As we’ve covered extensively, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), together with six Federal agencies, rolled out the Big Data R&D Initiative on Thursday afternoon, providing $200 million in funding to improve our ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data. Highlights included a $25 million solicitation supporting foundational research, including core techniques and technologies, spanning all directorates and offices within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and 7 institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); a $250 million “Data to Decisions” investment by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering [ASD(R&E)], constituting a major push in data to decision, autonomy, and human systems; and a $25 million XDATA program by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop computational techniques and software tools for processing and analyzing the vast amount of mission-oriented information for Defense activities.
For those who missed Thursday’s live webcast, archived video and a brief summary of the event are available following the link…
In announcing the initiative, OSTP Director John Holdren said, “The world is now generating zettabytes — that’s ten to the twenty-first power or a billion trillion bytes — of information every year, and that number is growing with extraordinary speed. It became clear that there really was a strong case for a national big data initiative that multiple agencies could contribute to.”
Added NSF Director Subra Suresh, ”Data are motivating a profound transformation in the culture and conduct of scientific research in every field of science and engineering. American scientists must rise to the challenges and seize the opportunities afforded by this new, data-driven revolution. The work we do today will lay the groundwork for new enterprises and fortify the foundations for U.S. competitiveness for decades to come.”
Importantly, portions of the Big Data R&D Initiative are also aimed at developing new education and training programs to prepare the next generation of data scientists and engineers. James Manyika, a director at the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), noted during the launch event that, within a few years, the U.S. will face shortages of between 140,000 and 190,000 individuals with “deep analytical skills” capable of working with very large data sets; between 300,000 and 400,000 skilled technicians and support staff; and about 1.5 million “data-savvy managers and analysts.”
“We are very determined to try to provide those training pathways to increase the population of such skilled individuals and also to provide in some instances training programs for individuals who need to acquire those skills mid career,” said NIH director Francis Collins.
“If I were a college senior or a first-year graduate student interested in biology, I would migrate as fast as I could into computational biology,” he said. “It is a very appealing career path.”
The government officials announcing the Big Data R&D Initiative were, in order of appearance, John Holdren, Assistant to the President and Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Subra Suresh, director, National Science Foundation; Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health; Marcia McNutt, Director, United States Geological Survey; Zach Lemnios, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, U.S. Department of Defense; Kaigham “Ken” Gabriel, Acting Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and William Brinkman, Director, Department of Energy Office of Science.
And the subsequent panel with industry and academic thought leaders comprised, roughly from left to right, Daphne Koller, Stanford University (machine learning and applications in biology and education); James Manyika, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI; co-author of major MGI report on Big Data); Lucila Ohno-Machado, University of California, San Diego San Diego (NIH’s “Integrating Data for Analysis, Anonymization, and Sharing” initiative); and Alex Szalay, Johns Hopkins University (big data for astronomy). Centered was panel moderator Steve Lohr of The New York Times.
Be sure to read all the details about the Big Data R&D Initiative in our earlier coverage.
(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)