On Tuesday, June 18th, IBM Research hosted a presentation and panel discussion on the Hill with House Representatives on cognitive computing. According to IBM Research, cognitive computing systems include “systems that learn and interact naturally with people to extend what either man or machine could do on their own.” Essentially, these systems help human experts make better decisions by allowing them to better sift through big data. Cognitive computing systems, or supercomputers, are not programmed to perform functions; rather, “they use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to sense, predict and, in some ways, think.” These systems can draw their own insight from big data. The goal is not necessarily to be the expert, but rather to better aid the human expert by penetrating big data they otherwise cannot.
IBM Research Vice President David McQueeney demonstrated the power of supercomputing through a weather cleanup example. Trees have very predictable growth patterns, and supercomputers can easily sift through tree data in a given location. If a powerful storm such as Hurricane Sandy were to damage an area, for instance, cognitive computing systems could help cities predict which areas will need crews to rebuild power lines based on the tree data. These systems could save millions of dollars for cities. Currently, IBM’s own supercomputer IBM Watson can sift through 1.5 million patient records and give doctors treatment options in seconds (see the power of the IBM Watson below).
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have just released their drafts (House – Senate) of the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill, and the numbers look pretty decent for NSF and NIST.
Short version: NSF would see an increase of 4.3 percent overall in FY13; NIST would see increases of $54-56 million to its core research accounts; NASA would see cuts.
On NSF, from the House –
National Science Foundation (NSF) – The legislation funds NSF at $7.3 billion, which is $299 million above fiscal year 2012 and $41 million below the President’s request. NSF’s entire increase is provided to core research and education activities, which are critical to innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for an advanced manufacturing science initiative and for research in cyber-security and cyber-infrastructure.
That’s a 4.3 percent increase over FY12, 1 percent less than the President’s Budget Request. NSF’s Research and Related Activities Account would receive a 4.5 percent increase in the bill.
From the Senate –
National Science Foundation (NSF) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $7.3 billion, an increase of $240 million above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.
Same overall level.
On NIST, from the House –
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $830 million in the bill, which is $79 million above fiscal year 2012 and $27 million below the President’s request. Within this total, important core research activities to help advance U.S. competitiveness, innovation, and economic growth are increased by $54 million above fiscal year 2012. In addition, the bill includes $128 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program – which provides training and technical assistance to U.S. manufacturers – and $21 million for an Advanced Manufacturing competitive research initiative.
From the Senate –
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $826 million, which is $75 million above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The bill provides an increase of $56 million for NIST’s laboratories and technical research while maintaining strong support with industry partners including $128.5 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $14.5 million for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech)
So, both have healthy increases for NIST core research.
NASA doesn’t fare as well in the House. On NASA, from the House –
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $17.6 billion in the bill, which is $226 million below fiscal year 2012 and $138 million below the President’s request. This funding includes:
- $3.7 billion for Exploration – $59 million below fiscal year 2012. This includes funding to keep NASA on schedule for upcoming Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System flight milestones and to maintain progress in a reconfigured commercial crew program.
- $4 billion for Space Operations – $249 million below fiscal year 2012. The legislation will continue the closeout of the Space Shuttle program for a savings of $503 million.
- $5.1 billion for NASA Science programs – $5 million above fiscal year 2012. This includes $1.4 billion for planetary science to ensure the continuation of critical research and development programs that were imperiled by the President’s request. This also includes $628 million, as requested, for the James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA research also sees cuts in the Senate bill –
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The large increase results from a reorganization of operational weather satellite procurement from NOAA into NASA. Without the funds for weather satellite procurement, this level represents a $41.5 million cut from the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.
The bill provides $5 billion for Science which is $69 million less than fiscal year 2012. Within Science, the bill restores $100 million of a proposed cut to robotic Mars science programs, resulting in a total of $461 million for Mars robotic science.
So, on the whole, good news for the agencies we care most about in this bill, except for NASA. The bills have some marked differences in the way they treat other programs in the bill — NOAA satellites paid for by NASA, for example and differences in the way some Dept of Justice programs are funded — that might cause some rejiggering of funding levels as these bills go to the floor and into conference. But it’s always better to start with a big-ish number and work from there, rather than starting with a smaller number. Also important is the verbiage used by both committees in summarizing the increases. Our arguments about the importance of NSF and NIST in promoting US innovation and competitiveness still resonate loudly with both sides of the aisle.
More details as they become available!
The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science today released its draft of the FY12 CJS appropriations bill, containing funding for the National Science Foundation at the same level the agency received in FY11. The bill totals over $50 billion for FY12 spending in programs at the Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, NASA, NSF, and other agencies — down $3 billion from FY11 levels, and down more than $7.4 billion from levels requested by the President for FY12. Though NSF holds ground compared to FY11, the committee’s plan for FY12 is well below the President’s requested levels for the agency ($907 million less). While not a good result for NSF — a “flat” budget is essentially a cut when inflation is factored in — it’s also not nearly as bad as it could have been given the current climate and cuts elsewhere within the bill. NASA, for example, would absorb a $1.6 billion cut vs. FY11, if the House appropriators plan is approved.
Though they flat-funded the agency overall, House appropriators included an increase to NSF’s core research account (R&RA) of $43 million compared to FY12 to “enhance basic research that is critical to innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness,” according to a statement released by the committee today. At the same time, the bill calls for cuts to both the Education and Human Resources directorate ($26 million vs. FY11) and Major Research Equipment and Facilities account ($17 million vs. FY11).
The subcommittee is set to mark up the bill tomorrow, where it may undergo further changes. We’ll have the details here as soon as we learn them.
In the meantime, the committee has prepared a summary chart featuring the funding levels contained in the bill for all the major programs, as well as a comparison to FY11 and the President’s FY12 Budget Request.