Obama Pushes Science Agenda

By Michael Feldman

April 30, 2009

In his whirlwind first 100 days in office, President Obama has managed to push some pretty controversial policies. One of his less provocative moves is his commitment to science and technology funding. After eight years in the wilderness, the R&D community finally has an advocate in the White House.

On Monday, speaking at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, the President made the case for why government R&D funding is so important, especially for basic research. “The fact is an investigation into a particular physical, chemical, or biological process might not pay off for a year, or a decade, or at all,” said Obama. “And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not. And that’s why the private sector generally under-invests in basic science, and why the public sector must invest in this kind of research — because while the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society.” Well, that’s socialism for you.

Overall, Obama pledged to raise US R&D funding to 3 percent of GDP, which represents an additional $70 billion. Of course, that’s just pocket change compared to the financial bailout, which could run into the trillions before its all over. But for American researchers, that extra $70 billion is real money.

Looking at the numbers a little closer, the extra funding isn’t going to come entirely out of the fed’s pocket, since generally about two thirds of R&D spending comes from industry, local governments, and higher education. So that 3 percent Obama is talking about is more like 1 percent from where he’s sitting, and really just a few tenths of a percent increase from what the federal government is spending now. Presumably part of the increase in spending on the non-federal side would come about by making the R&D tax credit permanent, which the administration has asked for in the federal budget for next year.

The 3 percent figure wouldn’t even put the US at the top of the heap. As a percentage of GDP, Israel, Sweden, Finland, Japan, South Korea all out-research the Yanks, but in absolute R&D expenditures we’re still number one. The US accounts for about a third of global R&D ($962 billion in 2007), and that ratio isn’t going to change substantially in the next few years. The importance of the 3 percent commitment is that it puts the US on a better trajectory, and one more befitting a nation that is so dependent on science and technology for its economic well-being.

As part of Obama’s focus on renewable and alternative energy sources, government has also begun funding the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E is a new organization within the DOE that is devoted to carrying out high-risk/high-reward energy research with an eye toward moving new technologies quickly into the commercial sector. In the funding announcement (PDF), the agency’s mission was summarized thusly: “ARPA-E will fund scientists and technologists to take an immature technology that promises to make a large impact on the ARPA-E Mission Areas … and develop it beyond the ‘valley of death’ that prevents many transformational new technologies from becoming a market reality.” The agency will initially receive $400 million in economic stimulus funding.

Along the same lines, the White House also announced that the DOE Office of Science will invest $777 million in Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) over the next five years. Unlike the ARPA-E work, the EFRCs will be doing more basic research, and will center on biofuels, advanced nuclear energy systems, and carbon capture and sequestration. The researchers will have access to DOE supercomputers and other agency resources. Of the initial 46 awards for 2009, 31 are led by universities, 12 by DOE labs, two by non-profits, and one by a corporate research lab. The Recovery Act is providing $277 million in funding, with 100 million coming from the FY09 Federal Budget, and the remaining $400 million from out-year funding subject to future appropriations.

The broader agenda of the administration is to double funding for the three big R&D federal agencies — the National Science Foundation, the DOE’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology — over the next 10 years. The implementation, of course, will depend upon future budgets and appropriations. But it’s hard to remember a time where the stars were better aligned for a sustained R&D push. With a popular president that believes deeply in the value of science, the absence of an effective opposition party in Congress, and a public that is increasingly infatuated with all things geeky, this may be a rare opportunity indeed.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

UCSD, AIST Forge Tighter Alliance with AI-Focused MOU

January 18, 2018

The rich history of collaboration between UC San Diego and AIST in Japan is getting richer. The organizations entered into a five-year memorandum of understanding on January 10. The MOU represents the continuation of a 1 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Tennessee), Satoshi Matsuoka (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown and Spectre security updates on the performance of popular H Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

Fostering Lustre Advancement Through Development and Contributions

January 17, 2018

Six months after organizational changes at Intel's High Performance Data (HPDD) division, most in the Lustre community have shed any initial apprehension around the potential changes that could affect or disrupt Lustre Read more…

By Carlos Aoki Thomaz

UCSD, AIST Forge Tighter Alliance with AI-Focused MOU

January 18, 2018

The rich history of collaboration between UC San Diego and AIST in Japan is getting richer. The organizations entered into a five-year memorandum of understandi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fostering Lustre Advancement Through Development and Contributions

January 17, 2018

Six months after organizational changes at Intel's High Performance Data (HPDD) division, most in the Lustre community have shed any initial apprehension aroun Read more…

By Carlos Aoki Thomaz

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This