the fundamental advances in knowledge that are needed to drive innovation leadership in new technologies and to advance software technologies that are broadly applicable across industry and the DoD supply chain.

DoD Influence on Academic R&D

The overall directions and priorities for sponsored research that leads to university-originated invention are greatly influenced by funding levels and agency priorities. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA’s) deliberately strong relationship with the IT research community, which began in the 1960s and endured for nearly 40 years, has had profound influence on IT research priorities, the overall culture of computer science research, and the massive economic and national outcomes. This is documented in multiple NRC reports relating to the innovation pipeline for IT, which trace the origins of a broad set of specific IT innovations, each of which has led to a multibillion dollar market.6

Data available from NITRD and other sources indicate that there has been a significant reduction in federally sponsored research related to software producibility as well as to high-confidence software and systems (see Box 1.5). Furthermore, it is the committee’s impression that in recent years many of the researchers in these areas have moved into other fields or scaled down their research efforts as a result of, among other things, the DoD’s having shifted funding away from software-related R&D, apparently on the assumption that industry can address the problems without government intervention. As stated previously, industry generally has less incentive to produce the fundamental advances in knowledge that enable disruptive advances in practice, building on fundamental advances but less often creating them. The impact of R&D cutbacks generally (excluding health-related R&D) has been noted by the top officers of major IT firms that depend on a flow of innovation and talent.

Academic R&D, Looking Forward

There are some challenges to proceeding with a new program for academic R&D related to software-intensive systems producibility. These challenges relate generally to saliency, realism, and risk. University researchers and faculty tend to be aware of broadly needed advances, but they do not always have adequate visibility into the full range of issues created by leading demands for large-scale, complex industrial and military systems. This awareness is hindered by many things, including national security classification, restricted research constraints, professional connectivity, and cost, in the sense of time and effort required to move up the learning curve. In a different domain, DARPA took a positive step in this regard by initiating the DARPA Computer Science Study Group, wherein junior faculty are given clearances and so are able to gain direct exposure to military challenge problems. Several specific DoD programs have undertaken similar efforts to give faculty a domain exposure, often with great success. One example from the 1990s is the Command and Control University (C2U) created by the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) program, which not only gave researchers access to military challenges, but also led to collaborations yielding new innovation in system concepts.7

With respect to ensuring that researchers have access to problems at scale, companies such as Google and Yahoo!, and national laboratories such as Los Alamos, have developed collaborative programs to expose faculty and graduate students to high-performance computing systems, large datasets, and the software approaches being taken with those systems. These companies, like the DoD, have worked out

6

See NRC, 2003, Innovation in Information Technology, Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Available online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10795. Last accessed August 20, 2010. Also see the predecessor report NRC, 1995, Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative, Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Available online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=4948. Last accessed August 20, 2010.

7

The committee understands that prototype systems from this program are now deployed in Iraq.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement