Friday, May 06, 2005

An Endless Frontier Postponed

An excellent editorial by Ed Lazowska and Dave Patterson in Science magazine.

"Next month, U.S. scientists Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn will receive computing’s highest prize, the A. M. Turing Award, from the Association for Computing Machinery. Their Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), created in 1973, became the language of the Internet. Twenty years later, the Mosaic Web browser gave the Internet its public face. TCP and Mosaic illustrate the nature of computer science research, combining a quest for fundamental understanding with considerations of use. They also illustrate the essential role of government-sponsored university-based research in producing the ideas and people that drive innovation in information technology (IT).
Recent changes in the U.S. funding landscape have put this innovation pipeline at risk. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded TCP. The shock of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 led to the creation of the agency, which was charged with preventing future technological surprises. From its inception, DARPA funded long-term nonclassified IT research in academia, even during several wars, to leverage all the best minds. Much of this research was dual-use, with the results ultimately advancing military systems and spurring the IT industry. U.S. IT research grew largely under DARPA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF relied on peer review, whereas DARPA bet on vision and reputation, complementary approaches that served the nation well."

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