A Federal Stimulus for Science and Technology

Posted by Dan Reed 
Scalable and Multicore Computing Strategist 
Microsoft Research

My colleague Pamela Passman recently blogged about the importance of the workforce development components of the economic recovery package working its way through the U.S. Congress.

As a scientist at Microsoft Research and someone long engaged in federal policy debates regarding computing research, I want to highlight several other aspects of the recovery legislation that are also vital to our long-term health and competitiveness.  In addition to math and science education funding, the bill includes strong support for basic and applied science and technology that is critical for America to succeed in the innovation economy.  

The science and technology components of the recovery package show that Congress and the Obama administration realize today’s urgent economic challenges require strategic investment in research and development to spawn tomorrow’s great discoveries and innovations.  Investments that the bill makes will enable scientists from diverse disciplines to conduct advanced research in critical areas such as energy production, environmental and weather modeling, materials science and manufacturing and biomedicine.

Beyond critically needed funding, the bill gives government, academia and industry a chance to rethink research partnerships and policies in ways that will harness the benefits of scientific innovation for the good of the entire nation.  

In calling for aggressive economic action, President Obama has often echoed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the “fierce urgency of now.”  The science and technology portions of the recovery package show that the president and congress understand the fierce urgency of innovation to ensure our economic future.  Government and industry have taken major steps to increase operational efficiencies in recent years, freeing resources to focus on their core science and technology missions.  We now have the opportunity to further streamline our nation’s research infrastructure, particularly in U.S. research universities. 

Many research universities struggle, however, when it comes to acquiring and operating research computing systems, creating and sustaining research data repositories, or designing and constructing facilities to house computing systems.

The recovery package can enable more effective use of the people’s money.  By rethinking public-private sector partnerships, and refining processes for acquiring and deploying information technology, we can increase research efficiency and catalyze new discoveries while reducing costs for both universities and the federal government.

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