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National Science Foundation Makes a Federal Case of Big Data

March 29, 2012 – Federal agencies are serving up millions of dollars toward research that will extract useful information from big data sets and develop new methods, technology and tools for data management, analytics and collaboration.

On Thursday, the National Science Foundation announced a joint solicitation with the National Institutes for Health under the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program and an Ideas Lab for researchers. Research in these areas will seek to develop new ways to draw findings from massive data sets, increase efficient training and education on big data, and the construction of new infrastructure to “manage, curate and serve data to communities,” according to a release on the initiatives. The big data research solicitation is an acknowledgement of the “profound transformation” data holds for scientific communities, said NSF Director Subra Suresh in a news release from the event led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"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," said Suresh.

The NSF also announced awards for 16 new or ongoing research efforts touching on elements of big data. The largest award in those efforts, $10 million, went to the Expeditions in Computing program at the University of California-Berkeley, which is developing new, scalable machine-learning algorithms, big data management tools and data center “friendly” programming models. Other big data initiatives ranged from visualizing hurricane information to maximizing transparency and stewardship with large public data sets. (For a full list of winners and projects, click here.)

The Obama administration also announced $60 million in new research into large unstructured data sets by the Department of Defense and, separately, $25 million toward a new supercomputing facility for the Department of Energy. In the last few months, the federal government has increased its attention to big data innovation and cloud computing as methods to cut costs and increase efficiencies across departments, and Thursday's announcements total approximately $200 million in new funding toward big data research.

For information on the solicitation, entitled “Core Techniques for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering,” click here.

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