Computing Research Policy Blog
The Computing Research Association (CRA) has been involved in shaping public policy of relevance to computing research for more than two decades. More recently the CRA Government Affairs program has enhanced its efforts to help the members of the computing research community contribute to the public debate knowledgeably and effectively.
Thirteen different coalitions, representing over 500 individual organizations, who are concerned with the federal investment in research and development, have sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, urging them, “to make strong investments in America’s innovation ecosystem one of your highest priorities by increasing federal research funding by at least 5.2 percent above FY 2015 levels—the same level of increase to discretionary spending.” This is in light of the new budget deal that Congress approved last week and President Obama signed yesterday.
Four groups that CRA is a member of are signatories of the letter: the Task Force on American Innovation; the Coalition for National Security Research; the Energy Sciences Coalition; and the Coalition for National Science Funding. The other signatories represent other scientific and engineering fields, such as the Coalition for Aerospace and Science, and United for Medical Research. The 500+ organizations range from industry voices to science societies to education advocates, all making the case to, “urge…[Congress]…to take this opportunity to act decisively in favor of American innovation so that our nation’s economic, health, and national security will prosper for many years in the future.”
Experts from academia and government, including CCC Council Chair Greg Hager, told a congressional panel yesterday that the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program remains a crucial part of the extraordinarily productive computing research ecosystem that has made the U.S. the world leader in IT and deserves further support.
The experts were witnesses at a hearing called by the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology to review the status of the NITRD program in advance of possible reauthorization legislation from the committee. Hager, who also served as the co-Chair of a working group of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) charged with reviewing the NITRD program, presented the findings and recommendations of that review. He was joined by Keith Marzullo, who currently heads the National Coordinating Office for NITRD — coordinating nearly $4 billion annually in research investments across 19 different Federal agencies — and Ed Seidel, who heads the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.
All three made the case that while the landscape for computing research has changed significantly since NITRD was first established by the High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991, the need for the Federal investment in long-term, fundamental research has never been more important. Hager spelled out eight key areas of research highlighted by PCAST: Cybersecurity, Health, Cyber-human systems, Privacy, IT-based Interaction with the Physical World, Data-Intensive Computing, High-capability Computing, and Foundational IT research. (You can read all three witnesses written testimony, or watch a video of the hearing, from the committee website.)
The members of the committee were largely supportive of the NITRD program, many echoing comments of Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) who noted that “focusing our investments on information technology research and development is important to our nation for a variety of reasons, including economic prosperity, national security, U.S. competitiveness, and quality of life.” Encouraging more industry participation in the program was a common theme among the questions posed to the panel by the members of the subcommittee, with Republicans wondering how to use the Federal investment to leverage more industry support for long-term, foundational research and Democrats disappointed that the committee was unable to find witnesses from industry available to testify about the importance of the Federal investment. A visible show of support from representatives in industry will be an important part of making the case for Federal investment in IT research, Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) noted in his opening statement, adding that he was disappointed that all were apparently unavailable for the hearing.
Additional questions from the subcommittee members concerned how we prioritize between infrastructure investments and research investments, where the U.S. remains ranked worldwide in computing leadership, whether the makeup of the Program Component Areas need to be changed to reflect the changing landscape for computing research (they do).
The hearing is groundwork for any legislative action the committee might take to reauthorize the NITRD program. The House has attempted to reauthorize the program — to update the legislation authorizing its operations to reflect the current environment for research — in each of the last three congresses only to see the efforts die in the Senate. The committee appears interested in using the PCAST review to inform a fourth try soon. We’ll have more detail on that as it becomes available.
We’ve launched a new blog! The CRA Bulletin is a news and announcement blog that focuses on topics of interest to the computing research community. The blog will highlight interesting opportunities for researchers and students, news from the field, developments in diversity, and announcements from award programs and other CRA initiatives.
Jeannette Wing, a corporate vice president at Microsoft Research overseeing the company’s core research labs and former CRA board member (and current member of CRA’s Government Affairs Committee), has an excellent post on the importance of federally supported fundamental research. Dr. Wing makes several points but the best is this: “Basic scientific research made today’s technology possible, and it will lead to tomorrow’s technological breakthroughs. That’s why we believe it is important for our company and for our country.” Citing, “the Internet, global positioning systems, the laser, multi-touch displays and search engines,” as examples of everyday products and tools, which we take for granted today, that come from federally supported basic research funding from decades ago. It’s a great piece to read.
Today, Dr. Wing will be participating in a roundtable discussion with members of the Senate Commerce Committee to help identify key priorities for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. We wish her luck!
On Wednesday October 20th, the House STEM Education Caucus is sponsoring a briefing for Congressional staff titled, “Building a STEM Education Pipeline Aligned with Industry Needs: Perspectives from the Field.” The briefing is being moderated by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and is partnering with CRA, ASME, and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).
The briefing will focus on ways that colleges and universities can creatively engage students in the STEM fields and bridge the gap between education and careers in the field. The panelists will focus on initiatives at the 2-year and 4-year college level, as well as graduate and doctoral levels. Additionally, there will be a focus on improving diversity and inclusiveness within the field and in industry.
Speakers include: Dr. Nancy Amato, Texas A&M University (who is also a co-chair of CRA-W); Dr. Collins Jones, Montgomery College; and Dr. Oscar Barton, George Mason University. Dr. Beth Ambos, Executive Officer of CUR, will moderate the briefing.
The briefing is on Tuesday October 20th from noon to 1pm in B339 Rayburn House Office Building. Please RSVP by October 18th to Mackenzie Yaryura.