Nov 19 2014

New Plan Will Guide Agencies’ Big Data R&D Investments

The strategic plan is a collaborative effort among government, industry and academia.

The federal government is devising a national strategy that will guide agencies’ Big Data research and development programs, policies and investments over the next five to 10 years.

A draft of the National Big Data R&D Strategic Plan was published last month, but more work is ahead. The government wants recommendations from public and private entities — including universities, government laboratories, companies and nonprofits — on the best approach for developing a comprehensive framework to support Big Data science and engineering research, education, discoveries and innovation nationwide, according to a request for information published in the Federal Register. Responses were due Nov. 14.

“The RFI is a critical step because it allows the public to comment on our work to date and, most importantly, to identify what information we might be overlooking,” says Wendy Wigen, a technical coordinator for the Big Data Senior Steering Group at the National Coordination Office for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD), which is spearheading the effort. “It is one way to gather information from the private and academic sectors to improve, and to build credibility in, the strategic plan.”

A workshop to further discuss the framework document with industry and academia is tentatively scheduled for January. It isn’t clear how soon the strategy will be finalized and adopted.

“Broadly, the Big Data R&D Strategic Plan will be used in similar fashion to other NITRD interagency strategic plans,” says Fen Zhao, a staff associate at the National Science Foundation, who works on the agency’s Big Data portfolio and supports some interagency activities with NITRD. “Recent previously implemented examples include the 2011 NITRD Cybersecurity Strategic Plan.”

The plan guided a coordinated cybersecurity effort among NITRD agencies and led to a $62 million increase in cybersecurity R&D for those agencies in the administration’s fiscal 2015 budget.

Although additional funding is not guaranteed as a result of the Big Data plan, Zhao says, “one would expect similar things to happen.”

More on the Big Data Senior Steering Group

The steering group falls under the NITRD program, which serves as the primary means by which the government coordinates R&D investments for unclassified networking and information technology.

The Big Data Senior Steering Group officially launched in April 2011, following a request from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for greater government coordination on Big Data.

The steering group and its member agencies envision an ecosystem where agencies are empowered to make decisions and discoveries based on data sets that are large and diverse and can be accessed in real time, according to the draft plan. Another priority is educating the next generation of scientists and engineers.