The United States' leading scientists and technology engineers have called on President Obama to invest US$1 billion a year on new areas of networking and IT research.
The US President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology told the Whitehouse in a December report that any less would "seriously jeopardize America's national security and economic competitiveness."
The council has submitted a report [PDF] to congress titled "Designing a digital future: Federally funded research and development in networking and information technology", in which the group asks that the Government consider the broader scope of IT challenges ahead rather than focusing exclusively of how well the nation ranks in supercomputing polls.
The report made a series of recommendations to the President around how to use networked IT to beef up cybersecurity, aid the delivery of healthcare, reduce power consumption waste and improve education.
"The Federal Government should invest in a national, long-term, multi-agency research initiative on NIT [networked IT] that assures both the security and the robustness of cyber-infrastructure," read one recommendation.
The authors noted that "cyber-infrastructure" would include the internet, telecommunication systems, and systems supporting the U.S. energy grid and it's finance sector.
The Department of Defence should be investing in R&D aimed "to discover more effective ways to build trustworthy computing and communications systems, to continue to develop new [networked IT] defense mechanisms for today's infrastructure, and most importantly, to develop fundamentally new approaches for the design of the underlying architecture of our cyber-infrastructure so that it can be made truly resilient to cyber-attack, natural disaster, and inadvertent failure."
The 148-page report also recommended that the U.S. Government invest in eHealth - beyond the initial step of developing electronic health records - and in research into smart grids, low-power monitoring and control devices and other networked technology to improve the U.S. transport and energy system.
Further, the advisors encouraged the Government to incorporate computer science as an "essential component" of primary and secondary education in the United States.
PERFORMANCE ISN'T EVERYTHING
The authors also noted that lists of the world's top supercomputers should no longer be seen by the Government as the true metric of the nation's IT health.
"Highly influential comparative rankings of the world's fastest supercomputers are for the most part based on metrics relevant to only some of our national priorities, and must not be regarded as the sole measure of our continued leadership in this essential area," the report said.
"Many other aspects of NIT have now risen to comparable levels of importance."
Areas of interest included:
- interactions of people with computing systems and devices, both individually and collectively;
- the interactions between networked IT and the physical world, such as in sensors, imaging, robotic and vision systems, and wearable and mobile devices;
- large-scale data capture, management and analysis;
- systems that protect personal privacy and sensitive confidential information, are robust in the face of malfunction, and stand up to cyber-attack;
- scalable systems and networking (i.e., systems and networks that can be either increased or decreased in complexity, size, generality, and cost); and software creation and evolution.
"At the same time, new investments must not supplant continued investment in important core areas such as high performance computing, scalable systems and networking, software creation and evolution, and algorithms, in which government-funded research is making important progress," the report said.