for or complements to the silicon-based chips that perform basic computing functions. Computing and communications capabilities are being embedded in a widening range of existing and novel devices, presaging an age of ubiquitous or pervasive computing, when IT is absorbed almost invisibly into the world around us. IT systems are being deployed to support countless tasks, from monitoring the health of patients with chronic diseases to controlling the flight paths of aircraft to analyzing mountains of data for private corporations and government agencies. Yet, the potential of IT will not be harnessed to meet society's needs automatically; it is not simply a matter of producing IT products and distributing them more widely. Research is needed to enable progress along all these fronts and to ensure that IT systems can operate dependably and reliably, meeting the needs of society and complementing the capabilities of their users. The question becomes, Can the nation's research establishment generate the advances that will enable tomorrow's IT systems? Are the right kinds of research being conducted? Is there sufficient funding for the needed research? And are the existing structures for funding and conducting research appropriate to the challenges IT researchers must address?
This report by the Committee on Information Technology Research in a Competitive World, convened by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Research Council, attempts to answer these questions. It examines the overall funding levels for IT research from industry and government, the scope of ongoing research efforts, and the structures and mechanisms that support research. It advances the argument that the nation's needs for IT systems have changed in ways that demand a much broader agenda for such research—one that includes more explicit support for research on large-scale IT systems and the social applications they support (see Box ES.1)—and mechanisms for funding and conducting research that are better attuned to this broadened agenda. The report was written with an awareness of the legacy of reports about IT research and recognizes that some of the research it covers is not new. What distinguishes this report is that it considers the big picture emerging from research programs that have been cataloged and recommended in other reports and uses this perspective to assess the sufficiency of today's research efforts. The report recognizes that long-standing problems cannot be solved instantly, and it acknowledges the institutional, cultural, and resource factors that will make the recommended changes difficult to achieve. But after lengthy analysis and deliberation, the authoring committee concluded, with conviction, that a reorientation of IT research is vital to the well-being of the technology base.