Computing Research Policy Blog

“Bad Laws, Bad Code, Bad Behavior”

Declan McCullagh has an interesting piece at CNET that describes the some of the difficulties Congress has trying to regulate technologies it doesn’t really understand. In their efforts to regulate things like peer-to-peer clients, spyware, and chat clients, members of Congress often cast their net way too broadly, drafting bills that would affect far broader swaths of the internet than they perhaps anticipated. Most of this, McCullagh argues, is because the members lack the expertise required to understand the implications of their legislation on technology. It’s a quick read, and I think it does a good job of demonstrating how important it is for groups like CRA, ACM, IEEE-CS, etc, to continue to offer to serve as resources for members when confronting technology issues.

House Science Committee Meets Today to Discuss High Performance Computing

I’ll be at the House Committee on Science hearing today on high performance computing and the committee’s bill, the High Performance Computing Act of 2004. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger will be testifying, in addition to Irving Wladawsky-Berger, VP of Tech and Strategy for IBM and former co-chair of PITAC, Rick Stevens, of Argonne Nat’l Lab, and CRA Board Member Dan Reed, of UNC.
The hearing will be webcast live beginning at 10:30 am ET. The webcast will then be available online at the Science Committee website.
I’ll have a full report after the hearing.

Pics from the CRA-W Presidential Award Ceremony

(Clicking the thumbnail gets you a larger version)
Accepting the Award
From left: NSF Director Arden Bement, CRA-W Co-Chair Mary Jean Harrold, former CRA-W Co-Chair Jan Cuny, White House OSTP Director John Marburger
Group shot of all PAESMEM Awardees
Harrold and Cuny in the top row, third and fourth from the left, respectively
Post Awards
From left: Harrold, Cuny, Marburger, CRA-W Co-Founder and ACM President Maria Klawe, former CRA Chair and NSF AD for CISE Peter Freeman
Post Awards 2
From left: Freeman, Cuny, Klawe, Revi Sterling from Microsoft, and Harrold

President Honors CRA-W with Award for Mentoring

I try to avoid gratuitous plugging of CRA or CRA activities here, but sometimes something is just too good not to mention. Today the President announced that CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) had won a 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) for their long-running work to address the underrepresentation of women in computer science and engineering.
So today I got to spend a good part of the day hanging around the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the grounds of the White House with CRA-W representatives Jan Cuny (also a CRA-W board member) and CRA-W Co-Chair Mary Jean Harrold (a CRA board member to be) as they received CRA-W’s award in a ceremony headlined by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger. Also attending was CRA-W co-founder, and now ACM President, Maria Klawe. The President was, unfortunately, not able to attend as he was meeting with King Abdullah Bin Al Hussein of Jordan.
In any case, it was a great day for CRA-W. The President, in a note to the awardees read by Marburger, made it very clear that he believes that the innovation necessary to keep the nation flourishing can only be sustained by tapping into a broad and diverse, educated workforce, and that programs like the ones honored today would be the role models. Marburger himself called the organizations honored “exemplars” and leaders in the national effort to more fully develop the Nation’s human resources in science, mathematics and engineering. It was worthy praise for the women of CRA-W, who have been working since 1991 to “increase the number of women involved in computer science and engineering, increase the degree of success they experience, and provide a forum for addressing problems that often fall disproportionately within women’s domain.”
Watch this space for pictures of the event as soon as they are available. The extended entry (linked immediately below) contains the official CRA press release marking the award. Congrats to all the CRA-W participants, past and present!
OSTP also has a press release (pdf).
Update: NSF now has their press release online.

Read more

Insecure and Unaware

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story (available for another 5 days or so) on computer security at the nation’s universities, which concludes that security lapses are common. Here are some choice quotes:

“What I’ve seen is a top-to-bottom lack of awareness of issues related to security,” says Eugene H. Spafford, a computer-science professor who is executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, at Purdue University at West Lafayette. Too many students, he says, don’t know that they need to fix computer holes and use antivirus software, and that some of their activities — particularly downloading copyrighted music without paying for it — are illegal.
“You have faculty who believe that because it’s their machine and because of academic freedom they should be able to do whatever they want,” he says. “And you have administrators who don’t understand the risk or the need to invest in appropriate technology and set policy appropriately.”
Indeed, E. Eugene Schultz, a principal engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who is editor in chief of the journal Computers & Security, says universities are “among the least secure places in the universe, as far as computing goes.”

Some of the problems identified in campus security audits are:

  • Colleges are not doing enough to encourage students and other campus users to protect their campus accounts. Passwords are not changed periodically, are too short, or are not always required for employees to gain access to confidential information.
  • Many colleges have not created disaster-recovery plans so that crucial information can be saved if a campus is leveled by a hurricane, terrorist attack, or other catastrophe.
  • College officials are often slow to terminate or revise employees’ computer access after they leave. Such delays increase the chance that a disgruntled worker can sabotage the network.
  • Because colleges are not performing risk assessments of their networks, officials don’t know where to concentrate resources to protect networks and data.
  • Here’s the full article.

    Perspectives on Bush Administration and S&T Funding

    (from The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
    Number 55: April 28, 2004)
    long, but interesting

    Two Perspectives: the Bush Administration and S&T Funding
    “Science policy entails more than setting budgets, but that is a
    major bottom line of the policy process.”- OSTP Director John
    Last week’s 29th Annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
    opened with two divergent views of the Bush Administration’s funding
    of science and technology. The keynote speaker was John Marburger,
    Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology
    Policy. He was followed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle
    (D-SC). While the speakers agreed on the importance of science and
    technology to the nation, they had different perspectives on the
    Administration’s funding of science and technology. Selections
    from their addresses on funding issues follow. Several other issues
    were discussed; the full text of their remarks (with a series of
    charts that Marburger referred to in his presentation) can be
    accessed here
    In viewing the recent funding of federal science and technology,
    the often-repeated phrase is relevant: “The President proposes, and
    the Congress disposes.” As Marburger stated, “I do want to
    acknowledge that Congress has treated science well in its
    appropriations . . . .”
    “President Bush has made it abundantly clear that his budget
    priorities have been to protect the nation, secure the homeland, and
    revitalize the economy. His budget proposals to Congress are in line
    with vigorous actions in each category. Increases in expenditures
    for homeland security, in particular have dominated changes in the
    discretionary budget during this Administration, and we have seen
    the emergence of a significant new science and technology agency
    within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The current budget
    proposal for the DHS Science and Technology function is $1.2
    billion, with an estimated total of $3.6 billion in homeland
    security related R&D in all agencies. The science and engineering
    communities exerted a significant influence on the structure of the
    new department, particularly through the National Research Council
    report ‘Making the Nation Safer.’
    “Each of the three overarching Presidential priorities has strong
    science and technology components. The President has sought, and
    Congress has appropriated, substantial increases in Research and
    Development budgets not only for homeland security, but also for
    defense and for key areas of science and technology related to long
    term economic strength.”
    “R&D expenditures in this Administration are up 44% over the past
    four years to a record $132 billion proposed for 2005 compared to
    $91 billion in FY 2001, and the non-defense share is up 26%. The
    President’s FY2005 Federal R&D budget request is the greatest share
    of GDP in over 10 years, and its share of the domestic discretionary
    budget, at 13.5% is the highest level in 37 years. Non-defense R&D
    funding is the highest percentage of GDP since 1982. Total U.S. R&D
    expenditures, including the private sector was at 2.65% of GDP in
    2002, the most recent year for which I have data. I suspect it is
    above that today. Its historical high was 2.87% in 1964 as NASA was
    ramping up for the Apollo program.”
    “The FY 2005 request commits 5.7% of total discretionary outlays to
    non-defense R&D, the third highest level in the past 25 years.
    “While the President has proposed to reduce the overall growth in
    non-defense, non-homeland security spending to 0.5% this year to
    address overall budget pressures, his budget expresses a commitment
    to “non-security” science with a considerably higher growth rate at
    “During the current Administration, funding for basic research has
    increased 26% to an all-time high of $26.8 billion in the FY 2005
    budget request.”
    “What Congress will do with the Presidential requests for science .
    .. . is at this point an open question. I do want to acknowledge that
    Congress has treated science well in its appropriations, and the
    good figures for science during this Administration represent a
    strong consensus between the Legislative and Executive branches that
    science is important to our nation’s future.
    “As I emphasized in 2002, priorities for these large expenditures
    respond to two important phenomena that have shaped the course of
    society and are affecting the relationship of society to science,
    namely the rapid growth of technology, particularly information
    technology, as the basis for a global economy, and the emergence of
    terrorism as a destabilizing movement of global consequence.”
    Later, in a section entitled “Priority Highlights,” Marburger cited
    the following:
    Health Sciences “Funding during these four years to NIH has
    increased more than 40%, to $28.6 billion. In response to this
    unprecedented National commitment, NIH as a whole has adopted an
    important new roadmap for transforming new knowledge from its
    research programs into tangible benefits for society. Emerging
    interdisciplinary issues such as nutrition and aging together with
    revolutionary capabilities for understanding the molecular origins
    of disease, health, and biological function will continue to drive
    change within NIH.
    National Science Foundation ” In four years the NSF budget has
    increased 30% over FY 2001 to $5.7 billion. Much of this funding has
    gone to enhance the physical sciences and mathematics programs,
    where advances often provide the foundation for achievements in
    other areas, as well as increases to the social sciences and to the
    NSF education programs.
    “NASA has increased 13%, largely for exploration science that will
    spur new discoveries, enhance technology development, and excite the
    next generation of scientists and engineers.”
    “DOE Science and technology programs have increased 10%, in such
    important areas as basic physical science and advanced computing. As
    the agency sponsoring the largest share of physical science, DOE’s
    Office of Science is increasingly viewed as a high leverage area for
    investment. DOE has engaged in years of intense planning,
    culminating recently in a multi-year facilities roadmap that assigns
    specific priorities to a spectrum of new projects.
    Energy and Environment “This Administration is investing heavily
    in technologies for producing and using energy in environmentally
    friendly ways, from shorter term demonstration projects for
    carbon-free power plants, to the very long term promise of nuclear
    fusion for clean, scalable power generation. In the intermediate
    term, technologies associated with the use of hydrogen as a medium
    for energy transport and storage are receiving a great deal of
    attention, not only in the U.S. but internationally. The President’s
    Hydrogen Fuel initiative is a $1.2 billion, five-year program aimed
    at developing the fuel cell and hydrogen infrastructure technologies
    needed to make pollution-free hydrogen fuel cell cars widely
    available by 2020.”
    “Regrettably, rather than strengthening this [government – science]
    partnership, I fear that the Bush Administration has allowed it to
    erode in two critical ways. First, the Administration is abdicating
    its responsibility to provide scientists with the funding
    cutting-edge research demands. As you know, the federal government
    has seen its R&D investments steadily decline as a share of the U.S.
    economy, bringing the federal investment down to levels not seen
    since the mid-60s. Public-sector investments in advanced research
    have declined sharply, relative to our economic growth rate, and
    barely kept pace with inflation. This year, federal funding for
    research is set to increase 4.7 percent. However, the entire
    increase would go to the Departments of Defense and Homeland
    Security for the development of weapons systems and counterterrorism
    technology. Make no mistake, these are necessary investments that
    will make our nation safer. But the remaining federal R&D budget
    that supports research into health, environmental, biological, and
    other sciences, will all see funding reduced.
    “In my home state of South Dakota, for instance, the Earth Research
    Observation System is facing the possibility of deep cuts in staff
    due to cuts to their budget. Their work helps us become more
    responsible stewards of the environment, while increasing the yields
    of farmers all over the world. And yet, this work is endangered due
    to draconian budget cuts.”
    “But we should be honest with ourselves. Outside the scientific
    community, there is no hue and cry for more government funding of
    R&D . There is no widespread public outrage when the Administration
    disregards the unequivocal judgment of the scientific community. And
    it’s unlikely that the science gap growing between the United States
    and other developed nations will become a major issue in the
    upcoming Presidential campaign.
    “This represents a failure on our part. We have not done enough to
    show the American people the connection between the work underway in
    your laboratories and the problems that affect their lives. This
    must change. The stakes simply could not be higher. What future
    challenge will we fail to meet because America’s scientists were not
    given the tools they need to discover new answers to old questions?
    When rumors of a Nazi bomb program reached President Roosevelt, he
    said simply, ‘Whatever the enemy may be planning, American science
    will be equal to the challenge.’ Will future presidents be able to
    speak with such confidence?”

    PITAC Work Finding its Way Into Presidential Campaign

    At a stop at a Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Baltimore yesterday, President Bush apparently drew from the forthcoming report of his IT Advisory Committee (PITAC) when he noted that, in health care, “the 21st-century is using a 19th-century paperwork system.” He’s calling for the digitization of most of America’s medical records within the decade.
    He’s also says he’ll name a “Federal Coordinator For IT,” but I haven’t found any additional details.
    Anyway, here’s the article from Bush seems to draw from the work of the PITAC Subcommittee on Health IT, which announced its draft recommendations two weeks ago. Here’s a bit more:

    The result is that files get misplaced and problems with drug interactions aren’t systematically checked, among other problems.
    “These old methods of keeping records are real threats to patients and their safety and are incredibly costly,” he said.
    Implementing a system where everyone has their own personal electronic medical record will protect patients, improve care and reduce cost, he said.
    Bush acknowledged that patient privacy is a concern and a top priority

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