PCAST Issues Report on NITRD program

On December 16 the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued the latest in its Congressionally required assessments of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD). The report is now available at:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-nitrd-report-2010.pdf

You can watch the webcast of the report release here: http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/pcast/101216/

If you want to review a condensed version of the report, check out the press release or this briefing from Ed Lazowska, one of the co-chairs of the report, at the November PCAST meeting.

The introductory letter in the report offers a good summary of the report’s conclusions (NIT – Networking and Information Technology):

“PCAST finds that NITRD is well coordinated and that the U.S. computing research community, coupled with a vibrant NIT industry, has made seminal discoveries and advanced new technologies that are helping to meet many societal challenges. Importantly, however, PCAST also finds that a substantial fraction of the NITRD multi-agency spending summary represents spending that supports R&D in other fields, rather than spending on R&D in the field of NIT itself. As a result, the Nation is actually investing far less in NIT R&D than the $4 billion-plus indicated in the Federal budget. To achieve America?s priorities and advance key research frontiers to support economic competitiveness in NIT, this report calls for a more accurate accounting of this national investment and recommends additional investments in NIT R&D, including research in networking and information technology for health, energy and transportation, and cyber-infrastructure, among others.”

The conclusions about how NITRD money is spent is not an allegation of inappropriate spending. The finding is that NITRD spending is not typically reported with sufficient detail to ensure that the funds are spent on research and development in NIT. What they find is a lot of spending on infrastructure and applications of NIT that should really count as infrastructure and applications spending in other fields.

The report recommendations are spread across several areas:

Helping Achieve America’s Priorities (NIT work directed toward health care, transportation, security, education, etc.)
Investing in Research Frontiers (includes HPC, trustworthy systems, cybersecurity, scalable systems)
Technological and Human Resources (focused on research infrastructure and relevant STEM education)
NITRD Coordination Process and Structure (strengthen the coordination capacity of NITRD and its coordinating office, and expand the reach of the program)

Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra indicated that they were seeking public comment on the report, though the official Federal Register notice has not been published yet. According to this page from the NITRD website, comments are due January 31.

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