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President Obama targets $200 million for big data boost

U.S. government looks to bolster techniques to access, organize, and collect information from huge volumes of digital data.

By , Network World
March 29, 2012 12:05 PM ET
President Obama

Network World - The U.S. government is the poster child for big data and today President Obama is set to announce a $200 million research program to bolster the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data.

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"In the same way that past Federal investments in information-technology R&D led to dramatic advances in supercomputing and the creation of the Internet, the initiative we are launching today promises to transform our ability to use Big Data for scientific discovery, environmental and biomedical research, education, and national security," said Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in a statement.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and a number of key federal departments and agencies will be part of the Big Data Research and Development Initiative.

The agencies and their particular input in the program include:

• National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health: NSF is implementing a long-term strategy that includes new methods to derive knowledge from data; infrastructure to manage, curate, and serve data to communities; and new approaches to education and workforce development. Specifically, NSF is: Encouraging research universities to develop interdisciplinary graduate programs to prepare the next generation of data scientists and engineers; Funding a $10 million Expeditions in Computing project based at the University of California, Berkeley, that will integrate three powerful approaches for turning data into information - machine learning, cloud computing, and crowd sourcing; Providing the first round of grants to support "EarthCube" - a system that will let geoscientists access, analyze and share information about our planet; Issuing a $2 million award for a research training group to support training for undergraduates to use graphical and visualization techniques for complex data. Providing $1.4 million in support for a focused research group of statisticians and biologists to determine protein structures and biological pathways.

• NIH: The health agency is particularly interested in imaging, molecular, cellular, electrophysiological, chemical, behavioral, epidemiological, clinical, and other data sets related to health and disease.

• Department of Defense: The DoD is "placing a big bet on big data" investing approximately $250 million annually (with $60 million available for new research projects) across the departments in a series of programs that will: Harness and utilize massive data in new ways and bring together sensing, perception and decision support to make truly autonomous systems that can maneuver and make decisions on their own. The department is seeking a 100-fold increase in the ability of analysts to extract information from texts in any language, and a similar increase in the number of objects, activities, and events that an analyst can observe. In addition, the DoD will announce a series of open prize competitions over the next several months.

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