The Big Data Initiative
In my last post, I gave some hope to the fact that the U.S. Government is working toward a Big Data plan. But, like most government initiatives, intent is usually greater than reality. Big government moves slowly and projects that are proposed as valuable, generally take several years to bear fruit. And, the unfortunate thing is that the computing industry has usually moved on to the next big thing by the time the U.S. government gets close to full implementation.
But, Big Data is not going away anytime soon and even the computing industry is struggling with implementation, putting to government and the public sector on relatively even footing. So, while we’re not exactly where we need to be, things are progressing.
Still, the U.S. Government introduced the Big Data Initiative in 2012, so, it’s important to highlight the specifics of that proposal, and in the next article in this series, show where innovations are happening today and what is proposed in the near and distant future.
Introduced as the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative” by the Obama Administration on March 29, 2012, the intent of the project was to improve the ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data. The effort would help accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen national security and transform teaching and learning.
The initiative was launched for six Federal departments including the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Veterans Administration (VA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and a multitude of agencies, including NASA, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The full list is included in the Big Data Face Sheet. More than $200 million was committed so that tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data could be implemented and improved.
Let’s take a quick look at the initial proposals for some of the various departments and agencies:
National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health
Goals: Accelerate scientific discovery, particularly in imaging, molecular, cellular, electrophysiological, chemical, behavioral, epidemiological, clinical, and other data sets related to health and disease.
National Science Foundation
Goals: Implement a comprehensive, long- term strategy to derive knowledge from data and build the infrastructure to manage, curate, and serve data to communities, Specifically, NSF’s goals are to:
- Encourage research universities to develop interdisciplinary graduate programs to prepare the next generation of data scientists and engineers.
- Fund a $10 million Expeditions in Computing project based at the University of California, Berkeley to integrate machine learning, cloud computing, and crowd sourcing.
- Provide the first round of grants to support “EarthCube” – a system that will allow geoscientists to access, analyze and share information about our planet.
- Issue a $2 million award for a research training group to support training for undergraduates.
- Provide $1.4 million in support for statisticians and biologists to determine protein structures and biological pathways.
- Convene researchers across disciplines to determine how Big Data can transform teaching and learning.
Department of Defense
Goals: Invest approximately $250 million annually across Military Departments in a series of programs to:
- Harness and utilize massive data for sensing, perception and decision support to enable autonomous systems that can maneuver and make decisions on their own.
- Improve situational awareness to help warfighters and analysts and provide increased support to operations.
- Developing scalable algorithms for processing imperfect data in distributed data stores.
- Create effective human-computer interaction tools for facilitating rapidly customizable visual reasoning for diverse missions.
National Institutes of Health
Goals: Produce the world’s largest set of data on human genetic variation on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. AWS is storing the 1000 Genomes Project as a publically available data set for free and researchers only will pay for the computing services that they use.
Department of Energy
Goals: Provide $25 million in funding to establish the Scalable Data Management, Analysis and Visualization (SDAV) Institute. The SDAV Institute brings together the expertise of six national laboratories and seven universities to develop new tools to help scientists manage and visualize data on the Department’s supercomputers.
U.S. Geological Survey
Goals: Deliver grants for Analysis and Synthesis. Provide scientists a place for in-depth analysis, state-of-the-art computing capabilities, and collaborative tools invaluable for making sense of huge data sets. Improve understanding of issues such as species response to climate change, earthquake recurrence rates, and the next generation of ecological indicators.
As you can see the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative” was proposed as a significant piece to ensure national security, provide for growing the U.S. learning penetration, and to deliver tools and capabilities for solving Earth issues.
But where are we today? Did any of these proposals pan out? In the next article in this series, I’ll dig deeper into each proposal to see how quickly or how slowly the U.S. government is moving toward complete execution. You can probably already guess which is the case.
Rod Trent is the Engagement Director for the Penton Technology Group and the Managing Editor for American City & County sister brands, Windows IT Pro, SQL Server Pro, SharePoint Pro, Dev Pro, Power IT Pro, WinSuperSite and myITforum.com. He is a leading expert on Microsoft System Center and Cloud technologies and has more than 25 years of IT experience. Rod has written many books, thousands of articles, and speaks at various conferences and user groups. His professional focus is evangelizing technical community on the web and in person. Rod was a Microsoft MVP for 10 years and is a charter member of the Dell TechCenter Rockstar program.