Scientific Research,” who made a compelling case for the need for computational infrastructures that:32

  • Focus on Data: Terabytes, not tera-FLOPS;
  • Problem-Centric Programming: Platform-independent expression of data parallelism;
  • Interactive Access: From simple queries to massive computations; and
  • Robust Fault Tolerance: Component failures are handled as routine events.

A recent BGST discussion with Ben Shneiderman, University of Maryland, on the topic of “Visual Analytics Science and Technology for Collaborative Knowledge Discovery” further illustrated both the challenges and the opportunities inherent in data-intensive science. Key lessons from this presentation included not only the need for awareness of advances in the field of visual analytics, but also the potential value of using such tools to more efficiently explore and more effectively describe the complex and dynamic nature of the global S&T landscape.

Data-intensive science is rich in that it affords exploration from multiple perspectives. Board-sponsored activities to date include two meetings, each thematically focused on big data, but with different structural approaches. The first meeting brought together a multi-disciplinary group of researchers and practitioners around a common problem—“Data Analytics & the Smart Energy Grid 2020.” The second meeting, co-sponsored by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)33 also engaged a multi-disciplinary group but addressed a problem spanning multiple domains—“Realizing the Value from Big Data” (see Appendix C for descriptions of these workshops).

Building a Professional Network

The Board created an interactive website (using Ning) as a multi-party, international communication tool for the global S&T community involved in emerging science areas. To date it has been used primarily by participants in BGST workshops. As a continuation of this experiment, the Board plans to explore its use as a tool to create a continuing discussion on qualitative and quantitative assessments of emerging global S&T areas.

The BGST Template

The Board created a template to gather experts’ assessments of the global S&T landscape in selected emerging S&T domains that contribute to the DoD priority S&T investment areas. The template is intended to provide a multi-faceted yet brief snapshot of a particular subject area from several viewpoints: technology, international players, national security implications, future problems/avenues of exploration, and significant publications. To date, this experimental template has been tested only by BGST members. We believe that it can be a unique qualitative data-gathering tool because its diverse questions can yield insights into how researchers perceive their field within a global context. Thus, we plan to continue to experiment with this template by involving experts beyond the BGST’s current areas of expertise. Appendix D includes applications of the template by three BGST members in three areas of emerging S&T, respectively: metamaterials, computing performance and synthetic biology.

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32 See this PowerPoint presentation at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/xpedio/groups/pgasite/documents/webpage/pga_056621.pdf.

33 For additional information on A*STAR, see http://www.a-star.edu.sg/.



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