White House highlights big data innovation

Agencies asked to ramp up investment in research and development related to big data.

Big data is an administration priority, said John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, during the March 29 unveiling of the White House’s “Big Data Research and Development Initiative.”

The cross government initiative was formed in response to recommendations from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. According to Holdren, PCAST concluded last year that the government is under-investing in research and development related to collecting, analyzing and sharing its increasing stores of data.

“Obviously it’s not the data, per se, that create value. What really matters is our ability to derive from them, new insights, to recognize relationships to make increasingly accurate predictions,” said Holdren at the event. “Our ability, that is, to move from data to knowledge to action.”

The White House brought together a cross-agency committee to lay out actions agencies should take to coordinate and expand the government’s investment in big data. Six agencies announced their big data plans at the event, totaling $200 million in investment.  

“Although the private sector will clearly take the lead in developing big data related products and services, the government can play an important role by supporting long term R&D,” said Holdren. In a March 29 blog post Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote these agency commitments will “greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data.”

The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Department, the Energy Department, Homeland Security Department and the U.S. Geological Survey have all made big data commitments, according to a White House statement (.pdf).

Among the programs unveiled with the kickoff of the initiative are DoD programs focused on creating “mission-oriented resilient clouds” that will detect, diagnose and respond to cyber attacks, and a cyber insider threat detection program. The Energy Department plans to host challenges for collecting and presenting information from its atmospheric radiation measurement climate research facility.

For more:
- see the White House blog post
- download the fact sheet (.pdf)
- download the press release (.pdf)
- watch an archived webcast of the event

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