NSF and science increments survive stimulus conference

February 12th, 2009

Stimulus funding for research and science has done well in the version of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act coming out of conference. The conference report overview identifies a category that will:

“Transform our Economy with Science and Technology: To secure America’s role as a world leader in a competitive global economy, we are renewing America’s investments in basic research and development, in training students for an innovation economy, and in deploying new technologies into the marketplace. This will help businesses in every community succeed in a global economy.”

The CRA policy blog has the details in House Numbers for Science Prevail in Stimulus Conference. Highlights of the $15B+ to be invested in scientific research include:

  • Provides $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, for basic research in fundamental science and engineering – which spurs discovery and innovation.
  • Provides $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics and fusion energy sciences – areas crucial to our energy future.
  • Provides $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry.
  • Provides $580 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • Provides $8.5 billion for NIH, including expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Provides $1 billion for NASA, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research.
  • Provides $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants.

US House stimulus plan: NSF += $3B

January 15th, 2009

The CRA reports that the US science and technology research community may get it’s own little bailout. The House Appropriations Committee released details of their American Recovery and Reinvestment economic stimulus package that includes funds for scientific research.

NSF is slated to get $3B in new money:

“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”

The plan also calls for new research money for NIH, DOE, NASA, NIST and other government organizations as well as $6B for broadband deployment.

While this is not large as bailouts go, we must keep in mind it was done without a crisis brought about by the rampant use of research breakthrough default swap instruments or scholarly paper citation pyramid schemes. Maybe we should have gotten MBAs.

Update 1/16: The CRA policy blog has some more details on how the funds will be allocated within some of the agencies.

More cuts to DARPA budget

July 23rd, 2008

Wired reports more cuts to DARPA’s budget in Pentagon Slices and Dices DARPA Budget.

“The Pentagon’s storied research and development arm turned 50 years old this year, and its birthday present appears to be another $100 million in budget cuts, according to a Defense Department document provided to DANGER ROOM. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is having a tumultuous financial year: in June, DARPA faced a $32 million cut because it was “underexecuting”, leading the agency’s director, Tony Tether, to strike back by saying the Pentagon’s “comptroller apparently does not believe in accountability.”
   Whether those comments sparked an all-out comptroller-DARPA war is open for speculation, but the latest “reprogramming,” signed on July 11, may speak for itself. The document includes a number of Pentagon-wide cash transfers, but it hits DARPA particularly hard. Cognitive computing systems, which has previously been hit by congressional cuts, will lose another $13 million, while Network Centric Technology is sliced by $19 million. Another $18 million is being diced from biological warfare defense, and a big cut is taken out of DARPA’s Electronics Technology program, which loses $26 million. The cuts also indicate that DARPA’s high power fiber laser program has apparently been canceled.”

To put a $100M cut in context, the yearly DARPA budgets have been over $3B recently. Still, many of these cuts will be painful within specific R&D communities.

DARPA budget up 10% but AI program cut 17%

February 5th, 2008

A Wired article, DARPA Nabs Big Bucks for Mach 6 Planes, Giant Robotic Blimps, Next-Gen Networks, summarizes the news in the proposed 2009 DARPA budget.

“DARPA, the Pentagon’s mad science division, got a $324 million boost in the Defense Department’s new budget — a ten percent increase. Which means lots more cash for giant blimps, next-gen wireless networks, Mach 6 planes, shape-shifting drones, and improvised bomb-beaters. … But not everything in the DARPA budget got bumped up. The agency’s much-ballyhooed efforts at “Cognitive Computing” took at $30 million cut, to $145 million. Which could mean that even the Pentagon’s most wide-eyed visionaries see thinking machines are still far, far off in the distance.” (link)

DARPA has traditionally been an important funding source for basic computer science research. While the ORCA program got a healthy increase of $53M, this is the only CS-related program mentioned.

DARPA’s Tony Tether on Urban Challenge and Computer Science research

October 19th, 2007

DARPA’s Tony TetherCnet news has an interview with DARPA directory Tony Tether. The interview, Newsmaker: DARPA sees inspiration as trophy of robot race, mostly focuses on the current $2M DARPA sponsored autonomous vehicle race, Urban Challenge, which takes place November 3 in Victorville CA.

In the interview, he was asked “What are the top three advances to come out of DARPA in the last five years would you say?”. I found his answer interesting.

“Let’s see, we’ve revolutionized the whole computer science industry by moving into cognitive processing, that is, computers that learn you as opposed to you having to learn them. Stanford Research, by the way, in Menlo Park is a major contractor in that area. We’ve also done a lot in biology, again for finding ways for people out in the battlefield to be able to survive their environment. Then wireless, I guess. If you take your cell phone, you might think that you’re wireless and you are. But there’s a big infrastructure called towers that really make it work. And what we proved and have developed is the ability to have no infrastructure and still have total cellular wireless type of communication. That’s important from a military viewpoint because when we go into an area, we don’t have time to build the towers. Now that’s also going to be a big commercial thing because if somebody doesn’t have to build the infrastructure to have a wireless network, that means that the cost for it is much less than somebody who does, (and it) gives them a great price advantage. Those are three, but I’m not supposed to have favorites.”

Spotted on AAAI’s AI in the news.

Three tech giants to finance research

December 15th, 2005

In today’s NYT, John Markoff writes:

With federal funds for basic computer science research at universities in decline, three of the industry’s leading companies are joining to help fill the void.

University of California computer scientists plan to announce on Thursday that the companies–Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems–will underwrite a $7.5 million laboratory on the Berkeley campus. The new research center, called the Reliable, Adaptive and Distributed Systems Laboratory, will focus on the design of more dependable computing systems.

The Berkeley researchers say that under the terms of their agreement with the three companies, the fruits of the research will be nonproprietary and freely licensed. Each company has agreed to support the project with $500,000 annually for five years.

While this is great for Berkeley, it may not be so good for the academic research computing community if (1) industry starts concentrating it’s research in the top 10 departments and (2) if government decides that its support for basic computing R&D is less neccessary because industry woll fund universities to do it.

Senate Cuts DARPA Cognitive Computing program

October 21st, 2005

Peter Harsha reports that the Senate Appropriations Committee included language in the Senate version of the FY 06 Defense Appropriations bill that strips $55M from DARPA’s Cognitive Computing program, specifically “Learning, Reasoning, and Integrated Cognitive Systems”. That’s a 50% cut in the program. Peter points out that this runs counter to recent congressional sentiment that the role of computer science, especially university-led fundamental computer science, should be strengthened at DARPA.

America Gasps for Breath in the R&D Marathon

July 27th, 2005

CRA’s computing research policy blog has a long exerpt from Vint Cerf’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. See the CRA post for more or the WSJ piece if you are a subscriber.

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%.

Semantic Web demonstrated for US Congress members

June 24th, 2005

Jim Hendler and his students represented the Computing Research Association at the 11th annual Coalition for National Science Funding science exhibition and reception in Washington DC this week. At the event, universities and scientific associations showcase NSF supported research for members of the US Congress and their staff to maintain awareness of the importance of NSF support for US research. Jim’s demonstration of the potential of the semantic web was a big success. See Peter Harsha’s CRA blog for a good write up with pictures.

PITAC cyber security report

March 18th, 2005

PITAC, the US President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, has released a report on Cyber Security: a Crisis of Prioritization. Free hard copies can be requested.

Vital to the Nation’s security and everyday life, the information technology (IT) infrastructure of the United States is highly vulnerable to disruptive domestic and international attacks, the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) argues in a new report. While existing technologies can address some IT security vulnerabilities, fundamentally new approaches are needed to address the more serious structural weaknesses of the IT infrastructure.

In Cyber Security: A Crisis of Prioritization, PITAC presents four key findings and recommendations on how the Federal government can foster new architectures and technologies to secure the Nation’s IT infrastructure. PITAC urges the Government to significantly increase support for fundamental research in civilian cyber security in 10 priority areas; intensify Federal efforts to promote the recruitment and retention of cyber security researchers and students at research universities; increase support for the rapid transfer of Federally developed cyber security technologies to the private sector; and strengthen the coordination of Federal cyber security R&D activities.

Biologically-Inspired Cognitive Architectures

January 23rd, 2005

DARPA BAA 04-19 — Biologically-Inspired Cognitive Architectures or (BICA) — calls for proposals to “develop, implement and evaluate psychologically-based and neurobiologically-based theories, design principles, and architectures of human cognition.” The program has the ultimate goal of “implementing computational models of human cognition that could eventually be used to simulate human behavior and approach human cognitive performance in a wide range of situations.” This BAA solicits proposals for the program’s initial 13 month design phase, which will be followed by a second implementation phase. Proposals are due March 1, 2005.

US targets NSF and NIH budgets

January 18th, 2005

Peter Harsha’s CRA Computing Policy Blog notes a Washington Times article discussing targets for federal budget trims. The story lumps “scientific research” in with “other low-priority and no-priority programs” among those to be cut. NSF and NIH are specifically mentioned.

“…Mr. Bush gave a peek into his budget plans last week when he told The Washington Times his spending blueprint was “going to be tough.” That message was underscored by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Mr. Bush will exert “very, very strong discipline” on next year’s spending. “That discipline will be there big time,” Mr. Card told business leaders.
Among the budget-cutting targets: the bloated Agriculture Department, corporate welfare, scientific research, housing, state and local giveaway grants, and other low-priority and no-priority programs that will be slashed or eliminated altogether.

The National Science Foundation’s social research grants, long criticized as wasteful, will be cut and NSF’s overall spending is expected to be flatlined. So will the National Institutes of Health, which has seen its budget skyrocket over the past decade, especially in the past four years. “That discipline will be there big time,” Mr. Card told business leaders. …”