Uncle Sam funds R&D into managing massive databases

Uncle Sam funds R&D into managing massive databases

By Thomas R. Temin

GCN Staff

MAY 22—Finding ways deal with big data sets, archives and collections is where many of the research dollars for government systems are flowing.

At the National Conference on Digital Government Research in Redondo Beach, Calif., researchers yesterday presented papers on future technologies for better collection, organization and dissemination of information stowed in large and distributed databases.

For example, Sherri Harms, a computer science professor at the University of Missouri, demonstrated an experimental data-mining technique that could assimilate data from historical agriculture records, weather sensors throughout the world, crop models and other sources to come up with accurate local drought predictions. Her approach and other research projects rely on grants from the National Science Foundation's Information Technology Research program, which sponsored the conference, dubbed DG.O.

According to Eduard Hovey, professor and co-director of computational linguistics at the University of Southern California, geospatial data is a hot research area. Viewing data changes over time is a particular challenge, he said.

'The brain organizes things temporally and spatially,' but ordinary databases don't, Hovey said. Another area is bringing in large amounts of data in a short period of time.

'At tax time, the IRS has the need to upload millions of documents overnight'they need it today but not tomorrow,' he noted. Several academic researchers are working on these types of problems.

Still another key area for research, said Deborah Noble, external relations manager for USC's Information Sciences Institute, is the maintenance and migration of electronic data that agencies must legally archive. USC's San Diego Supercomputing Center is working with the National Archives and Records Administration on that problem, which extends to government videos and Web sites.


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