding "freed up" from the ITR activity as grants end back into the "core" research activities of the directorate.

    CISE has also adopted a number of strategies to cope with the low success rate the directorate is currently experiencing (detailed above) due to the significant increase in proposal pressure, an increase in annual award amounts, and budget growth that has not kept pace with demand. In some heavily subscribed programs, CISE plans to delay FY 2005 solicitation deadlines and use FY 2005 money to fund some meritorious FY 2004 solicitations it was unable to fund, and use expected FY 2006 money to fund some FY 2005 solicitations. In addition, CISE will limit the number of proposals that a researcher may submit to some competitions, while enforcing regulations that prohibit sending virtually identical proposals to multiple competitions simultaneously.

    NSF remains active in every aspect of the NITRD program component areas and continues in its role as the principal source of federal funding for university-based basic research in computer science, computer engineering, information science, networking and the computational science disciplines. NSF's request of $803 million is significantly larger than the next largest NITRD participant (HHS, $569 million).

    Department of Defense: The DOD request of $299 million for NITRD-related activities department-wide represents an increase of $21 million from the FY 2005 level. DARPA constitutes the largest share of NITRD-related defense funding at $176 million in the President's request, an increase of $28 million over FY 2005, with the bulk of that effort taking place within the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO). DARPA efforts in High End Computing would increase by $17 million (to $81 million) to support the High Productivity Computing Systems program, consistent with the recommendations of the Administration's High End Computing Revitalization Task Force released last year. Human-Computer Interaction and Information Management would see a $13 million increase (to $74 million) for research aimed at improving information access and analysis for warfighters.

    The DOD request also includes $22 million for research in High Confidence Software and Systems and Software Design and Productivity supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the same level as in FY 2005. The National Security Agency, also a part of the DOD request, would see its budget drop by $12 million in FY 2006 to $101 million, as it winds down the developmental support for its Black Widow computer system.

    Health and Human Services (HHS): NIH constitutes the bulk of funding in IT R&D at HHS. For FY 2006, the President's plan includes $569 million in IT R&D funding at HHS, a decrease of 3.4 percent, or $20 million less than the FY 2005 level. The bulk of this reduction is due to the completion of testbed projects exploring medical applications of advanced networks.

    Within HHS, NIH participates in NITRD by supporting research that advances its mission of developing the basic knowledge for the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of human disease. IT research in this area includes applying the power of computing to manage and analyze biomedical data and to model biological processes. AHRQ focuses on research into state-of-the-art IT for use in health care applications such as computer-based patient records, clinical decision support systems, and standards for patient care data.

    Department of Energy: IT R&D activities in DOE's Office of Science and NNSA constitute DOE's participation in NITRD. The Office of Science focuses on computational and networking tools that enable researchers to model, simulate, analyze, and predict complex physical, chemical and biological phenomena important to the department's overall mission. NNSA supports research developing new means of assessing the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons systems through high-fidelity computer models and simulations. Under the President's plan DOE NITRD funding would be $341 million for FY 2006, a decrease of 7.8 percent, or $29 million, from the FY 2005 level. According to the request, this reduction reflects the completion of the initial leadership-class computer system acquisition, and consolidation of efforts in networking research and collaboratory tools into an integrated "Distributed Network Environment" focusing on basic research in computer networking and middleware.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Under the President's plan, NASA would see the largest reduction in NITRD funding both on a percentage and an absolute-dollar basis. The President's request includes $74 million for NASA IT R&D in FY 2005, a reduction of $89 million from the FY 2005 level, representing a 54.6 percent decrease. Though NASA will continue operating its 52-teraflop Columbia computer acquired in 2004-2005, funding in all aspects of NASA's IT R&D efforts will be reduced and redirected to support NASA's Vision for Space Exploration and mission needs for returning the Space Shuttle to flight.

    Department of Commerce (DOC): The DOC request for FY 2006 contains NITRD-related funding requests from two agencies: NOAA and NIST. NIST IT R&D efforts include working with industry, educational, and government organizations to make IT systems more useable, secure, scalable, and interoperable. In addition, NIST works to apply IT to specialized areas like biotechnology and manufacturing, and to encourage industry to accelerate development of IT innovations. The President's request includes $42 million for NIST in FY 2006, an increase of $3 million over FY 2005.

    NOAA supports IT research in emerging computer technologies for improved climate modeling and weather forecasting, and for improved communications technologies to disseminate weather products and warnings to emergency responders, policymakers, and the general public. The President's request includes $20 million for NOAA in FY 2006, a $1 million increase over FY 2005.

    Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA would receive $6 million in FY 2006 under the President's plan, an increase of $2 million over FY 2005. EPA intends to use that funding to support IT technologies that facilitate ecosystem modeling, risk assessment, and environmental decision making at the federal, state, and local levels.

    Department of Homeland Security: Because the Department of Homeland Security, established in 2003, was created well after the original passage of the legislation creating the current NITRD structure (the High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991), the agency is not officially a member of the NITRD Interagency Working Group. However, the agency has requested $17 million in FY 2006 for cyber security research and development, out of a total Science and Technology directorate budget request of $1.3 billion (see table II-20), a decrease of $1 million dollars compared to FY 2005. In the forthcoming PITAC report on cyber security R&D, the committee is expected to take DHS to task for its inadequate support of long-term cyber security research, given that IT systems constitute the control loop of so much of the nation's critical infrastructure. The report will note that of the $18 million DHS expects to spend in FY 2005 on cyber security R&D, only $1.5 million of that research can truly be described as long-term.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to CRA | Funding | Policy

    March 17, 2005

    House Science Passes HPC Authorization

    The House Science Committee marked up a series of bills today including H.R. 28, the High Performance Computing Revitalization Act, a bill we covered in depth last year when it was introduced as H.R. 4218. CRA endorsed that bill, and has endorsed H.R. 28. Here's a summary of today's activities from the House Science Committee press release.

    The bill, which was introduced by Energy Subcommittee Chairman Judy Biggert (R-IL), Representative Lincoln Davis (D-TN), and Chairman Boehlert, would strengthen U.S. supercomputing capabilities by requiring NSF and DOE to ensure U.S. researchers access to high-performance computers, and by prescribing a comprehensive, balanced approach to the nation's computing strategy.  It would also place responsibility with the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure a coordinated, on-going effort among the federal agencies that have a role in high-performance computing.  An earlier version of the bill was endorsed by the Bush Administration at a May 13, 2004 Full Committee hearing.

    By voice vote, the Committee agreed to an amendment offered by Chairman Biggert that added a finding that emphasizes the importance of commercial application of the results of federal investment in computer science.  By a vote of 19 to 17, the Committee rejected an amendment offered by Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) that would have added a requirement that the National Science Foundation support research into the implications of computers that would be capable of mimicking human abilities to learn, reason, and make decisions. 

    The Sherman amendment was agreed to by the Committee in the 108th, Congress.  Explaining the Majority's opposition today, Chairman Boehlert said, "We've learned that it is adamantly opposed by the bill's sponsor who happens to be one of our subcommittee chairs.  We've learned that it is adamantly opposed by both industry and the Administration.  We've learned that it is an obstacle to dealing with the Senate.  And we learned all that the hard way while keeping to our agreement by trying to get this language through on another bill - Mrs. Biggert's Energy Department computing bill that we got signed into law last year.  Now I might be willing to continue to support this amendment despite all that if I thought that it dealt with a crucial and pressing problem.  But it doesn't.  All the experts tell us we are nowhere near creating the dystopia that Mr. Sherman fears." 

    From here, the bill will advance to the House floor where it's expected to pass without difficulty, as H.R. 4218 did last year. Unfortunately, the hurdle for reauthorizations of NITRD programs lately has been the U.S. Senate. As Boehlert noted, H.R. 4218 failed to receive consideration by the Senate in the 108th Congress, though that seemed related to time constraints rather than any substantive objection to the bill. Previous efforts in the 107th and 106th Congresses also met a similar fate. However, this time Science Committee staff are optimistic that the earlier start they've gotten introducing and marking up the bill combined with its uncontroversial nature (there are, for example, no dollar amounts included in the bill that might earn the wrath of budget hawks -- or prove helpful to the computing community in making the case for funding to appropriators...) means that the bill has a serious shot gaining Senate approval.

    We'll keep an eye on all the developments here....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:41 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    March 16, 2005

    Industry Continues to Push for Basic Research, White House Growing Defensive

    Interesting article (sub. req'd) in Tech Daily today about an event hosted by the Semiconductor Industry Association which brought together Intel CEO Craig Barrett, Micron Technology CEO Steve Appleton, and Harvard Economist Dale Jorgenson to talk about the importance of federal support for fundamental research and math and science education. They sounded a theme that's been heard increasingly from industry groups and policymakers in the last few weeks: "American technology leadership is under an assault that can only be countered through improved basic research investment and better science education in American schools."

    "Congress shouldn't play Sputnik with this; we have to plan in advance," Intel CEO Craig Barrett said at a press conference convened by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). Sputnik was the Russian rocket launched in 1957 that began the "space race" with the United States.


    For the semiconductor industry, the problem is physics. Current technology uses complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS) -- the ubiquitous silicon chip. But in the race to cram more tiny transistors onto chips, the industry will exhaust the parameters of CMOS and need to make a major technical jump into nanotechnology, which focuses on matter at the atomic level.

    "U.S. leadership in nanoelectronics is not guaranteed," Barrett said. "It will take a massive, coordinated U.S. research effort involving academia, industry, and state and federal governments to ensure that America continues to be the world leader in information technology."

    The press conference once again put the Administration on the defensive for a budget request that cuts basic research in the physical sciences by $39 million in FY 2006. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger repeated what he told a House Appropriations Committee earlier this week, when he said he didn't believe that U.S. competitiveness was at risk:
    Presidential science adviser John Marburger said he hears the warnings but feels that U.S. competitiveness is not facing an immediate crisis. "It's kind of hard to see into the future," he said. "The U.S. is so far ahead in these areas that we are going to be able to maintain our competitive strength. I don't see the same danger signs."
    ...And then argued that R&D advocates shouldn't focus on what the President is proposing this year, they should look at the growth over the last 5 years:
    Many high-tech advocacy groups are relying on R&D budget figures that misrepresent the level of true federal investment, Marburger said. Taken in five-year increments, overall basic research spending between fiscal 2002 and fiscal 2006 is up $28 billion over the same period starting in 1997, in constant dollars, according to data from the White House Office of Science and Technology. But for fiscal 2006, the administration has requested cutting spending on basic physical sciences by $39 million, to $2.8 billion.

    R&D spending advocates, including the Alliance for Technology Research in America, SIA and TechNet, point to a 25-year flat line on funding for basic research on physical sciences and engineering at $8 billion per year as proof of the problem.

    Marburger said they are slicing data to support their case. "We are by far the major investor in basic research in most fields," he said.

    Honestly, Marburger is doing just what he accuses ASTRA of doing. While it's true that basic research is up in aggregate over the time-period he suggests, almost all of that increase is the result of the doubling of NIH. Every other agency, including those agencies responsible for supporting basic research in the physical sciences, is essentially flat over the period.
    (click to enlarge)

    Of course, this is exactly the point SIA and ASTRA were trying to addition to the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, Council on Competitiveness, the American Electronics Association, CSPP, TechNet and all the others who have argued in recent weeks that our failure to adequately support fundamental research in the physical sciences reduces our future innovative capacity and ultimately our future competitiveness.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    March 10, 2005

    Kudos to TechNet

    TechNet, a "bipartisan, political network of CEOs" of technology companies including Intel, HP, Cisco, 3Com and others, has released its Innovation Priorities for the coming year, which includes a call for an increase for basic research funding at federal agencies. The priorities result from a series of "Innovation Summits" with industry, academia and policymakers the group held over the last half of last year, which found that:

  • The U.S. education system is not preparing young Americans for the careers of the future;
  • The United States is no longer assured of attracting and retaining the world's best innovators;
  • Global innovation leadership requires a long-term, strategic approach to create an ecosystem that fosters innovation;
  • We are gravely under-investing in research and development as a nation;
  • The U.S. lags behind other nations in the deployment of broadband networks that are the foundation of the next wave of technology innovation.
  • The findings led a series of recommendations, which are worth reading. Here are a couple:
    Strengthen education and develop a skilled technology workforce. Specific education recommendations include continued implementation and full funding of the No Child Left Behind Act; making science, math, engineering and technology education a national priority by increasing funding for math and science partnerships; effective retraining for displaced and unemployed U.S. workers; and, efforts to ensure that foreign innovators trained in the United States are able to remain to create technologies, companies and jobs.

    TechNet is also announcing today the formation of an CEO Education Task Force. It includes Craig Barrett, CEO, Intel Corporation; Art Coviello, President and CEO, RSA Security; Paul Deninger, Chairman, Broadview - A Jeffries Company; John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; John Morgridge, Chairman, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Henry Samueli, Chairman and CTO, Broadcom; Stratton Sclavos, President and CEO, VeriSign; Jeff Taylor, Founder, Monster Worldwide; and Joe Tucci, President and CEO, EMC Corporation.

    Increase federal funding for basic research at key agencies and enact a permanent extension of the R&D tax credit. A sustained public and private investment in R&D will foster a skilled American workforce, stimulate new technologies and maintain U.S. dominance in vital industries. It is critical that Congress enact a permanent R&D tax credit and take steps to achieve a doubling of the basic research budget of the National Science Foundation.
    With that, TechNet joins a growing group of companies and industry associations that are drawing attention to the importance of federal investment of basic research in fueling the innovation that drives U.S. competitiveness. In recent weeks, the American Electronics Association, the Council on Competitiveness (pdf), the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (pdf), and the Computer Systems Policy Project (to name a few) have all put out reports or issued statements affirming the importance of the federal investment in basic research. The message is starting to resonate will policymakers. In the Democratic response to the President's State of the Union speech this year, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) mentioned the importance of spurring R&D to create "the jobs of the future." And Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wrote recently that the U.S. isn't doing enough to "nuture the next Einsteins."
    The lack of federal investment in basic research and restrictive immigration policies are eroding America's leadership in the sciences. The ripple effects of these two troublesome trends are enormous: Our future economic competitiveness and quality of life depend on our ability to stay ahead of the scientific and technological curve.

    We'll be working hard this year to make sure that the message does more than resonate -- that it results in some real priority in the budget for fundamental research investments.

    Update: Here's more coverage.

    Another Update: MIT's Technology Review says more companies and industry groups need to step up their advocacy for fundamental research support:

    It's time for those who make their livings by investing in emerging-technology companies to voice concern. Rational voices in the university research community, like [Shirley] Jackson's [President of AAAS], wont be heard unless financial leaders amplify the message.

    The next few months will be crucial, as President Bush's proposed 2006 federal budget is debated in Congress. While the nation's enormous deficit will certainly mean greater frugality, legislators need to strengthen, even if only modestly, funding for NSF and NIH. A good starting point would be to hold President Bush and Congress accountable for reneging on 2002 legislation that authorized a doubling of NSFs budget by 2007. That doubling wont happen now: thats clear. But financial leaders who are dependent, one way or another, on government funding of research should ask why not. There should be outrage over the erosion of U.S. research institutions.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    March 01, 2005

    Seventeen Computer Scientists File Amicus in Grokster

    A group of seventeen computer scientists yesterday filed an amicus brief (pdf) in the MGM v. Grokster case before the Supreme Court, "to call to the Court's attention several computer science issues raised by Petitioners [i.e., the movie and music companies] and amici who filed concurrent with Petitioners, and to correct certain of their technical assertions." If you're not familiar with the case or the potential impact it may have on anyone who creates technology, there's an interesting summary and some thoughts about what Congress might do as a result at the 463 Communications blog.

    Ed Felten, one of the 17 amici (along with CRA board members Gene Spafford and Jennifer Rexford), has a summary of the arguments in the compsci professor's brief over at Freedom to Tinker, and a series of good posts on the case.

    USACM has been tracking the issue as well.

    Update: USACM joined an amicus brief with sixty law professors in support of Grokster. Cameron Wilson has the details.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 06:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    February 24, 2005

    Sen. Alexander Frets That U.S. Isn't Nurturing Next Einsteins

    Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) worries (sub. may be req'd?) in the latest issue of Science that the U.S. isn't doing what it could to continue the pace of innovation and "nuture the next Einsteins."

    All revolutions begin with a seminal moment. This year, we will celebrate one of the greatest in the history of science: the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's 1905 landmark papers that introduced the special theory of relativity and the equivalence of mass and energy. As we explore their impact, we must ask ourselves if we as a nation are doing what it takes to spark new scientific revolutions. Are we nurturing the next Einsteins? Regrettably, the answer is no. The lack of federal investment in basic research and restrictive immigration policies are eroding America's leadership in the sciences. The ripple effects of these two troublesome trends are enormous: Our future economic competitiveness and quality of life depend on our ability to stay ahead of the scientific and technological curve.

    The splitting of the atom ushered in an unprecedented era of public investment in basic scientific research after World War II. The National Academy of Sciences (citing the work of Nobel Laureate Robert Solow) estimates that nearly half of our nation's economic growth since that time can be attributed to advances in science and technology.

    However, in recent years investment has shifted away from research in the physical sciences and engineering to the life sciences. The irony is that advances in the life and medical sciences will be impossible without their physical and engineering counterparts. I agree with the recommendation of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that the funding levels for the physical sciences and engineering be brought to parity with that for the life sciences, which has more than doubled over the past decade. Adequate funding alone, however, will not guarantee that science in the United States maintains its strength.

    I'm getting more encouraged by the frequency with which the concept that federal support of R&D leads to innovation, which in turn enables U.S. competitiveness, is showing up in the press and out of the mouths of policy makers on both sides of the aisle. As soon as I get some time, I think I'll compile all the recent examples I can find -- it's a big list. But in the meantime, you can probably get more than a few examples by browsing the funding and policy categories in the archives on the left.

    And the rest of the Alexander editorial is certainly worth reading.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    February 18, 2005

    Congressional Reorganization: IT Policy Implications

    With a new Congress comes a new organization of congressional committees and memberships. We've covered the reorganization of the Appropriations committees and its impact on science funding. USACM's Cameron Wilson has a great writeup on some of the other IT policy implications on USACM's Technology Policy Weblog. It's a good look at the new congressional landscape for intellectual property, privacy, and security issues.

    Update: (3/2) Fixed the link to Cameron's post.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 03:36 PM | TrackBack
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    February 16, 2005

    Busy Day: Hearing and Press Conference

    Lots going on today. The House Science Committee will hold the first of its hearings on the FY 2006 Science Budget today at 11 am. Scheduled to appear are:

  • John Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;
  • Samuel Bodman, Secretary of Energy;
  • Arden Bement, Director of the National Science Foundation;
  • Charles McQueary, Undersecretary for Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security; and
  • Theodore Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce.
  • It's always a little depressing to listen to directors of the science agencies forced to defend the lean budgets they've been saddled with, but for those who want to watch, the hearing will be webcast starting at 11 am today. Here's the hearing charter (pdf).

    Also happening today is a press conference hosted by the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation -- a coalition of industry and academic groups advocating for support of the physical sciences and engineering. The Task Force is releasing a series of benchmarks for measuring U.S. global competitiveness in research and innovation. Scheduled to appear at the press conference today at 1 pm are:

  • John Engler, President, National Association of Manufacturers
  • Craig Barrett, Chief Executive Officer, Intel
  • Nils Hasselmo, President, Association of American Universities
  • Deborah Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness
  • Burton Richter, Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences and former Director, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University
  • Diana Hicks, Chair, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • All will make the case for strengthening federal investments in science and engineering research, emphasizing the impact of those investments on long-term economic growth and prosperity.

    The strength of this particular coalition, as can be seen above, is the strong participation of the high-tech companies and industry associations -- who have some influence in the current administration -- along with the academic groups (CRA is a member of the task force).

    I'll have more coverage of the benchmarks, as well as some other comments after the event this afternoon.

    Update: (2/16 6:30pm EST) - The Task Force press conference was remarkably well-attended -- the 70-person capacity room was filled, with people lining the walls. It appears a good number of attendees were actually press, too. I'll be posting links to coverage of the event here as I come across them.

    For now, here is the official Benchmarks report (pdf). And the accompanying press release (pdf).

    Reuters is already out with the story.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:52 AM | TrackBack
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    NY Times Applauds Improvements to Student Visa Process

    Just a quick note to point out an editorial in today's New York Times commending the State Department for finally "bringing some sanity" to the student visa issue. CRA has been urging this sort of reform since it became clear shortly after 9/11 that it was having a real impact on our member institutions. Thanks should go to AAAS, AAU and the National Academies -- some of the real heavyweight academic associations -- for moving the issue forward.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:20 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    February 14, 2005

    IT Spending Does Not Equal IT R&D Funding

    Computerworld has a story today that, I think, helps contribute to the common misunderstanding in some policy circles that "IT funding" is the same as "IT R&D funding." The story combines budget news about the president's proposed increases in federal IT funding -- in this case, funding for IT procurement -- with news about some aspects of the president's science and technology budget. Here's the first few paragraphs:

    FEBRUARY 14, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) - President George Bush's proposed budget for the federal government's 2006 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, includes an increase in IT spending, despite significant cuts elsewhere.

    The plan also asks Congress to permanently extend a research and development tax credit while terminating a program to develop high-risk, high-payoff technology.

    The 2006 Bush budget cuts back or eliminates 150 government programs while calling for a 7% increase in government IT spending, to $65.1 billion. About 55% of IT-related funding would go to defense and domestic security programs. At the same time, the plan raises IT funding for the National Science Foundation by nearly 26%.

    Separately, Bush's science and technology budget would drop from an estimated $61.7 billion in fiscal 2005 to $60.8 billion in 2006. The science and technology budget includes programs such as space exploration, renewable energy and agricultural research, as well as technology-related research and development at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


    The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an industry trade group, praised the IT budget plan.

    "America must pick up the pace in science, math and engineering," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a statement. "Countries around the world have clearly signaled their intent to challenge U.S. leadership in technology. Our economic well-being depends on answering this challenge."

    The conflation in the article of IT procurement issues --buying IT for uses within the agency -- with science and technology funding issues aimed at supporting researchers working on the next generations of technology might lead the reader to conclude that IT R&D funding did well under the budget request. Indeed, the line about the 26 percent increase in funding at NSF, as well as Harris Miller's (ITAA) quote about the need for America to "pick up the pace in science, math and engineering," and the bit about the extension of the research and development tax cut seem to reinforce that.

    Of course, that's not quite the case. IT R&D funding overall would decline 7 percent under the President's plan. NSF funding for IT R&D would increase agency-wide, but only slightly -- $8 million or 1 percent over FY 05.

    The irony is that the very important message conveyed in Miller's quote argues for much more robust IT R&D funding, which despite NSF's increase in IT procurement, isn't happening.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:49 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    Business Week Makes the Economic Case for Federal R&D Spending

    Michael Mandel notes in today's BusinessWeek Online op-ed that President Bush's proposed cuts to federal support of R&D in his FY 06 budget request are shortsighted because of the impact they'll have on the U.S. economy. He focuses on multifactor productivity (MFP). a measure of productivity that, when it goes up, means "output per hour of the average worker goes up without any additional skills or a change in equipment."

    "An increase in MFP equals free money, extra production that you don't have to pay for," he writes.

    The key, according to Mandel:

    Multifactor productivity is borne of the essence of technological innovation -- the creation of new products and new opportunities out of ideas and thin air. For example, the spread of the Internet has not only made doing business easier and cheaper but also allowed people to do things that weren't even possible in the past. Think about Amazon, Google, and eBay. Wireless phones aren't just a substitute for landlines; they enable people to organize their activities in very different ways.

    The rate of multifactor productivity growth represents the single best indicator of the economy's true strength. When MFP is increasing rapidly, the size of the economic pie expands, real wages rise, profits go up, and everyone feels good. When that figure stagnates, things are tough all around.

    For example, multifactor productivity didn't rise at all in 1973-83, a period that included the era of runaway inflation, President Jimmy Carter's famous "malaise" speech, and the deepest recession since the Great Depression. During that stretch, the stock market, adjusted for inflation, fell by 34%, while real hourly wages for production and nonsupervisory workers descended by 11%.

    By contrast, the birth of the New Economy can be clearly seen in the sharp acceleration of multifactor productivity growth starting in 1996. From that point to 2002 (the latest year for which figures are available), MFP gained a bit more than 1% a year. From 1995 to today, real wages have risen by 9%, while the inflation-adjusted stock market is up by 68%.

    An economy with rapid multifactor productivity growth is potentially quite profitable for investors, which helps explain why the U.S. can attract so much foreign capital to fund its trade deficit. High MFP also generates lots of extra output, useful for paying for, say, military actions or better health-care benefits. It's like having a cushion or a security blanket.

    Mandel notes that the President's cut to nondefense R&D spending "can only hurt the nation's ability to maintain a rapid pace of multifactor productivity growth."
    Putting more resources into technology and education is the best way to ensure that the bounty of higher MFP continues in the future.
    Read the whole piece.

    Thanks to Anthony Pitagno of ACS for the tip.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:38 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    February 11, 2005

    Real ID Act Passes House

    USACM's David Padgham has a good post on House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner's "Real ID Act," a bill inteded to disrupt terrorist travel and bolster U.S. border security.

    Among privacy and civil liberties advocates, the bill has renewed worries about the development of a national identification system. Indeed, critics of the bill assert that implementing the standards and information sharing compacts would amount to a “de facto national ID card.” Supporters of the bill contend that the bill is needed to address a number of vulnerabilities in border and homeland security efforts.
    ACM has more info on national ID's here.

    Read the whole post.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:22 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    February 04, 2005

    Venture Capitalists Worried About Federal Neglect of Basic Research

    Just a quick note on an otherwise busy Friday to point to a piece from the editors of MIT's Technology Review about concerns in the high-tech VC community about the federal government's commitment to funding fundamental research. Here's the opening:

    The appetite of venture capitalists for investing in new technologies is rebounding: in 2004, venture capital financing in the United States was up 8 percent from the year before, following three years of decline. With the success of Google’s initial public offering (IPO) in August 2004, technology again excited the public imagination. Indeed, the window on IPOs opened wide in 2004, with 233 companies going public on U.S. stock exchanges and raising $43 billion, up from 79 companies and $16 billion in 2003. Biotechnology IPOs were particularly successful, raising $2.5 billion, the most since the $8.7 billion raised in 2000. So why are many of those involved in the funding of emerging technologies so worried?

    According to some experts, the kind of basic research necessary to create tomorrow’s technologies is under siege—or at the very least, suffering from neglect. Venture capitalists never entirely stopped investing in companies with technologies just emerging from the lab. But after several years in which high-risk investments were unpopular, many startups developing innovative technologies (especially in such areas as nanotechnology and new genomic approaches to medicine) are starving for capital. Even more worrisome, the federal government’s preoccupation with funding homeland security and national defense, and its resulting cutbacks in support for basic research in other areas, has left many wondering where the funding for research on new core technologies will come from.

    And a little more from later in the piece:
    "Defense and homeland security are very important. I can’t criticize funding increases per se in those areas," says Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and the 2004 AAAS president. "But the bigger issue is sustaining focus and support for funding of basic research across broad fronts. We have to have a robust base of basic research. We’re talking about potentially eroding that base." Jackson adds, "Other places will innovate. The question is, are we going to be a leader? If we don’t pay attention to the warning signs, 15, 20 years from now, we could find ourselves in a relatively disadvantageous position in terms of global leadership."

    Experts also worry that the federal R&D budget has become too skewed toward relatively mature technologies. "A lot of the federal funding has gotten a little more conservative and risk averse. The government needs to put a bigger percentage in radical innovation and more-exploratory research—technology that’s going to be transformational," says Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the Council on Competitiveness, a group of industry, university, and labor leaders based in Washington, DC. Amar Bose, professor emeritus at MIT and founder of the Bose audio company in Framingham, MA, puts it more bluntly: "Research funding is going downhill, and I don’t see it turning around. We’re going to have trouble."

    Something to keep in mind as we brace for the release Monday of the President's Budget Request for FY 06.

    Read the whole article here.

    Thanks to fellow CRA'er Jay Vegso for the tip!

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    January 31, 2005

    Research Under Fire

    The Berkeleyan, a publication of UC Berkeley, has a great, in-depth piece on a trend we've noted and complained about in this space quite often: the increasing use of restrictions on federally supported fundamental research and its impact on university-based research. I'll just cite a little bit, but I urge you to read the article.

    DARPA, explains Lee's colleague David Culler, "is a very strange place these days." Just months after Lee's brush with export controls, Culler, also an EECS professor, had a similar experience. In 2000 he was awarded an agency contract to develop hardware and software for miniaturized wireless computer networks, utilizing open-source software that would be shared with the wider research community. "This whole notion of openness was fundamental," Culler says. "That's what we wanted to do."

    In February 2004, however, DARPA's program manager sent an e-mail to Culler and more than a dozen other researchers working on various aspects of the program, asking that source codes and possibly other material — the message, says Culler, was "ambiguous" — be removed from websites. Unsure of what to do, Culler consulted with Freedman's office, which advised him to take no such action.

    DARPA, meanwhile, pondered its next steps, eventually opting to split the program into two major segments, with basic research remaining at universities and classified work going to military contractors like Northrup Grumman. The decision, Culler says, wound up costing Berkeley "very little," though other universities lost "quite a lot."

    "The money basically moved from the universities to the military contractors," he says. "It's a tremendous shift in where the resources have gone."

    More is at stake than just money, however. Ironically, DARPA's efforts to "short-circuit" the research process — to short-shrift basic research in favor of specific military applications — could have the effect of hampering, not improving, America's security.

    "If you're not able to keep the basic-research engine alive," Culler explains, the result is likely to be less innovation and competitiveness, as other countries pick up the slack. "There is absolutely a need for basic research," he insists. "Ultimately, in the long term, that contributes to an advantage in national security."

    Thanks to Spaf for the tip.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    January 27, 2005

    Appropriations Reorganization Update: NSF and NASA to Energy and Water?

    House Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is apparently proposing the most radical restructuring of the Appropriations Committee in decades, according to an article appearing in today's Congress Daily (sub. req'd). Peter Cohn, writes (sorry, I can't find it online), that the proposal would pare the 13 appropriations committees down to 10 and would move NASA and the National Science Foundation out from beneath the veterans' programs and housing programs in the VA-HUD appropriations and into the Energy and Water Appropriations, where they would join the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy.

    The proposal is very similar to the appropriations reorganization originally floated by House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) (which we covered here). The proposal doesn't quite create the "Science Subcommittee" that was rumored to have been part of Delay's original proposal -- the National Institutes of Health, along with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration won't be affected by the move. But it's more ambitious than most predicted.

    I think this could potentially raise the prominence of NASA and NSF within the approps process, as they'll be sharing a subcommittee with agencies with more modest budgets (Corps of Engineers = ~$4.8 billion; DOE = ~$23 billion) than the two behemoths in VA-HUD (VA = ~$65 billion and HUD = ~$38 billion). One potential negative, however, is that the Energy and Water bill tends to be a magnet for congressional earmarks -- typically for water projects within home districts.

    The plan faces some resistance from Senate Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS), who told Congress Daily that he's "in no rush to make major changes." One Senator who will surely object to any move to eliminate the VA-HUD subcommittee is Kit Bond (R-MO), who is slated to return as its chairman.

    The House leadership apparently plans to go ahead with the change regardless of what the Senate decides. Should the Senate not go along with the move, reconciliation of the bills in conference could be chaotic.

    In any case, expect that whatever reorganization will happen will happen soon. As always, keep it tuned here for the latest details....

    Update: It appears Rep. David Hobson (R-OH) would be in line to take over the newly constituted Energy and Water subcommittee (with NSF and NASA)....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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    January 25, 2005

    R&D and Legislative Priorities: Senate Edition

    The Senate Majority and Minority leaders announced yesterday their respective parties' "legislative priorities" for the new session of Congress, highlighting different perspectives on the relative importance of federal support for R&D.

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that "expanding high-speed Internet access, targeting terrorists, ending tax incentives for U.S. companies located overseas and increasing the minimum wage, among other items, top their agenda," according to Tech Daily (sub req'd). The Senate Democratic agenda includes a fairly prominent mention of support for federal R&D as part of their efforts to promote "Expanding Economic Opportunity" in Senate bill S. 14:

    Strengthen and Restore American Innovative Strength through Commitment to Research, Science and Technology.  Research and development results in higher quality jobs, better and safer products and higher productivity among American businesses.  U.S. economic strength is dependent on its leadership in science and technology, and the U.S. is losing ground to foreign competitors.  The U.S. needs to re-commit itself to the value of public investment in research and development, which is being outpaced by investment in the private sector.  This bill makes permanent a tax credit for entities that increase their research activities and makes a credit available to consortia of entities that research collaboratively.  The bill also expresses support for legislation that will increase federally funded research at the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Science and Technology so we can better compete in the international economy, as well investment in math, science and technology programs at our secondary education institutions. 
    Also included in the Senate Democratic Agenda (under the same bill) is language aimed at encouraging broadband deployment:
    America continues to fall behind our competitors in access to broadband internet service.  Most of the communities lacking service are in rural and economically-distressed areas of the country.  S. 14 expands broadband availability to these areas by allowing broadband service providers to immediately deduct one-half of the cost of their investment in equipment to provide current generation broadband access to rural and underserved areas. 
    Of course, these sorts of proposals are a bit easier to make when you're not in the majority, but it's encouraging to see them featured so prominently nonetheless.

    On the Senate Republican side, overt mentions of support for federal R&D are a little harder to find. Senate bill S.4 in the Senate Republican's Top Ten (pdf), the "Healthy America Act" recognizes that health information technology can make health care more affordable and supports the adoption of standards that might make Electronic Health Records feasible -- but other than noting that the recommendation is similar to a PITAC recommendation along the same lines in the committee's Health and Information Technology report (pdf), and that the PITAC also recommended significant R&D in the area to address considerable challenges, it's probably a stretch to call that a ringing endorsement of federal R&D.

    Tech Daily reports that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) also mentioned

    technology initiatives to better prepare for, respond to and prevent terrorist attacks. Frist said Republicans would put forward a bill approved last year that would help transfer advanced technologies from federal departments and agencies to state and local "first responders" to emergencies.
    But again, certainly not a ringing endorsement of fundamental research.

    Lest I make it seem like this perception of the importance of federal R&D support is strictly a partisan difference, I'll quote an interesting passage in Newt Gingrich's new book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America. Gingrich still wields some influence in the party, though obviously not nearly the clout he once had as Speaker and the leader of the Republican Revolution that took back the House in '94. He clearly "gets" R&D:


    The research budget of the United States should be considered part of the national security budget. Investing in science (including math and science education) is the most important strategic investment we make in continued American leadership economically and militarily. Investing in science has also been the most consistent, powerful, single mechanism for extending life and for improving the quality of life. When developing the federal budget, the investment in science should be considered immediately after operational military requirements and before any of the traditional domestic spending programs.

    Congress should consider establishing a separate budget line item for federal research and protecting it from encroachment by all the interest groups who want immediate gratification for their projects. Special interests can find funding for highways, subsidies to farmers, and public housing. For a variety of reasons scientists and those who believe in science have a harder time making a 'pork barrel' or special interest appeal for more money.

    In the next few years the requirements are pretty straight forward.

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) should increase at a rate that allows it to sustain its current research program. Having recently doubled the NIH budget, Congress does not need to double it again immediately. Congress should be aware, however, of the crippling impact of a flat budget when research opportunities and needs are growing.

    The National Science Foundation's (NSF) budget should be tripled over the next five years. The Foundation is the engine of basic research for the United States, and most of our modern medical advances have come as the result of basic research initially funded by the NSF.

    The specialized agencies, the laboratories at the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should all be asked to develop a master plan for the science they could do if properly funded. Funding should follow proportionate to the research they can explain and defend.

    The Department of Energy has an opportunity to transform the entire energy economy (and the American balance of trade) through its work on hydrogen. If the Department of Energy succeeds in developing a commercially sustainable hydrogen market, its impact on the environment, the economy, and national security will be extraordinary. This project deserves as big an investment as it can reasonably use.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology has been leading the way in researching quantum mechanics and its work needs to be continued.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has enormous opportunities in ocean science and in understanding global climate change. A society that may end up spending trillions to avoid global climate change should be willing to spend 1 percent as much understanding this topic.

    The yardstick should be very simple: What are our children's future and our grandchildren's future worth to us? What are the breakthroughs that might accelerate our economy, save our lives, and protect our national worth to us? From that baseline we should develop our research budget each year.

    Thanks to Barry Toiv of AAU for the quote.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 02:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    January 19, 2005

    EU Says Bureaucracy Hurting IT Research Efforts, Competitiveness notes today that an EU commission charged with assessing the state of EU IT research efforts has concluded that the effort is failing because of insufficient funding and heavy-handed bureaucracy.

    The panel said the research was vital for competitiveness but that it more investment and less bureaucracy are required for success.

    The panel was chaired by former Portuguese science minister Jose Mariano Gago, who was one of the authors of the European Commission’s 10-year Lisbon Strategy, which aims to make the EU the "world's most dynamic and competitive economy."

    Viviane Reding, European Commission information society and media commissioner, said, "Fast-changing IST research is, and must remain, a key driver for the rapid economy-wide technological innovation on which Europe’s skilled jobs ultimately depend."

    As we've noted before (Are we taking NSF for granted?), the Europeans are increasingly aware how important US investment in IT R&D has been to US competitiveness and are moving to mirror it. While it appears US industry leaders and academics recognize the value of that investment, unfortunately, it appears the Administration and Congress may not be quite so sure.

    Thanks to Dave Farber (via IP) for the story!

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    January 12, 2005

    PITAC Approves Cyber Security Report Calling For Significant Increases in Basic Cyber R&D

    The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) achieved consensus yesterday on the final draft of its report on the status of the federal cyber security R&D effort, finding that support for civilian-oriented, fundamental cyber security research is seriously inadequate, the pool of researchers is insufficient, and that coordination between funding agencies is lacking.

    Judging by yesterday's presentation (delivered by Tom Leighton, the Chair of PITAC's Subcommittee on Cyber Security), the report will lay out in stark terms the magnitude of the threat posed by vulnerabilities in the information infrastructure. It will also spell out in some detail the difficulties faced by researchers, especially in academic institutions, in finding federal support for the fundamental cyber security research that will address the vulnerabilities long-term. The report will note problems in all three agencies one would expect to be funding critical long-term cyber security R&D: NSF, DARPA and the Department of Homeland Security. I've covered these issues before in this space, but here are the key points:

  • DHS sees itself as a supporter of short-term research, funding very near-term technologies in an effort to address the current threat. Of a more than $1 billion science and technology budget for FY05, it will spend less than $18 million on cyber security research, of which only $1.5 million might be called "basic." DHS says it's dependent upon DARPA and NSF to provide the long-term research it will need in the future.

  • Two policies at DARPA have made it very difficult for academic researchers to participate in DARPA-supported research: a short-term focus with an emphasis on weeding out projects that can't demonstrate measurable results in 12- to 18-month timeframes; and, a move towards classification of a larger percentage of the DARPA research budget, especially in cyber security. As a result, university participation in DARPA-led IT research appears to have dropped significantly.

  • NSF's CyberTrust program (its research in cyber security) is heavily over-subscribed as a result. Proposal success rates are 8 percent, vs. a Foundation-wide average of about 25 percent. Proposal success rates that low are damaging to the discipline and to the nation that depends on that research. The Foundation believes about 40 percent of those proposals as good enough to warrant funding, were funding available.

    As a quick fix, the committee will recommend an immediate $90 million infusion of funding into NSF's cyber security research efforts to alleviate some of these funding pressures, while leaving the door open to future funding increases should the situation warrant it.

    Rather than summarize Leighton's whole presentation, I'll just link to the slides...once they've been posted (should be soon). When they appear, they'll be here. They're here (pdf).

    I'll recommend again CRA's own contribution to the report: our testimony (pdf) submitted to PITAC back in July, which mirrors much of what will be in the final report. In fact, it appears that the only major concern we raised which doesn't get some mention in the report is the chilling effect of various copyright legislation efforts on research in information security and assurance.

    CRA's testimony is here (pdf).

    The committee is putting its final touches on the report, which should be ready for final approval at the next meeting of PITAC, which I believe will be in March. We'll have all the details here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy
  • January 05, 2005

    R&D Funding And IT Policy To Play Major Role In Bush's Second Term, Information Week reports

    In a story yesterday, Information Week reports that the Bush Administration will look in FY 06 to focus on R&D funding and IT policy in response to challenges that the US technological leadership is slipping globally. Here's a snip:

    While many agree that emerging economies such as China, India, and South Korea are mounting a serious challenge to the United States' long-held role as the leading technology innovator, some question the administration's focus on the task at hand and its ability to deliver adequate funding given the burgeoning federal deficit.

    "The Bush administration's philosophy is to create an environment for innovation and an environment for participation," says Phillip Bond, the Commerce Department's undersecretary for technology.

    Federal research and development funding, crucial to the administration's ability to create innovative technologies, has increased 44% since 2001, Bond says. The administration contributes $2 billion annually to networking and IT R&D alone at agencies such as the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, and areas within the Defense Department. The Bush administration has also allocated $1 billion for the development of nanotechnology and taken an interest in quantum communication, an emerging encryption system.

    The article doesn't note whether any of the Administration's focus will result in increased funding for IT R&D -- and I don't have any information on that either -- but it's worth pointing out that the 44% figure quoted by Bond above isn't reflected in the actual amounts spent (and requested) for federal IT R&D spending from FY 01 - FY 05 (as can be seen on the bottom half of this chart). As others have noted, the bulk of that 44% increase has gone to the Defense Department, which is increasing its support for more short-term, development-oriented research and de-emphasizing long-term, fundamental research. Here's more on CRA's concerns about DOD research.

    But keep it tuned here for all the details of the President's FY 06 budget request, due February 7th....

    Update: Also forgot that I'd whipped up this little chart that showed how Federal IT R&D funding had fared in the various Administrations. Here's the post in which it originally appeared, which contains detail on how the chart was assembled.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 03:16 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    December 28, 2004

    New NAS Report on 6.1 Research at DOD

    [I may be on vacation in soggy LA, but computing research policy waits for no one! So here's an update from the road...]

    The National Academies have released their long-awaited report, Assessment of Department of Defense Basic Research. This is the study that was requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee in the FY 2004 Defense Authorization Act after they raised questions about the state of DOD basic research ("6.1" research in defense parlance) as part of the hearings leading up to the bill.

    The NAS panel's recommendations mirror a lot of things we've been saying about the DOD research -- mainly that it's become less basic and it's declining in both absolute dollars and as a percentage of the overall DOD science and technology budget. The full report doesn't seem to be online (I get an error at the NAS link above), but here's a copy of the summary (pdf, ~740k). I haven't read the full report so far, but from the executive summary the recommendations are worth reading:


    Recommendation 1. The Department of Defense should change its definition of basic research to the following:

    Basic research is systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and has the potential for broad, rather than specific, application. It includes all scientific study and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding in those fields of the physical, engineering, environmental, social, and life sciences related to longterm national security needs. It is farsighted high-payoff research that provides the bases for technological progress. Basic research may lead to (a) subsequent applied research and advance technology developments in Defense-related technologies, (b) new and improved military functional capabilities, or (c) the discovery of new knowledge that may later lead to more focused advances in areas relevant to the Department of Defense.

    Recommendation 2. The Department of Defense should include the following attributes in its guidance to basic research managers and direct that these attributes be used to characterize 6.1-funded research: a spirit that seeks first and foremost to discover new fundamental understanding, flexibility to modify goals or approaches in the near term based on discovery, freedom to pursue unexpected paths opened by new insights, high-risk research questions with the potential for high payoff in future developments, minimum requirements for detailed reporting, open communications with other researchers and external peers, freedom to publish in journals and present at meetings without restriction and permission, unrestricted involvement of students and postdoctoral candidates, no restrictions on the nationality of researchers, and stable funding for an agreed timetable to carry out the research.

    Recommendation 3. The Department of Defense should abandon its view of basic research as being part of a sequential or linear process of research and development (in this view, the results of basic research are handed off to applied research, the results of applied research are handed off to advanced technology development, and so forth). Instead, the DOD should view basic research, applied research, and the other phases of research and development as continuing activities that occur in parallel, with numerous supporting connections among them.

    Recommendation 4. The Department of Defense should set the balance of support within 6.1 basic research more in favor of unfettered exploration than of research related to short-term needs.

    Recommendation 5. Senior Department of Defense leadership should clearly communicate to research managers its understanding of the need for long-term exploration and discovery.

    Recommendation 6. Personnel policies should provide for the needed continuity of research management in order to ensure a cadre of experienced managers capable of exercising the level of authority needed to effectively direct research resources. Further, in light of the reductions in positions reported to the Committee on Department of Defense Basic Research, the Department of Defense should carefully examine the adequacy of the number of basic research management positions.

    Recommendation 7. The Department of Defense should redress the imbalance between its current basic research allocation, which has declined critically over the past decade, and its need to better support the expanded areas of technology, the need for increased unfettered basic research, and the support of new researchers.

    Recommendation 8. The Department of Defense should, through its funding and policies for university research, encourage increased participation by younger researchers as principal investigators.

    Recommendation 9. To avoid weakening the long and fruitful partnership between universities and Department of Defense agencies, DOD agreements and subagreements with universities for basic research should recognize National Security Decision Directive 189, the fundamental research exclusion providing for the open and unrestricted character of basic research. DOD program managers should also explicitly retain the authority to negotiate export compliance clauses out of basic research grants to universities, on the basis of both the program’s specific technologies and its objectives.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:55 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    December 15, 2004

    Competitiveness Report Cites Need for "Significantly" Increased Federal R&D Funds

    The Council on Competitiveness' long-awaited report on their National Innovation Initiative is now out (pdf) and contains some very strong recommendations in support of the federal role in funding fundamental research. Here's a first brief peek at their recommendations for "[Revitalizing] Frontier and Multidisciplinary Research":

  • Spur radical innovation by reallocating three percent of all federal agency R&D budgets toward "Innovation Acceleration" grants that invest in novel, high-risk and exploratory research.

  • Affirm the goal set in the Quadrennial Defense Review (2001) and by the Defense Science Board that at least three percent of the total Department of Defense budget be allocated for defense science and technology. Within this amount, the Department of Defense’s historic commitment to fundamental knowledge creation should be restored by directing at least 20 percent of the total Department of Defense science and technology budget to long-term, basic (6.1) research performed at the nation’s universities and national laboratories.

  • Increase significantly the research budgets of agencies that support basic research in the physical sciences and engineering, and complete the commitment to double the NSF budget. These increases should strive to ensure that the federal commitment of research to all federal agencies totals one percent of U.S. GDP.

  • Allocate an increasing proportion of future research funding at universities to multi-and interdisciplinary research -- and to the facilities and research infrastructure to support it.

  • Recognize "services science" as a new academic discipline -- and encourage universities, community colleges and industry to partner in developing curricula and in training a workforce focused on services and enterprise transformation.

  • Enact a permanent, restructured R&E tax credit and extend the credit to research conducted in university-industry consortia
  • I'll have more as I get through the report....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:23 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    December 13, 2004

    Could An Appropriations Reorganization Help U.S. Science?

    As the FY 05 appropriations process demonstrated, the current organization of congressional appropriations subcommittees (and thus, appropriations bills) is a mess that puts science agencies at a disadvantage in the competition for federal dollars. The current structure is a mish-mash of jurisdictions that forces agencies that have little or nothing to do with each other to compete for the limited funds within each bill -- one bill pits the National Science Foundation and NASA against the Veteran's Administration and federal housing programs, for example, and in another, it's NIST and NOAA against the State Department. More often than not, in that competition the science agencies get the short end of the stick.

    But there's an interesting proposal floating around DC to recast the appropriations panels to make their jurisdictions more sensible. Normally, a proposal to realign something as significant as the 13 appropriations committees would be dead on arrival -- especially a proposal like this one, which would reduce the number of subcommittees, and therefore subcommittee chairmen (called "cardinals" in deference to their power), from 13 to 10. But this one is being floated by the most powerful man in the House (and probably Congress), House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), and has the backing of the House GOP leadership.

    Delay's motive in proposing the reorganization is apparently to realign the committees to represent GOP and Democratic themes, according to CQ's (sub. req'd) Andrew Taylor. So, there'd be a "Regulatory Agencies" subcommittee that would include agencies like OSHA, another that would combine all of the funding for Congress, the White House, and the Judicial branch, and another for traditionally Democratic priorities like public housing. In the few news reports I've seen on the proposal, there hasn't been any mention of a subcommittee combining all the non-defense agencies for science. But a subcommittee comprised of the civilian science agencies seems like a logical part of any reorganization -- and indeed, the rumors circulating around town suggest it is.

    I haven't seen the proposal, but I think it would be reasonable to assume that a "Science" subcommittee would have to include appropriations for NIH, NSF, DOE Science, NASA, NIST, and NOAA -- basically all the major non-defense agencies involved in research. Obviously, a reorganization of that magnitude would change the dynamics of the appropriations process for science. I've been doing some thinking about whether it would be a positive or negative change. I'm coming to the conclusion that it would probably be positive overall...but I'm open to feedback from a different perspective. (Some of this may seem "inside baseball," but I think it's important.)

    I think the first change is that the annual 302(b) budget allocation -- the divvying up of the funds authorized by the annual Congressional Budget Resolution (CBR) into spending limits for each appropriations bill -- would become much more meaningful for the scientific community. In the current system, we advocate for science in the CBR, but it's a little disconnected from the 302(b) process. We advocate for the highest possible "Function 250" line -- the "General Science, Space and Technology" line in the CBR -- but that doesn't obviously translate into increased funding for any of the appropriations bills we care about because that function is an aggregate that gets split among a whole bunch of different appropriations bills. We could advocate for the highest possible 302(b) allocation for specific approps bills, like the VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriation, which includes NSF and NASA funding, but there's no guarantee that any of that increased funding will go towards the science agencies in that bill.

    With an Appropriations Subcommittee for Science there would be a corresponding 302(b) allocation for "Science." If we're looking to draw a bright line for science in the budget process, that's about as bright as it gets. There would be no doubt whether Congress was supportive of science in any particular year -- a look at the 302(b) allocation would tell you.

    Drafting the Science Appropriations Bill each year would also be an interesting exercise. With essentially all of the civilian research agencies represented under one subcommittee's jurisdiction, there would be few hurdles to overcome to address issues of balance in the federal research portfolio, for example. Federal gov't focused too heavily on the life sciences? The committee would have the authority to reprogram money from NIH to NSF or DOE Science. Too much applied research and not enough basic? Reprogram NIST ATP money to NSF. Can't do that under the current arrangement. There may also be efficiencies that result from having everything in one place. Coordinating research activities across research agencies may be easier when agencies can't hide behind the stovepipes of different appropriations committees.

    Of course, the appropriators could just as easily reverse the situation under this scenario -- reprogram NSF funds to NIST ATP to bolster applied research, NSF to NIH to bolster life sciences. But it seems to me that, in general, we'd be well-positioned in those debates. Under the current committee structure, those debates are essentially impossible.

    So, I think it'd be a net positive for us and for science generally. But I'm open to arguments in opposition.

    Assuming this reorganization is a good idea, the next question is what we in the science community can do to help it go forward. Politically, the odds are against reorganization, even with Delay and the House GOP Leadership strongly in favor. If it were up to the House alone, it would probably be a done deal. Delay has ensured himself significant political capital by delivering an increased majority to the GOP in the House via his almost single-handed redistricting push in Texas. In addition, there will be a new Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in the 109th Congress, and the House leadership will play the primary role in deciding who that will be (it's looking like Ralph Regula (R-OH)), so they'll have considerable leverage in guaranteeing support for their proposal.

    The real hurdle is the Senate. As a practical matter, any reorganization of the House Approps Committee will have to be mirrored in the Senate Approps Committee -- otherwise, conferencing the various appropriations bills will be chaos. The Senate will also have a new Appropriations Chair, Thad Cochran (R-MS), who has expressed opposition to the proposal. (In particular, he doesn't like the idea that it would eliminate the Agriculture Subcommittee, which he chaired). The opposition might not be unanimous across the Senate -- CQ says the Senate leadership apparently isn't "dismissive" of the idea -- but it's a long shot. I think if the science community does decide to weigh in in support of the proposal, focusing our efforts on the Senate -- Cochran in particular -- would be the best approach.

    But even if the proposal doesn't have a great chance of going forward, I think it's beneficial for Congress to have the reorganization debate...especially if an element of that debate is the potential benefit to U.S. science a reorganization might bring.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:25 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Funding | Policy

    December 02, 2004

    Catching Up: Update on PITAC Cyber Security Efforts

    This article I spotted today in Government Computer News on former Director of DHS' National Cybersecurity Division Amit Yoran's thoughts about DHS' niche in federal cybersecurity efforts reminded me that I hadn't provided an update on what I thought was a very interesting meeting of PITAC's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity R&D a week ago last Friday.

    The Subcommittee is in the process of evaluating the federal government's efforts in supporting cybersecurity research and development -- trying to figure out how well the government is targeting the right research areas, whether there's good balance between short-term and long-term research, whether we're doing all we can to improve technology transfer, and whether we're well prepared for the security challenges of the future. The goal is to produce a final report the full PITAC can approve at its March 2005 meeting. So far the subcommittee has produced a first draft, which is what was presented by Subcommittee Chair F. Thomson Leighton at the Nov 19th meeting.

    And that first draft is very good. It's clear the committee has taken to heart much of the testimony it has received, including testimony CRA submitted to the committee last July. Leighton's slide presentation (pdf) does a good job of laying out the details, but I thought I'd summarize them a bit here.

    The committee has identified four main issues: 1) Problems with civilian cyber security research; 2) Problems with the size of the cyber security basic research community; 3) Tech transfer issues; and 4) The coordination of cyber security R&D. They seem to have devoted quite a bit of attention to the first issue, and the points that they raise are all right on the money (and concerns CRA shares), namely:

  • The Federal R&D budget provides severely insufficient funding for basic research in cyber security. Even better, the subcommittee specifies an actual dollar amount increase (at least $90 million per year) necessary to make up for the current under-investment (while leaving the door open for future increases in funding beyond $90 million per year should "the Nation's security posture in the future" warrant it).

  • The subcommittee finds that the current federal focus on near-term applications in cyber security must be reversed.

  • Federal research efforts need to avoid "incrementalism." Research programs need to accommodate longer time periods and accept some "failures."

  • We must buttress civilian cyber security R&D efforts. While there's clearly a need for the Defense Department and the intelligence agencies to sponsor significant amounts of cyber security R&D related to their missions, increasingly, much of that research is being classified. There are costs to bear when research is classified. For example, research results for classified research are very slow to disseminate, if ever, and many/most university researchers are unable to participate -- meaning some of the best minds in the country aren't working on these important problems. As a result, NSF, the primary funder of unclassified, civilian cyber security R&D, is heavily oversubscribed. Its cyber security research program (CyberTrust) has an astonishingly bad award rate of 5-8 percent. The subcommittee estimates that a quadrupling (emph. added) of the CyberTrust budget could be productively used by the civilian cyber security community.

  • There are no shortage of research areas in need of funding: Computer authentication methodologies; securing fundamental protocols, secure software engineering, end-to-end system security, monitoring and detection; mitigation and recovery methodologies' cyberforensics and technology to enable prosecution of criminals; modeling and testbeds for new technologies; metrics, benchmarks and best practices; and societal and governance issues. In short, the subcommittee says
    There is no silver bullet or small set of silver bullets. It is not a matter of "tweaking" in the Internet -- there is no foundation of security to tweak. The existing Internet was built based on assumption of trust: it was assumed no one would harm the infrastructure, even by accident.
  • I think this is all excellent, and basically in agreement with the testimony CRA provided back in July. About the only thing of which I would have liked to have seen discussion is the issue of the potential (and real) chilling effect on research of laws aimed at protecting intellectual property and privacy -- most notably the impediment to research posed by provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As we noted in our testimony (by stealing excellent language from our affiliate ACM's U.S. Public Policy Office):
    [T]he “anti-circumvention provisions” of the DMCA interfere with many legal, non-infringing uses of digital computing and prevent scientists and technologists from circumventing access technologies to recognize shortcomings in security systems, to defend patents and copyrights, to discover and fix dangerous bugs in code, to analyze and stop malicious code (e.g., viruses), and to conduct forms of desired educational activities. In some instances, the threat of legal action under the DMCA has deterred scientists from publishing scholarly work or even publicly discussing their research, both fundamental tenets of scientific discourse.
    Other than that, I'm pretty happy with what I've seen from the report so far. (Please read through the slides to get the details on the other three issues the subcommittee identified.) If the final report contains the important discussion of the character of research supported by each of the federal agencies funding cyber security efforts and the subcommittee's funding recommendations, it will be a strong document that should prove very useful in the computing research community's efforts to reshape cyber security R&D policy at federal agencies (see in particular the subcommittee's discussions about the nature and amount of research sponsored by DHS -- too short-term and too little, in sum).

    We'll continue to keep an eye on the committee's progress....

    Oh, and just to get back to the article that triggered this post in the first place, I think it's important to note that though this:

    Yoran also called for more government support for basic security research. He said the initial $18 million budgeted for cybersecurity R&D in the first year of DHS was adequate as the department identified needs. But going forward, “personally, I would like to see greater government support for fundamental security research,” he said.
    implies that DHS is spending $18 million on basic research in cyber security, this isn't actually the case (as the subcommittee points out on slide 25). The agency currently spends just $1.5 million on research that can truly be considered basic, long-term research. The remaining $16.5 million is spent on short-term activities.

    Still, it's encouraging that Yoran at least acknowledges that the agency is lacking in its support for fundamental research. Hopefully his replacement will as well -- and do something about it.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 04:50 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy | Research | Security

    November 29, 2004

    NY Times OpEd on Foreign Students

    Thanks to Moshe Vardi for the head's up about this Op-Ed from Joseph S. Nye in today's New York Times concerning the decline in foreign student enrollment in American universities, due in large part to the nightmare that is the current U.S. visa process. It jives well with the Fareed Zakaria piece I linked to yesterday. Here's a key bit:

    In an effort to exclude a dangerous few, we are keeping out the helpful many. Consular officials know that they face career-threatening punishment if they are too lax, but face little sanction if they are too strict. Add to those perverse incentives, the need to coordinate with the extensive bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security, and you have a perfect recipe for inertia. More resources can help speed the process, but little will happen until Congress and the Bush administration make the problem a higher priority.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 04:03 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    November 28, 2004

    Are We Taking NSF for Granted? (no pun...)

    Stumbled upon this interesting article from the UK's Guardian detailing the recognition growing in the EU about the need for an agency similar to the US' National Science Foundation as a way to help the union "radically improve its knowledge economy." The article describes a European commission report earlier this month that noted U.S. R&D funding, currently at about $395 billion (£210 billion) total (that's industry and federal), has been a key reason for continued US dominance in innovation and hi-tech industries.

    As things stand, the 25 member states of the EU spend about £120bn a year investing in research and development. While that sounds like a lot, it pales beside the more than £210bn spent by the United States. This imbalance is one of the factors that have created a "brain drain" of scientific talent from Europe to the US, identified recently by the Royal Society as "particularly noticeable" in the standing of top-quality research teams. Generous research grants, better salaries and conditions in both the private sector and universities have sucked the best and brightest - and not just in science - across the Atlantic and put them to work in the service of the US economy. This reinforces the US's lead in innovation and hi-tech industries, giving it a strategic and commercial edge.


    The Kok report noted glumly that nearly three-quarters of the world's leading IT companies were from the US, and concluded that "Europe has no option but to radically improve its knowledge economy". To tackle this gap it recommended establishing a European research council, modelled on the National Science Foundation of the US, as an independent funding body run by scientists and academics, making grants in pure science as well as applied areas such as engineering and social sciences. Yesterday, the issue was debated by EU research ministers, as a first step towards setting up an ERC.

    To many interested parties it goes without saying that Europe needs such a body, if only to rid itself of the current cumbersome EU-wide arrangements for research funding. Yet the funding gap between the US and the EU is caused by lower research spending by Europe's business sector. There is a chicken and egg connection at work: better-targeted and more generous research funding should cause a virtuous spillover into more industrial investment.

    It's discouraging to juxtapose this European perspective of the value of the National Science Foundation and the role of fundamental research in enabling the knowledge economy with recent actions in this country that demonstrate our support for science is waning. One need not look far to see the evidence that federally-supported research has played a key role in the remarkable success of U.S. innovation. My favorite example comes from IT R&D (no surprise). It's the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board "tire tracks" chart (here's a larger version (pdf)), which shows 19 areas of research in IT that, with an interplay of federal and industrial support for R&D, became billion dollar markets. The recent cuts by Congress to NSF and other science agencies as part of the FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill show a disturbing lack of understanding and support of that crucial federal role.

    And, if that weren't bad enough, we're doing our best to stem the "brain drain" the Europeans show such great concern about by enacting visa policies that do a fair job of keeping the world's best and brightest away from our shores. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria has an interesting piece this week on just that subject: "Rejecting the Next Bill Gates".

    In order to stay competitive we need to remember what made us competitive, and I fear we're losing sight of that. Clearly, our competitors aren't.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    November 04, 2004

    PITAC Focuses on Computational Science

    The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee met "virtually" today to hear an update on the efforts of the panel's subcommittee on computational science. Dan Reed, who does just about everything at the University of North Carolina (Chancellor's Eminient Professor, Vice-Chancellor for IT and CIO, and Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute -- not to mention a current CRA board member) chairs the subcommittee and led the discussion of the subcommittee's efforts. His slides (pdf) provide a pretty good summary of his talk. (Check slide 5 for a pic of Dan -- back row, beneath the seal, with the beard.)

    The Subcommittee has been tasked with figuring out:

  • 1. How well is the federal government targeting the right research areas in computational science and are current agency priorities appropriate?
  • 2. How well is federal funding for computational science balanced between short and long-term research, and low and high-risk research? Which areas of research have the greatest promise?
  • 3. How well is funding balanced between the underlying techniques of computational science vs. applications in the science and engineering domains? Which areas have the greatest promise?
  • 4. How well is computational science training and research integrated into the scientific domains that rely on computational science?
  • 5. How effectively do federal agencies coordinate?
  • 6. How has the federal investment kept up with the changing technology?
  • 7. What barriers hinder realizing the highest potential of computational science?

    Dan's presentation has more detail, but in short, the subcommittee has made some progress towards answering those questions and gotten some good input already from the community (but is still looking for more). It looks like the final report will emphasize how crucial computing has become to the progress of science, as well as to U.S. competitiveness and national security. The subcommittee makes the point that computing has become the third component of scientific discovery, complementing theory and experiment, and that it's so integral that its limitations constrain scientific discovery.

    Additionally, the subcommittee notes that complex multidisciplinary problems, from public policy through national security to scientific discovery and economic competitiveness, have emerged as new drivers of computational science.

    One nugget I found especially interesting from the presentation was an example of both the economic benefit and the health and safety benefit that will arise from more capable modeling enabled by advanced computing. The subcommittee noted that 40 percent of the $10 trillion U.S. economy is impacted by climate and weather. As one example of this, the subcommittee cited the hurricane warnings provided by the National Hurricane Center and the cost of the evacuations that often result. According to the subcommittee, there is $1 million in economic loss for each mile of coastline evacuated. With the current models, the U.S. now "over warns" by a factor of 3, with the average "over-warning" for a hurricane resulting in 200 miles of evacuations -- or $200 million in unnecessary loss per event. Improved modeling (better algorithms, better software, more capable hardware, etc) would improve the accuracy of forecasts, saving lives and resources. As someone tasked with making "the case for IT R&D" to Hill and Administration policymakers, I can tell you that these sort of examples really resonate.

    The presentation has the full scoop, so I encourage you to read it and, even better, provide your input to the subcommittee. Dan's contact information is in the presentation, or I'd be happy to forward input to the subcommittee as well. Additionally, the subcommittee will hold a "town hall" meeting at next week's Supercomputing 2004 conference in Pittsburgh. So if you're headed to the conference, plan on making it to the November 10th BOF session they've scheduled.

    The subcommittee will then spend November and December gathering further input and drafting the report. They'll present a draft at a January 2005 PITAC meeting, with the final draft hopefully approved by the full committee in March 2005.

    With the current Administration now certainly in place for the next four years, the subcommittee's report has the potential to be fairly influential in shaping federal support for computational science over the long term, so it's definitely worth contributing to the effort.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 07:30 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy
  • October 31, 2004

    New E-voting Blog

    Computer Scientists David Dill, Ed Felten, Joe Hall, Avi Rubin, Barbara Simons, Adam Stubblefield, and Dan Wallach have joined forces at to post news and commentary on e-voting issues (just in time for election day). The site has only been up a day or two and already has some good commentary on reports of voting problems in Texas, as well as a bunch of handy links.

    If chaos does ensue on Tuesday (and even if it doesn't), the site looks like it will be a great place to check in and get the scoop with a technical perspective.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 08:57 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 21, 2004

    Rare Presidential Campaign Post: Presidential Candidates Address Tech Policy

    CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, recently put a series of technology policy questions to both Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush, who apparently, to their credit, actually answered the questions.

    I don't want to descend too far into the mire of dissecting the answers, but I wanted to highlight two that are particularly relevant to CRA's interests. The first is What should the federal government do to address the issue of cyber security?:

    Bush response:

    Given the enormous importance of e-commerce, Internet-based communications, and the use of cyberspace to control portions of our physical infrastructure, cyber security is critical. The investments being made today in securing out Nation's cyber infrastructure and in cyber security R&D are working to ensure that future generations of network software and hardware are less vulnerable to an attack and can maintain critical operations even when compromised.

    I announced the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace in February 2003. This plan, which complements the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets, depends on both public and private efforts to secure the many elements that comprise the national information infrastructure, including routers, switches, fiber-optic cables, and tens of millions of interconnected computers. The strategy provides five national cyber security priorities: a national security response system; vulnerability reduction program; an awareness and training program; a government cyberspace security program; and national security and international cyberspace security cooperation.

    Kerry response:

    In particular, worms and viruses are causing economic losses of billions of dollars a year. Experts have argued that future worms could allow attackers to rapidly control millions of Internet-connected computers. They could then use those computers to launch "denial of service attacks," or steal and corrupt large quantities of sensitive information. Moreover, these worms could reach most vulnerable targets in an hour or less. We need a president who is actively supportive of developing technologies that will automatically detect and respond to these kinds of attacks.

    We need a president who will devote the energy of the White House to making our networks - our 21st century infrastructure - stronger and more secure. That means supporting a cyber security intelligence system ready to detect these threats. I will implement global standards and best practices so that weak links are strengthened. And we need a real partnership between the public and private sectors. Most of the infrastructure we need to protect doesn't belong to government - and neither government nor business can fix these problems alone.

    The second is: How can the federal government better encourage investment in both basic and applied research and development?

    Bush response:

    America's economy leads the world because our system of private enterprise rewards innovation. Entrepreneurs, scientists, and skilled workers create and apply the technologies that are changing our world. I believe that government must work to help create a new generation of American innovation and an atmosphere where innovation thrives. That is why it is crucial that we make the R&D tax credit permanent to spur private sector innovation.

    Science has always been an important priority in my Administration. My 2005 budget provides a record $132 billion for Federal R&D funding - a 44% increase over 2001 levels. I have committed 13.5% of total discretionary spending to R&D, which is a level of investment not seen since the height of the Apollo Space program in 1968. Basic research is supported with $26.8 billion - a 26% increase from 2001.

    I completed the doubling of the budget for the National Institute of Health (NIH) and increased the National Science Foundation's (NSF) budget by 30%. Since 2001, funding for nanotechnology R&D doubled to $1 billion and funding for information technology R&D is up to $2 billion. My Hydrogen Fuel Initiative provides $228 million for hydrogen energy research in 2005 alone - more than triple what it was in 2001. And contrary to the myth propagated by my opponent, I am the first president to provide Federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Since 2001, my Administration has provided $35.5 million for stem cell research, and in 2003, the NIH funded $190 million in adult stem cell research.

    Kerry response:

    Federal support for long-term research that is beyond the time horizons of individual companies has played a critical role in creating high-tech products, services, and industries. This is particularly true for basic research at our nation's universities, where we have the dual benefit of research and advanced training of our future scientists and engineers. The contribution of government-funded university research, however, is often critical for igniting the process of innovation. I want America to be the world leader in innovation and discovery and is committed to increasing the federal government's investment in research and innovation.

    Among other things, I will boost support for the physical sciences and engineering by increasing research investments in agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This funding will help with the broad areas of science and technology that will provide the foundations for economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century, including advancements in nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, IT, life sciences, clean energy and industrial biotechnology.

    I'll give both candidates credit for voicing support for increased funding at NSF (in the latter answer) and cyber security R&D (in the former). If I'm going to quibble, I'd question the intensity of support for cyber security R&D noted by the President in the first answer by citing the total amount the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology directorate will spend on cyber security R&D in FY 2004 ($18 million out of a total S&T budget of about $1 billion) as well as concerns we've raised in the past about the current state of cyber R&D. But it's easier to quibble with the President because he's the only one who has actually had to implement his priorities. Sen. Kerry's answers are cast in the right direction, I think, but lack enough specificity to really know how they'd fare through the budget process.

    When it comes down to it, funding for science -- especially fundamental research -- tends to be a fairly bipartisan endeavor. Just to illustrate, I whipped up this little graph that shows how IT research and development funding has fared through the various administrations (click to make it big enough to see):


    I put together the chart from NSF data and using the OMB FY 2004 deflators to get constant dollars. The years indicated are fiscal years, not calendar years, and the administrations are placed on the timeline so they cover the budgets for which they were responsible. For example, Reagan entered office in January, 1981, but his first budget (released in Feb 1981) was for the 1982 fiscal year. Also, the events placed on the chart are just ones that occurred to me as I was plotting this out as possibly relevant to the info on the chart, but are by no means exhaustive. I'd be really interested to hear feedback (harsha [at] about other events others might consider relevant.

    The numbers beneath the names of the presidents on the graph represent the percentage increase in funding for IT R&D through the presidents' terms. The graph only goes out to FY 2003, but President Bush's numbers don't improve much for FY 2004 -- about 3.0 percent, not much higher than the rate of inflation. It's hard to know if a President Kerry would be able to manage anything different given the current budget constraints -- ongoing costs for the war on terror, increased pressure to constrain domestic spending to address the defecit, resistance to increased taxes, and a appropriations process that continues to pit science funding head-to-head with funding for veterans and federal housing programs.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:12 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 07, 2004

    Business Week Notes DMCA, Induce Act's Chill on Innovation

    Heather Green has a great piece in this week's issue of Business Week on the chilling effect of copyright legislation on research. Here's a snippet:

    Scientists like to probe the unknown and pioneer useful technologies. But in the spring of 2001, Edward W. Felten discovered that such efforts aren't always welcome. A computer scientist at Princeton University, Felten took part in a contest sponsored by the Recording Industry Association of America to test technology for guarding music against piracy. He and his students quickly found flaws in the new antipiracy software and prepared to publish their results. But when the RIAA learned of the plan, it threatened to sue under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Congress passed it back in 1998 to block hackers from breaking copy protection. And they wisely included a provision designed to let researchers such as Felten carry out their important work. Still, the RIAA deemed Felten's line of study too sensitive.

    Ultimately, faced with Felten's countersuit, the RIAA backed off. But by that time news of the confrontation had rocked the tech community. The lesson many scientists drew was that copyright protection takes priority over research. "The legal tools that are being used to rein in bad behavior are so blunt that they block a lot of perfectly benign behavior," Felten says. "That worries me."

    It's a concern that reverberates broadly in tech circles at a time when Congress is considering tough new antipiracy legislation. Most people agree that the music and film industries have the right to defend themselves against illegal copying. But society needs to consider the potential impact on innovation. Many high-tech business leaders fear that new laws could hobble researchers who are trying to come up with inventions such as next-generation TV systems or even the electronic components for those inventions.

    It's a good read. Check out the whole thing. Felten has some additional commentary here, too.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:54 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    No Compromise Reached on INDUCE, But Its Still Moving

    Thanks to David Padgham (and USACM's spiffy new blog) for pointing out this Wired story with the latest on sputtering talks to reach a compromise on the Induce Act.

    It appears the tech community and the entertainment industry are still far apart on consensus language for the bill -- originally designed to create a new form of secondary liability for copyright infringement that would hold technology makers and service providers liable for copyright violations by end users even if they never knew, contemplated, or intended to facilitate user infringement. Nevertheless, the Senate Judiciary Committee is still scheduled to consider the legislation at markup this morning.

    We've covered this bill previously, but we'll have more details as they emerge.

    Update: Postponed again.

    Another Update: Ernest Miller says it's dead (for now) and has some additional commentary and links....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:36 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 06, 2004

    Senate Poised to Enable Terror Data Mining

    Wired reports that the Senate could enable, as part of it's National Intelligence Reform Act, work on a system "that would let government counter-terrorist investigators instantly query a massive system of interconnected commercial and government databases that hold billions of records on Americans."

    The proposed network is based on the Markle Foundation Task Force's December 2003 report, which envisioned a system that would allow FBI and CIA agents, as well as police officers and some companies, to quickly search intelligence, criminal and commercial databases. The proposal is so radical, the bill allocates $50 million just to fund the system's specifications and privacy policies.
    In contrast to the PR battle surrounding a similar previous effort -- DARPA's Terrorism Information Awareness project -- privacy and civil liberties protections are being touted prominently in advance. CMU Distinguished Professor of Computer Science Dave Farber, a member of the Markle Task Force, has posted an open letter (which he authored, along with Esther Dyson and Tara Lemmey) on his influential Interesting People e-mail list endorsing the proposed system provided the recommendations of the Task Force were implemented ("as looks likely").
    During the course of the debate in Congress over the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, valid questions have been raised over civil liberty concerns and role of such an information sharing network. We grappled with these same questions as we worked through our recommendations for the Task Force. We also learned important lessons from the problems of other efforts like the Total Information Awareness program (TIA) and MATRIX, both of which have raised serious privacy concerns. We eventually determined that you can achieve a balance between security and privacy if you ensure that strong guidelines, transparency, accountability and oversight are built into the network from the start.

    In addition to the approach of building policy into the design of the network, the Task Force also designed the network not as a centralized database, but as a set of pointers and directories that allow only authorized users to gain access to information. The system also calls for regular and robust internal audits of how information is collected and stored and used. Privacy technologies such as anonymization, permission controls, and audit trails are built into the design of the network to prevent abuse. In addition, the Task Force also calls for a phased implementation to allow for appropriate public comment and a strong civil liberties board to oversee the system and ensure that privacy

    The SHARE network capability, if implemented properly, would give us the ability to overcome the systematic barriers to information sharing that so seriously constrained our intelligence agencies prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and that unfortunately still exist today. It would also provide us with the best opportunity not only to balance security and privacy, but to enhance them both as well.

    CRA has argued in the past of the need to move forward with this sort of research and has faulted Congress for taking a heavy-handed approach in prohibiting similar work. Perhaps this new approach will allow some real progress in developing the technologies valuable in the war on terror while at the same time enabling the critical research needed to ensure that privacy and civil liberties concerns are met.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:12 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy | Research | Research

    Financial Times Notes US Emphasis on Supercomputing

    Thanks to Tom Jones for pointing out this story in the Financial Times on the increasing attention paid to supercomputing in the wake of the Japanese Earth Simulator's 2 year reign at the top of the Top500.

    Here's a bit:

    Hard drive by lobbyists helps US take supercomputer lead
    By Simon London

    An almost audible sigh of relief arose from Washington last week as Blue Gene/L, a computer built by International Business Machines, claimed the title of the world's fastest supercomputer. Science and technology policymakers have spent the past two years fretting that the US was losing its lead in high-performance computing, with potentially serious implications for national competitiveness.

    "We believe that to out-compete, we must out-compute," said Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the Council on Competitiveness, one of many lobby groups pressing federal agencies to spend more on supercomputer research.

    The lobbying campaign was sparked by the success of the Earth Simulator, a supercomputer built to model climate change by NEC, the Japanese electronics group. When full details of the Earth Simulator's performance emerged in early 2002 it was clear that Japan had not only overtaken the US in terms of raw computing speed but done so by a metaphorical mile.

    You can read the whole thing here.

    And here's our coverage of Blue Gene/L's rise to the top.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:24 AM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy

    October 01, 2004

    DHS Cyber Security Chief Abruptly Resigns

    Thanks to Rodney Peterson of Educause for pointing this out:

    U.S. cybersecurity chief abruptly resigns, cites frustration
    By TED BRIDIS, AP Technology Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) The government's cybersecurity chief has abruptly resigned after one year with the Department of Homeland Security, confiding to industry colleagues his frustration over what he considers a lack of attention paid to computer security issues within the agency.

    Amit Yoran, a former software executive from Symantec Corp., informed the White House about his plans to quit as director of the National Cyber Security Division and made his resignation effective at the end of Thursday, effectively giving a single's day notice of his intentions to leave.

    Yoran said Friday he ''felt the timing was right to pursue other opportunities.'' It was unclear immediately who might succeed him even temporarily. Yoran's deputy is Donald ''Andy'' Purdy, a former senior adviser to the White House on cybersecurity issues.

    Yoran has privately described frustrations in recent months to colleagues in the technology industry, according to lobbyists who recounted these conversations on condition they not be identified because the talks were personal.

    We've been harping on DHS and the Administration for not taking cyber security -- especially cyber security R&D -- seriously enough, but this still comes as a surprise.

    More details as we figure them out.

    Update: Rodney Petersen has more at the Educause blog on the suddenness of Yoran's departure and its implications for Higher Ed.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:29 PM | TrackBack
    Posted to Policy