Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Exposing a weak infrastructure, an old one, or both?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

In following the devastation to come out of the Katrina catastrophe, it seems appropriate to look at the communication infrastructure that failed so miserably in New Orleans. The complete inability to connect people with real-time events in NO underscores the importance of having a more or less fault-tolerant communication infrastructure in place. The need for a more complete and robust cyberinfrastructure has now come to the forefront whereas before it may have just been viewed as more “Star Wars” technology being promoted by computer scientists and computer geeks. According to John Powell, a senior consulting engineer with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council,

… emerging technologies can lead to better communications in the future, but no technology will help you when the total physical infrastructure is inadequate. This is our first big disaster where urban response teams have had to bring in all their own communications equipment” because there was almost no emergency-communications capability left in the city.

Specifically what Powell was referring to are mesh wireless networks based on the 802.11 wi-fi standard and the need for a better system in place as discussed in this Information Week article. It is somewhat unbelievable to think that no communication contingency was in place for an event that urban planners knew could, and probably would, happen in NO. The threat of such an event occurring and discussions of what to do if all power, and thus communication, was lost in the city have been on the table for years.

NBER on the S&E workforce

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

This month, the National Bureau of Economic Research–”nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works” and long-time breeding ground of Nobel winners–published a treatise on the United States’ diminishing role in science and engineering research and workforce preparedness. It links these losses to not just the nation’s technological dominance but also its much more general economic leadership and health. Author Richard Freeman is an economics professor at Harvard and a fellow at the London School of Economics.

(Hat tip to Slashdot.)

Tech Industry’s take on current administration

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

While we here at CTWatch may seem to have a keener eye toward cyberinfrastructure policy as it relates to academia, we won’t overlook the private sector. Whether or not this article is reflective of the overall tech industry’s grading of the current Bush administration isn’t for us to decide. However, not surprisingly, the opinions illustrated in this article (and many others) seem to be partisan driven, meaning those that lean more politically to the right seem to be more positive and those that lean more to the left seem to be more critical. Also, not surprisingly, those with influential positions within the administration won’t dare go on the record and be critical.

We have often pointed out that in the bigger picture, industry, government, and academia should work more closely together towards common cyberinfrastructure goals. If you’re in the tech industry, what do you think about the current administration’s view of the industry and their view on innovation and technology in general?

PITAC report confusion?

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Since the PITAC report titled Computational Science: Ensuring America’s Competitiveness was released in June, much discussion has taken place regarding the conclusions and recommendations contained in it. On July 1st, HPCwire published a commentary on the report by Dr. Robert Panoff, the founder and Executive Director of The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.. Included in Dr. Panoff’s analysis was the suggestion that the report authors

… missed the chance to make their case for a broader impact of computational science: the most compelling science challenges that face us -challenges that do, in fact, justify a national effort at the large end of the spectrum- were relegated to the appendices in the report. Their main recommendation is to sustain software centers, not science. As Stan Lee would say, “‘Nuf said,”

Well, it looks as if some of the contributors to the report took exception to Dr. Panoff’s opinion. On July 15th, Dan Reed, Jack Dongarra, Chris Johnson, and Ken Kennedy issued a response to Dr. Panoff in HPCwire. In their response, Reed et al. clarify their point by stating that the main recommendation of the report calls for a

… balanced, integrated, long-term program that addresses all aspects of computational science.

Regardless of the primary recommendation, the bottom line is that any enhanced role of computational science in the United States will depend on greater emphasis by the federal government as well as clearer vision and understanding by all of the players, academia included, of how computational science fits into the overall research agenda.

More on cyberinfrastructure funding

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

As a partial acknowledgment of and natural extension to the recent academic recommendations for more multidisciplinary collaboration in higher education research, John Marburger recently submitted a memo to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies calling for greater unification of funding efforts to address project duplication among other things. From the optimists perspective, the Office of Science and Technology also wants to place greater emphasis on high performance computing efforts. Quoting from the memo, Marburger says

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.

The memo goes on to state

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.

This is certainly a step in the right direction for making high-end computing a more salient issue on the federal research agenda. Thanks to Government Computing News for their coverage of the memo.

PITAC no more?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

As was reported last Friday by Federal Computer Week, the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) , which was established during the Clinton adminstration, was not renewed after its authorization expired June 1st. This surprised not a few people, especially because no hint was given as to whether there is any intension to restart or reconstitute the group. But just the decision to let this important advisory body lapse, even temporarily, adds another note of alarm to a growing list of such notes that our community has been following over the past year.

Many past PITAC recommendations have been implemented in whole or in part, and they have validated the committee’s value in strengthening US IT efforts. The most recent report, released just last week, presented the work of PITAC’s Computational Science subcommitee, chaired by Dan Reed of the Univeristy of North Carolina. In his comments to CTWatch yesterday about the lamentable lapse in PITAC’s authorization, Dan reiterated the importance of the committee to the national IT agenda:

Today, I believe the U.S. faces substantial challenges to its long-term competitiveness and research leadership. The PITAC computational science report [from last week] reflects those concerns. We must be coordinated advocates for strategic planning and investment in the computing future. PITAC’s renewal is part of that process. Otherwise, as Santayana noted, we will be condemned to repeat the past.


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