Summary of Responses to the Statement of Task
The Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) has requested the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Army Science and Technology (BAST) conduct a study to define the field of Network Science. The NRC will:
Determine whether initiation of a new field of investigation called Network Science would be appropriate to advance knowledge of complex systems and processes that exhibit network behaviors. If yes, how should it be defined?
A working definition of network science is the study of network representations of physical, biological, and social phenomena leading to predictive models of these phenomena. Initiation of a field of network science would be appropriate to provide a body of rigorous results that would improve the predictability of the engineering design of complex networks and also speed up basic research in a variety of applications areas (Chapter 4).
Identify the fields that should comprise Network Science. What are the key research challenges necessary to enable progress in Network Science?
General consensus exists among practitioners of network research in diverse application areas on topics that constitute network science (Chapter 5). There are seven major research challenges (Chapter 6).
Identify specific research issues and the theoretical, experimental, and practical challenges to advance the field of Network Science. Consider such things as facilities and equipment that might be needed. Determine investment priority, time frame for realization, and degree of commercial interest.
Current military concepts of “net-centricity” are based on applications of computer and information technology that are far removed from likely results of basic research in network science. Table 8-1 lists current areas of network research of interest to the Army, including priority, time frames, and commercial interest (Chapter 3).
Current funding policies and priorities are unlikely to provide adequate fundamental knowledge about large complex networks that will advance network-centric operations. Besides the information domain, there are social, cognitive, and physical technology domains in the current conceptual framework for network-centric operations; there is no “biological” domain (Chapters 2–4).
A basis for network science is perceived in different ways by the communities concerned with engineered, biological, and social networks at all levels of complexity. Basic research efforts are totally incoherent (Chapters 5 and 6).
Options for obtaining value from investments in network science include scenarios ranging from building a base of basic research, to leveraging business practices for market-driven R&D in specific areas of network applications, to creating a robust capability for network-centric operations (Chapter 7).
Given limited resources (and likely investments of others), recommend those relevant research areas that the Army should invest in to enable progress toward achieving Network-Centric Warfare capabilities.
Recommendations 1, 1a through 1d, 2, and 3 provide the Army with an actionable menu of alternatives that span the opportunities accessible to it. By selecting and implementing appropriate items from this menu, the Army can develop a robust network science to enable the desired progress (Chapter 8).
NOTE: The statement of task is in lightface; the summary of responses is in boldface.