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!

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays 2017 Wraps Up in Barcelona

May 18, 2017

Barcelona has been absolutely lovely; the weather, the food, the people. I am, sadly, finishing my last day at PRACEdays 2017 with two sessions: an in-depth loo Read more…

By Kim McMahon

US, Europe, Japan Deepen Research Computing Partnership

May 18, 2017

On May 17, 2017, a ceremony was held during the PRACEdays 2017 conference in Barcelona to announce the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PRACE in Europe Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

NSF, IARPA, and SRC Push into “Semiconductor Synthetic Biology” Computing

May 18, 2017

Research into how biological systems might be fashioned into computational technology has a long history with various DNA-based computing approaches explored. N Read more…

By John Russell

DOE’s HPC4Mfg Leads to Paper Manufacturing Improvement

May 17, 2017

Papermaking ranks third behind only petroleum refining and chemical production in terms of energy consumption. Recently, simulations made possible by the U.S. D Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays 2017: The start of a beautiful week in Barcelona

May 17, 2017

Touching down in Barcelona on Saturday afternoon, it was warm, sunny, and oh so Spanish. I was greeted at my hotel with a glass of Cava to sip and treated to a Read more…

By Kim McMahon

NSF Issues $60M RFP for “Towards a Leadership-Class” System

May 16, 2017

In case you missed it, the National Science Foundation issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the next ‘Towards a Leadership-Class Computing Facility – Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

IBM PowerAI Tools Aim to Ease Deep Learning Data Prep, Shorten Training 

May 10, 2017

A new set of GPU-powered AI software announced by IBM today brings automation to many of the tedious, time consuming and complex aspects of AI project on-rampin Read more…

By Doug Black

Bright Computing 8.0 Adds Azure, Expands Machine Learning Support

May 9, 2017

Bright Computing, long a prominent provider of cluster management tools for HPC, today released version 8.0 of Bright Cluster Manager and Bright OpenStack. The Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Azure Will Debut Pascal GPU Instances This Year

May 8, 2017

As Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference gets underway in San Jose, Calif., Microsoft today revealed plans to add Pascal-generation GPU horsepower to its Azure clo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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