NSF official stresses importance of government investment in big data

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Despite a constrained budget environment across government, continued investment in big data is extremely important to the future of the country, said Farnam Jahanian, assistant director for National Science Foundation's computer and information science and engineering directorate. Jahanian spoke during an April 24 hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on technology.

Big data analysis is leading to innovation in the public, private and academic sectors--especially in the areas of healthcare research and weather forecasting, said Jahanian, who highlighted several big data projects across government.

At NSF, big data investment focuses on four areas, said Jahanian:

  • Investment in foundational research to advance big data techniques and technologies;
  • support for building new interdisciplinary research communities;
  • investment in education and workforce development; and
  • development and deployment of cyber infrastructure to capture, manage, analyze and share digital data.

The investment in cyber infrastructure includes computational resources--such as the development of the Blue Waters, Stampede and Yellowstone supercomputers--that support data science.

"We view computation and data as two sides of the same coin. You really need to address both," said Jahanian.

"So, when we talk about computational capabilities, we also have to worry about cyber infrastructure to manage, to curate, to serve data to the science and engineering community," he added.

Big data investment decisions are informed in part by the cross-agency work of the Networking and Information Technology research and Development Program, said Jahanian. The program provides a multi-disciplinary panel of experts from industry, academia and government to recommend project funding. the program also holds workshops, bringing together agenceis to jointly advance exploration in big data, he said.

At his agency, big data project funding is being coordinated by a senior steering group that reports to the assistant directors at NSF because it involves every science and engineering discipline, said Jahanian.

For more:
- go to the hearing page (includes prepared testimony and archived webcast)

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