Presidential Panel Says U.S. Needs to Spend More on Networking and IT Research

Byron SpiceThursday, December 16, 2010

The federal budget says the U.S. is spending more than $4 billion a year on networking and information technology research, but the actual amount is less than that- and less than what they country needs, says a new report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

The report, written by a working group that included SCS Dean Randal E. Bryant, found that a substantial fraction of the funding for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program is spent on IT products and infrastructure expansion, especially high-performance computing (HPC) systems, in support of research in other fields. Those investments are valuable, the authors noted, but they siphon off money from early-stage, innovative work that will be crucial to addressing critical challenges in the future.

The report, "Designing a Digital Future: Federally Funded Research and Development in Networking and Information Technology," calls for an added NITRD investment of $1 billion a year to maintain momentum in the field.

High-performance computing is critical for national security and economic competitiveness, but money for procuring supercomputers must not displace support for fundamental research on game-changing HPC technologies of the future, according to the report. Other important goals include improvements in large-scale data analysis, development of robotic sensors, robust approaches to protecting the cyber-infrastructure and making human-computer interactions more seamless. Fundamental changes in K-12 education and an increase in college graduates in NIT fields will be necessary to meet the workforce demand.

The report, released Dec. 16, is available online.

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