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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
Support for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation under Sponsor Award Number ANI-9616857. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Making IT better : expanding information technology research to meet society's needs.
1. Information technology. 2. Information technology—Social aspects. I. Title.
T58.5. M35 2000
Making IT Better: Expanding Information Technology Research to Meet Society's Needs is available from the
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH IN A COMPETITIVE WORLD
SAMUEL H. FULLER,
Analog Devices, Inc.,
DAVID G. MESSERSCHMITT,
University of California at Berkeley,
University of California at Irvine
JOHN A. COPELAND,
Georgia Institute of Technology
ALBERT M. ERISMAN,
The Boeing Company
DANIEL T. LING,
ROBERT L. MARTIN,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NORINE E. NOONAN,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (formerly of the Florida Institute of Technology)
DAVID A. PATTERSON,
University of California at Berkeley
Drexel University (formerly of Bellcore)
Sun Microsystems Laboratories
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
JERRY R. SHEEHAN, Senior Program Officer (Study Director)
LISA L. SHUM, Project Assistant (through August 1998)
D.C. DRAKE, Project Assistant (after August 1999)
COMPUTER SCIENCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS BOARD
DAVID D. CLARK,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Time Warner Cable
JOHN M. CIOFFI,
University of Utah
W. BRUCE CROFT,
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
SUSAN L. GRAHAM,
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at San Francisco
JEFFREY M. JAFFE,
Lucent Technologies Incorporated
University of Washington
BUTLER W. LAMPSON,
EDWARD D. LAZOWSKA,
University of Washington
U.S. Venture Partners
TOM M. MITCHELL,
WhizBang! Labs, Inc.
DAVID A. PATTERSON,
University of California at Berkeley
Tera Computer Company
University of California at Santa Barbara
New York University
MARJORY S. BLUMENTHAL, Director
HERBERT S. LIN, Senior Scientist
JERRY R. SHEEHAN, Senior Program Officer
ALAN S. INOUYE, Program Officer
JON EISENBERG, Program Officer
GAIL PRITCHARD, Program Officer
JANET D. BRISCOE, Office Manager
DANIEL LLATA, Project Assistant
SUZANNE OSSA, Project Assistant
MICKELLE RODGERS RODRIGUEZ, Senior Project Assistant
D.C. DRAKE, Project Assistant
MARGARET MARSH, Project Assistant
BRANDYE WILLIAMS, Office Assistant
COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND APPLICATIONS
PETER M. BANKS,
Veridian ERIM International, Inc.,
W. CARL LINEBERGER,
University of Colorado,
WILLIAM F. BALLHAUS, JR.,
Lockheed Martin Corporation
University of California at Davis
MARSHALL H. COHEN,
California Institute of Technology
RONALD G. DOUGLAS,
Texas A&M University
SAMUEL H. FULLER,
Analog Devices, Inc.
JERRY P. GOLLUB,
MICHAEL F. GOODCHILD,
University of California at Santa Barbara
MARTHA P. HAYNES,
WESLEY T. HUNTRESS, JR.,
CAROL M. JANTZEN,
Westinghouse Savannah River Company
PAUL G. KAMINSKI,
KENNETH H. KELLER,
University of Minnesota
JOHN R. KREICK,
Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company (retired)
MARSHA I. LESTER,
University of Pennsylvania
DUSA M. McDUFF,
State University of New York at Stony Brook
JANET NORWOOD, Former Commissioner,
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
M. ELISABETH PATÉ-CORNELL,
NICHOLAS P. SAMIOS,
Brookhaven National Laboratory
ROBERT J. SPINRAD,
Xerox PARC (retired)
MYRON F. UMAN, Acting Executive Director
The United States enjoys an enviable position in the Information Age. The nation's information technology (IT) industry is thriving, and virtually every facet of society has been influenced by it. Indeed, IT is transforming a large—and growing—portion of the nation's economic and personal activities. As a result, IT-related issues are of interest to a widening circle of users, not just the vendors of IT products and services. These obvious trends do not, however, ensure continued progress in IT and its applications because they do not indicate whether sufficient investments are being made in IT research.
As previous reports by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Research Council demonstrate,1 the nation's leadership in the development and application of IT derives in large part from an effective program of research that has been conducted and managed jointly by industry, universities, and government since the end of World War II. Today's IT systems continue to draw on the knowledge base constructed by research conducted over the past five decades.
The role of federal research funding in the innovation process has been examined in two CSTB reports: Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council. 1995. Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative to Support the Nation's Information Infrastructure. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.; Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council. 1999. Funding a Revolution: Government Support for Computing Research. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Continued leadership and innovation in IT—and the continued flow of societal benefits that derive from such leadership—depend on suitable investments in IT research today and in the future. A critical examination is needed to define the kinds of research investment needed for the early twenty-first century, a time when IT will play a much more prominent role than it did in the second half of the twentieth century, when most of today's IT capabilities and expectations were built.
THE COMMITTEE AND ITS CHARGE
To improve understanding of these issues and help guide future endeavors, the National Science Foundation (NSF) asked CSTB to conduct a study of IT research that would examine ongoing trends in industry and academic research, determine the possible effects of those trends on the well-being of the nation's IT industry and the nation as a whole, and explore options for strengthening the research base, if necessary. Of particular interest is support for research that advances our fundamental understanding of capabilities, architectural designs, and principles that can have a pervasive influence on innovation throughout the IT industry (called “fundamental research” in this report) rather than advancing a single product, process, or service (called “applied research” in this report).2 Is the nation investing sufficient resources in the types of research that will ensure its capability to innovate in the future, or have research investments become more narrowly targeted to near-term efforts? Representative issues include the following:3
Trends in IT research and development spending. What trends in computing and communications industry research and development (R&D) spending can be documented, and at what level of detail? How has support for fundamental and more targeted research programs shifted? Is the overall level of effort sufficient?
The scope of IT research. Are the scope and scale of computing and communications R&D changing? Is IT research sufficiently broad to
The federal government tends to classify research as either “basic” or “applied.” There is some correspondence between these terms and the terminology used in this report, as described in greater detail in Chapter 1.
The original concept for the study also included attention to international issues, in particular, the relative position of U.S. research efforts in IT compared with those of other countries. As the project unfolded, issues of international competitiveness became less of a motivational factor. The growth of the Internet and U.S. IT industries led to a perception that the greatest threats to the nation's IT base were not external, but internal—the lack of fundamental understanding of large-scale systems and their broad range of societal applications.
address new challenges resulting from the convergence of computing and communications? Are government, universities, and industry well organized to conduct research across disciplinary boundaries?
Changes in private-sector support for research. How do major technology market trends, such as the growing emphasis on and pervasiveness of network-based systems, affect private sector R&D investments? How do computing and communications companies of different sizes and types make R&D decisions, and how have the decision processes and outcomes been changing?
Mechanisms for strengthening IT research. What are some promising approaches to filling in gaps in the research portfolio and/or sustaining the flow of R&D? Is the government investment adequate? What types of institutional approaches might be the focus of experimentation? What factors, structures, and mechanisms enable success in research collaborations?
To conduct the study, CSTB assembled a committee of 16 members with expertise in the IT industry, IT research, applications of IT in government and industry, the organization of IT research, and federal support for research. Members were drawn from both industry and academia and brought with them technical expertise in computing, communications, software, and devices. Several committee members had experience with federal research programs and backgrounds in economics and public policy.
The committee met five times between July 1997 and August 1998 to plan its course of action, solicit testimony from relevant experts, deliberate over its findings, and draft its final report. It continued its work by electronic communications throughout 1999 and into the beginning of 2000. During the course of the project, the committee heard from researchers and research managers in industry and universities and from directors of government agencies involved in funding computing research. It met with engineers involved in the development and deployment of sophisticated information systems for clients in a range of fields. The committee also gathered available statistics on IT research investments in the public and private sectors. These data have a number of limitations (as described in this report) so they could not by themselves provide definitive insight into trends in IT research. Accordingly, the committee supplemented the data with information provided by its members and by those who briefed the committee. This range of input was used to develop the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report. The unusually long time it took the committee to do its work reflects the challenges involved in integrating diverse inputs and perspectives and in shaping a contribution to the rapidly evolving national debate about IT and IT research.
During the committee's working period, a number of important developments took place that were factored into the committee's conclusions. Most notably, an advisory committee authorized by the High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991 and encouraged by earlier CSTB reports was finally established in 1997, albeit in a form tailored to suit the times: the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). The CSTB study committee and PITAC shared one common member (Irving Wladawsky-Berger), but the work of the two committees proceeded independently, preserving the CSTB committee's ability to offer its own perspective and comment on PITAC's work. The CSTB committee reviewed the interim and final reports from PITAC, as well as information on the Clinton Administration's Information Technology Research initiative (originally constituted as Information Technology for the Twenty-First Century, or IT2) and ongoing federal programs, ensuring that the present report would be relevant to the evolving environment for federal support of IT research. Similarities between the main conclusions of this report and the PITAC report, which were arrived at independently, reflect a degree of consensus within the field regarding the research base for IT.
Although it attempted to complement the work of PITAC, the CSTB committee differentiated itself by (1) concentrating on two specific areas that it deemed to be of great importance to the nation and also insufficiently addressed by ongoing IT research initiatives and (2) relating its substantive research recommendations to an assessment of trends and supportive mechanisms for IT research. Rather than compete with PITAC or duplicate its work, the committee monitored the reception given to PITAC's recommendations and attempted to address questions that were raised about their rationale. The resulting report is a vehicle for maintaining the momentum imparted by PITAC—which itself drew on the evolution of thinking and programs throughout the 1990s—and for furthering the realignment of IT research to which PITAC and others have contributed. It draws on the work of other CSTB committees, which have looked in great detail at a number of specific components of the IT research arena and developed recommendations for IT research (both its substance and process) related to those components. Finally, the committee strove to present its conclusions in a form consistent with its intention to target the report at a broad, high-level audience, including policymakers, research managers in government and industry, corporate executives, and the research community.
As with any project of this magnitude, thanks are due to the many individuals who contributed to the work of the committee. First, thanks
are due to the members of the committee itself, who volunteered considerable time during the course of the study to attend meetings, engage in e-mail and telephone discussions, draft sections of the report, and respond to comments from external reviewers. Although they shared a common interest in IT research, committee members brought to the table a wide-ranging set of perspectives, concerns, and vocabularies that took time and effort to blend into a common view. Their overwhelming consensus on the main themes of this report is a testament to the importance of these themes to the field.
Beyond the committee, numerous persons provided valuable information through briefings to committee meetings. These presenters include John Best (IBM Almaden Research Center); Joel S. Birnbaum (Hewlett-Packard Co.); Timothy F. Bresnahan (Stanford University); Joseph K. Carter (Andersen Consulting); Vinton G. Cerf (MCI WorldCom); Ashok K. Chandra (IBM Almaden Research Center); Melvyn Ciment (then with NSF, now with the Potomac Institute); James A. Desveaux (UCLA); Fred Fath (Boeing Shared Services Group); Jim Gray (Microsoft Corporation); Anoop Gupta (Microsoft Corporation); Peter Hart (Ricoh); Juris Hartmanis (then with the NSF, now at Cornell University); John L. Hennessy (Stanford University); John Jankowski (NSF); Don E. Kash (George Mason University); Chuck Larson (Industrial Research Institute); Edward A. Lee (University of California at Berkeley); David Liddle (then with Interval Research, now with U.S. Venture Partners); Larry Lynn (then director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)); Peter G. Neumann (SRI International); Greg Papadopoulos (Sun Microsystems); Richard Pledereder (Sybase, Inc.); Robert W. Rycroft (George Mason University); David Tennenhouse (then with DARPA, now with Intel Corporation); and Gilbert Weigand (then with the Department of Energy).
Others also provided valuable assistance to the committee behind the scenes. Raymond Wolfe at the NSF provided detailed statistics on industry R&D spending and answered numerous questions about the data. Elinor Champion, Andrew Hildreth, Nelson Lim, Janet Shapiro, Mary Streitwieser, and Ron Taylor at the Census Bureau helped committee members and staff navigate the process of accessing detailed data on corporate R&D spending. Hoyle Curtis provided information on research expenditures at Hewlett-Packard Co. Jed Gordon, an undergraduate in the Science, Technology, and Society program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked with the CSTB during the summers of 1997, 1998, and 1999, collecting and analyzing corporate expenditures on R&D, writing summaries of his investigations, and conducting a wide range of related research and writing assignments. As she has done so many times in the past, Laura Ost, a free-lance editor, provided invaluable assistance in preparing the final manuscript under incredibly tight deadlines.
Theresa Fisher and Claudette Baylor-Fleming of the National Research Council's Space Studies Board assisted with the final preparation of this report. Marjory Blumenthal, director of the CSTB, provided critical commentary, advice, and writing in the final stages of the project to help bring the project to a successful conclusion.
Finally, thanks are due to Aubrey Bush at the NSF, whose interest and vision gave impetus to the project and who provided ongoing encouragement during the course of the study. The committee and staff are thankful for his continued patience and support throughout the duration of this project.
Samuel H. Fuller and David G. Messerschmitt
Committee on Information Technology
Research in a Competitive World
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report was reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The committee wishes to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
Duane Adams, Carnegie Mellon University,
John Armstrong, IBM Corporation (retired),
Robert Epstein, Sybase, Inc.,
Kenneth Flamm, University of Texas at Austin,
Peter Freeman, Georgia Institute of Technology,
Robert Frosch, Harvard University,
Paul Gray, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Juris Hartmanis, Cornell University,
John Hopcroft, Cornell University,
John King, University of Michigan,
Robert Lucky, Telcordia Technologies,
Thomas Malone, MIT Sloan School of Management,
Linda Sanford, IBM Corporation,
Marvin Sirbu, Carnegie Mellon University, and
Keith Uncapher, Corporation for National Research Initiatives.
Although the individuals listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the NRC.