Skip navigation
1992 Marc Andreesen works on Mosiac NSB Chair Duderstadt - NSF Director Massey
The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
Table of Contents | Preface | Acknowledgements | Former Members | Exec Secretaries/Officers | Timeline

The Frontier of Information Technology

By the late 1980's NSF assumed a strong role in computer and information science and engineering, including networking and high performance computing. One initial use of the NSFNet in the late 1980s was to link supercomputer centers, which enable ever-more refined models of galaxies, weather, proteins, and other complex phenomena. These five-year supercomputing center awards were recompeted in 1989 and 1990, sparking lively Board debate. Some members argued that individual grants would advance the field sufficiently, but the case for concentrating funds at centers won out when four of the five centers were renewed. In 1993, when the Clinton Administration made advanced computing a national priority, the NSF supercomputing centers were showcased as the Nation's best civilian facilities.

NSF decommissioned the NSFNet in April 1995 and universities began receiving Internet service from commercial providers. At the same time, NSF with MCI implemented vBNS, a new, high-capacity network for scientific computing. Meanwhile, the five-year awards for the supercomputing centers were coming to an end. In 1995, a Foundation task force cochaired by chemist Edward F. Hayes of Ohio State University, recommended that, instead of four or five centers, partnerships among a wide range of institutions having a single super-advanced machine at their apex would best take advantage of recent massive leaps in computing capabilities.

The Board liked the idea and in 1997 approved the Foundation's proposed competition for the new Partners for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program. Today, there are two national partnerships: the National Computational Science Alliance, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the National Partnership for Advance Computational Infrastructure at University of California, San Diego. When PACI was announced, Board Vice Chair Diana Natalicio said it will push "technological advances that will fuel future economic growth." Students and scientists "at all levels will enjoy a vast resource for education and training."

Previous Page | Next Page


Bottom Timeline