The $200 million effort will try to make sense out of the rising
flood of digital data from many sources, including the Web,
biological and industrial sensors, video, e-mail and social network
The U.S. government is beginning a major research initiative in
big data computing. The effort, introduced Thursday, involves
several government agencies and departments, and commitments for the
programs total $200 million.
Administration officials compare the initiative to past
government research support for high-speed networking and
supercomputing centers, which have had an impact in areas like
climate science and Web browsing software.
"This is that level of importance," said Tom Kalil, deputy
director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
"The future of computing is not just big iron. It's big data."
Big data refers to the rising flood of digital data from many
sources, including the Web, biological and industrial sensors,
video, e-mail and social network communications. The emerging
opportunity arises from combining these diverse data sources with
improving computing tools to pinpoint profit-making opportunities,
make scientific discoveries and predict crime waves, for example.
"Data, in my view, is a transformative new currency for science,
engineering, education, commerce and government," said Farnam
Jahanian, head of the National Science Foundation's computer and
information science and engineering directorate. "Foundational
research in data management and data analytics promise breakthrough
discoveries and innovations across all disciplines."
On Thursday, the National Science Foundation announced a joint
program with the National Institutes of Health seeking new
techniques and technologies for data management, data analysis and
machine learning, which is a branch of artificial intelligence.
Other departments and agencies announcing big data programs at a
gathering Thursday at the American Association for the Advancement
of Science in Washington included the U.S. Geological Survey, the
Defense Department, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
and the Energy Department. These initiatives will mostly be seeking
ideas from university and corporate researchers for collaborative
The private sector is the leader in many applications of big data
computing. Internet powers like Google and Facebook are masters at
instantaneously mining Web data, click streams, search queries and
messages to finely target users for online advertisements. Many
major software companies, including International Business Machines,
Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and SAS Institute, and a growing band of
startups are focused on the opportunity in big data computing. …