NSF PR 00-61 - September 13, 2000
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NSF Announces First Awards in New Information Technology
Innovative projects will maintain U.S. leadership
in computer research
The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced
its first grants under the new $90 million Information
Technology Research (ITR) initiative. The awards,
which will spur fundamental research and innovative
applications of IT, are a step toward building on
U.S. leadership in this area of growing importance
to the economy.
Selected from over 1,400 proposals, the newly funded
activities will promote IT-driven science and engineering.
Included are 62 large projects that will average $1
million per year for three to five years, involving
41 institutions in 22 states. Another 148 smaller
projects will each total $500,000 or less for up to
three years, involving 81 institutions in 32 states.
"This initiative will help strengthen America's leadership
in a sector that has accounted for one-third of U.S.
economic growth in recent years," said President Bill
Clinton. "High technology is generating jobs that
pay 85 percent more than the average private sector
wage. I am pleased that the National Science Foundation
is expanding its investment in long-term information
technology research. I urge the Congress to provide
full funding for NSF so that they can continue to
make these kinds of investments in America's future."
"These projects represent major innovations in information
technology, rather than routine applications of existing
technology," said NSF director Rita Colwell. "Our
strategy to support long-term, high-risk research
responds to a challenge from the President's Information
Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), which called
for increased federal investment to maintain the U.S.
lead in this important sector of the global economy."
ITR emphasizes the subject areas of software; scalable
information infrastructure; information management;
revolutionary computing; human-computer interfaces;
advanced computational science; education and workforce;
and social or economic implications of IT. The program's
main goals are to augment the nation's IT knowledge
base and strengthen the IT workforce.
"The response has been overwhelming," said Ruzena
Bajcsy, who heads the NSF Directorate for Computer
and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). "Because
fund requests by proposers exceeded $3.2 billion,
there were many more worthwhile projects proposed
than we are able to support. The volume and quality
of proposals are strong evidence justifying our desire
to triple NSF's ITR budget over the next five years."
Funded projects include a University of Pittsburgh
human-computer interface effort that will use advanced
vision technology to develop personal robotic assistants
that could help the elderly live more independently.
At the University of Colorado, computer scientists
and a plant geneticist will design interfaces to speed
the analysis of viruses, bacteria and other genomes.
A major ITR emphasis is "middleware" -- software that
enhances the interaction of operating systems and
their applications. For example, the University of
Illinois will design middleware to optimize the efficiency
and faulttolerance of network-based computer programs
for air-traffic control, smart highways, satellites,
remote surgery and electronic commerce.
ITR's Scalable Information Infrastructure area emphasizes
innovation in network-based access to distributed
data. One example is a collaboration in which the
University of California-Berkeley, Mills College of
Oakland, CA, and private industry are partnering to
construct a largescale prototype of error-sensing
software that would automatically repair data.
The California Institute of Technology will establish
an Institute for Quantum Information to experiment
with algorithms that process data via quantum physical
processes -- a revolutionary method that could eventually
make even the fastest silicon chips obsolete.
Among the largest awards is a five-year, $7.2 million
grant to Duke University for research into "bioinformatics,"
which applies IT to solve such riddles as how protein
structure determines the function of an enzyme. In
a partnership that includes the University of Chicago,
the University of Florida will also receive a large
award -$11.8 million over five years -- to let computer
scientists and physicists collaborate in developing
tools to analyze massive amounts of data from particle
colliders and astronomical observatories.
Bridging the "digital divide" is a key goal of the
ITR emphasis on societal implications. Projects include
studies by Michigan State University and the City
University of New York to identify factors that influence
the effectiveness of IT in the classrooms and homes
of disadvantaged children. The University of California-Irvine
will study the adoption of electronic commerce worldwide,
comparing data from technologically advanced countries
with newly industrialized and developing nations.
Northeastern University and Boston University will
collaborate in an education and workforce project
to form a virtual community of African American scholars
in IT. Students, professionals and educators will
interact on-line via this "Human Capital Development"
project, seeking to increase the representation of
African Americans in IT.
NSF has also just kicked off its second ITR competition.
The foundation's ITR budget request for fiscal 2001
is $190 million of additional funding, although the
actual appropriation is yet to be determined by Congress.
For a complete list of ITR awards and project abstracts,
For the PITAC report, see http://www.ccic.gov/