Dr. Neal F. Lane


Grand Hyatt Hotel

Washington, DC

November 7, 1997

Welcoming Remarks
Official Launch of the SINGAREN-vBNS Linkup

(As delivered)

It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to have this opportunity to welcome all of you this morning and extend greetings on behalf of the National Science Foundation.

Let me express my appreciation to the government of Singapore, particularly to the Singapore National Science and Technology Board and the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore, for taking the initiative to establish SINGAREN. This marks the first dedicated, full-time, trans-oceanic connection to NSF's vBNS, the very high performance Backbone Network Service.

I especially want to recognize:

We also could not be here today were it not for the efforts of Dr. Tinwee Tan, of the Internet Research and Development Unit at the National University of Singapore, who has organized the Singapore vBNS proposal.

I also can't begin without thanking the team at STAR-TAP in Chicago, and all our university partners in the vBNS for their contributions to making this achievement possible. Dr. William Brody, the President of Johns Hopkins University, is here with us today, and I also want to recognize Henry Kelly, here today on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

It is impossible to appreciate the significance of our gathering today without reflecting on the economic events of the past two weeks. Our respective stock markets have taken us on a wild roller coaster ride. This has left us all feeling somewhat staggered, not to mention grasping for a sense of perspective. The "future" has become the market's closing bell, and for some the time horizons are undoubtedly even shorter.

Today, we get to step back and remind ourselves that the soundest investments we can make often have somewhat longer time horizons. Today, we are expanding our investment in the future through research and education, and we will enjoy its rewards for generations to come.

Some weeks back, I had a chance to read a very interesting special edition of U.S. News and World Report. The cover story was entitled, "Great Science Mysteries." The centerpiece of the issue was a collection of essays by leading researchers and science writers.

They examined some 19 unanswered questions that run the gamut of science and engineering fields. The questions included:

At first glance, one could easily conclude that the questions on this list have little in common with each other. A month ago, some might have said the same thing about stock prices in New York and interest rates in Hong Kong. It is therefore instructive to examine how much these different questions actually have in common with each other.

Some of you may know that NSF has launched an ambitious effort under the heading of Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (or KDI). It involves programs in all parts of the Foundation, as it seeks to foster new ways of analyzing, representing, and transmitting information. The vBNS is a centerpiece of this overall effort, and many of the joint research and education projects being launched today fall directly under the KDI umbrella.

The U.S. News list provided one more reminder that KDI might well hold the key to unraveling science's great mysteries.

The collaborations we are launching here today will help us find key pieces to all of these different puzzles. Terms like tele-immersion and bioinformatics may sound like chapter headings from science fiction novels, but they are in fact essential to efforts across the spectrum of science and engineering. These techniques for refining and representing data will enable us to move from the age of information overload to the age of knowledge. Along the way, we will all gain tools and insights that help us to create, to communicate, and to innovate.

History has shown us that advances generated by high performance networking are never confined to the laboratory or the academic realm for very long. They quickly become available to industry and the general public. We have all seen how a small investment of taxpayer dollars spawned an entire industry with the Internet.

The next item on our agenda will give us a glimpse of the possibilities that await us. The short video presentation will highlight just a small sampling of the cooperative research efforts that the SINGAREN-vBNS connection will advance and accelerate. It will nevertheless make clear that today we are creating a potential for progress that extends from manufacturing to medicine and architecture to education and into countless other areas as well.

Let me close therefore by once again recalling the events of the past two weeks. On October 28th, when the markets were well into their wild ride, the Wall Street Journal wrote: "To an extent never seen before, the world's stock markets are interconnected and co-dependent."

This message of interconnections and co-dependence of course applies to much more than our markets. It is in fact a key to progress across the spectrum of science and engineering. Today, by establishing this state-of-the-art connection for research and education, we are forging a common link to our collective future. It will undoubtedly prove to be a wise investment indeed.

Thank you!


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