PCAST Updates Assessment of Networking and InfoTech R&D

Today, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its latest report to the President and Congress, Designing a Digital Future: Federally Funded Research and Development in Networking and Information Technology. The report is a Congressionally mandated assessment of the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, which coordinates the Nation’s federally-funded research and development (R&D) in areas such as supercomputing, high-speed network­ing, cybersecurity, software technology, and information management. The report is an update on progress since the last such assessment was conducted in 2010.

The United States is a world leader in R&D for networking and information technology (NIT)—a sector that touches virtually every human endeavor and fuels economic growth, national security, and enhanced quality of life. NIT capabilities are at the core of our Nation’s infrastructure—underpinning and enabling diverse functions ranging from communication and commerce to defense and manufacturing. New NIT insights and discoveries ensure that the Nation remains a safe and healthy place where Americans can continue to succeed and thrive.

In its new report, PCAST concludes that progress has been made toward addressing a number of the recommendations made in the 2010 report. For example, the report cites notable steps forward in multi-agency work to advance “big data,” health IT, robotics, and cybersecurity, and calls out significant progress toward creating infrastructure for network scaling and NIT testbeds.

The report also notes that many important areas have received less attention and investment than is needed, making recommendations (summarized on page xi) for stronger coordination among agencies to meet continuing NIT challenges in educational technology, data privacy, energy, transportation, and other important sectors.

Among other recommendations, PCAST proposes development of new multi-agency initiatives to catalyze innovation and advances in high-performance computing, understanding of collective online human activity, surface and air transportation, and learning sciences and also recommends measures to strengthen the Nation’s NIT workforce through training programs, continuing education opportunities, and other mechanisms. To ensure continued multi-agency coordination and investment in NIT areas, PCAST recommends establishment of a high-level standing PCAST sub-committee that would focus on providing ongoing strategic advice in this domain.

The United States has set the standard for innovation in NIT R&D. PCAST believes that implementation of the recom­mendations in this report will help the Nation maintain its leading NIT edge in an increasingly competitive global environment.

The full PCAST report is available here

David Shaw, Susan Graham, and Peter Lee are co-chairs of the PCAST NITRD Working Group and Dr. Shaw is a member of PCAST.

PCAST is an advisory group of the Nation’s leading scientists and engineers, appointed by the President to augment the science and tech­nology advice available to him from inside the White House and from cabinet departments and other Federal agencies. For more information about PCAST, please visit the PCAST website.

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