Supercomputing, cyberinfrastructure among administration's highest R&D priorities

Supercomputing, cyberinfrastructure among administration's highest R&D priorities

The Bush administration has placed supercomputing and cyberinfrastructure among its highest priorities for agency research and development efforts in fiscal 2006.

In a memo to agency executives, Office of Management and Budget director Josh Bolten and John Marburger, director of the White House's Science and Technology Policy Office, asked officials to focus their 2006 budget requests on these two areas.

'While the importance of each networking and IT research and development program areas continues, high-end computing and cyberinfrastructure R&D should be given higher relative priority due to the potential of each in furthering progress across a broad range of scientific and technological application areas,' the memo said. 'Agency requests should reflect these two program priorities by reallocating funds from low priority efforts.'

David Nelson, director of the White House's National Coordination Office for IT R&D, said although asking agencies to reallocate and prioritize funding is nothing new, it hasn't been done in a while.

'Perhaps more this year than others, there is not a large amount of new money expected for R&D, and agencies are expected to optimize what they do have,' Nelson said.

Nelson would not speculate on how the focus on these new priorities would affect other networking and IT R&D programs.

Agencies have been focusing on supercomputing and cyberinfrastructure for some time, Nelson said.

Cyberinfrastructure lets users share hardware and software over the Internet more transparently and easily, Nelson said.

One example is the National Science Foundation's Middleware Initiative and Integration Testbed project to develop, disseminate and evaluate software to let users build and share distributed applications, instrumentation and access to common databases.

A recent study by a NSF advisory board recommended that the administration invest more than $1 billion in cyberinfrastructure R&D efforts. NSF requested $90 million in the fiscal 2005 budget submission for a cyberinfrastructure program.

Nelson said agencies have made or are prepared to make several awards for supercomputing research.

NSF, the Energy Department and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will award two contracts worth about $10 million each for high-end computing research to a university or college.

Energy also recently awarded a contract that could be worth as much as $125 million to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to build the world's fastest supercomputer with Cray Inc. of Seattle and IBM Corp.

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