Apr 30 2013

3 Questions About The Energy Department's Big Data Initiative

SDAV Institute is making waves in both public and private sectors.

When the White House announced its Big Data Research and Development Initiative in March 2012, it was able to point to some excellent examples of innovation. One of them came from the Energy Department, which had announced that it would provide $25 million to establish the Scalable Data Management, Analysis, and Visualization (SDAV) Institute in partnership with six national laboratories, seven universities and one small business. In an interview with FedTech, Lucy Nowell, program manager in the Advanced Scientific Computing Research office within DOE’s Office of Science, explained the institute’s biggest challenge, its goals and her advice for big data projects.

FEDTECH: What are SDAV’s key challenges?

NOWELL: Data sets are becoming so large and complex that science researchers lack tools they need to manage, analyze and assess the value of their data in a timely manner. Scientists spend far too much time trying to manage their data, with less time to devote to the science that motivated them to collect it. The result is that the pace of scientific progress is slower than it could and should be.

FEDTECH: What are the goals of the program?

NOWELL: The SDAV Institute is part of DOE’s Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing, which brings together mathematicians, scientists and technologists to use high-performance computing to make scientific breakthroughs. The SDAV team assists application scientists with their work, and in the process learns where the scientists’ tools fall short and finds solutions to those challenges. They then further develop those tools so they can transition from basic research to operational use across DOE projects.

FEDTECH: What advice would you offer to federal big-data initiatives?

NOWELL: Don’t stop moving, because the problems get worse with every day that we don’t make progress toward solving them.

Read more about Big Data initiatives within the government.