novative firms; and create an environment that ensures deployment of the
most advanced technology infrastructures, applications, and services in the
U.S. itself for the benefit of the nation’s
people, institutions, and firms.
findings and Recommendations
Here, we describe the report’s findings
and recommendations in the context
of the four objectives for government
action described earlier:
Objective 1. Strengthen the effectiveness of federally funded IT research.
University research is focused largely
on basic research, while industrial research concentrates on applied R&D,
meaning that much of the feedstock
for long-term innovation is to be found
in the nation’s universities. As a result,
support for university education and
research is essential to generating the
stream of innovations that nourish the
rest of the ecosystem. Measures to enhance the productivity of university research funding, as well as that of other
R&D funding, would increase the payoff from these investments.
Although the advances in IT over the
past 50 years have been breathtaking,
the field remains in its relative infancy,
and continuing advances over the coming decades can be expected but only as
long as the IT R&D ecosystem’s capacity to sustain innovation is preserved
Current decisions about how the
U.S. should make investments—both
civilian and military—in basic IT research do not seem to reflect the full effect of IT on society and the economy.
The government’s own data indicates
the U.S. lags behind Europe and Japan
in civilian funding for IT R&D. Meanwhile, the European Union and China
have aggressive plans for strengthening their global positions in IT through
substantial and increasing IT R&D investment.
Regaining a leading position requires
aggressive action, including ambitious
targets for increased R&D investment.
It is appropriate and necessary for the
U.S. to correspondingly adjust its own
IT R&D spending level, just as individual businesses, following best practices,
track their global competitors’ business models to avoid falling behind
in global market share. Increased federal investment in IT research would
a day in the
reflect the importance of IT to the nation’s society and economy as a whole
and would allow the U.S. to build and
sustain the already large positive effect
of IT on its economy. The desirability
of increased federal investment in IT
R&D was also recognized in a 2007 report by the National Academies, Rising
Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing
and Employing America for a Brighter
Economic Future ( http://www.nap.edu/
catalog.php?record_id=11463), and, to
some extent, by provisions in the subsequently passed the America Competes Act of 2007 (http://thomas.loc.
in its August 2007 report, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science
and Technology (PCAST, http://www.
an imbalance in the current federal
R&D portfolio in that more long-term,
large-scale, multidisciplinary R&D is
needed. PCAST concluded that current
interagency coordination processes for
networking and IT R&D are inadequate
for meeting anticipated national needs
and for maintaining U.S. leadership in
an era of global competitiveness.
A strategic reassessment of U.S. R&D
priorities is needed, an analysis meriting the attention of first-tier scientists
and engineers from academia, industry, and government. A strong focus on
IT is important due to the special role
of IT within science and engineering.
Toward this end, a means of delivering to the highest levels of the U.S. government the best possible advice on
the transformational power of IT would
help ensure that the nation invests at
appropriate levels in IT research and
this investment is made as efficiently
and as effectively as possible, in part
through improved coordination of
federal R&D investments. This advice
could be provided in a number of ways,
including augmentation of the current
advisory structure, establishment of a
high-level IT adviser to the President
of the U.S., or reestablishment of an IT-specific presidential advisory committee (such as the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee,
which operated 1997–2005).
Finding. A robust program of U.S.
government-sponsored R&D in IT is vital to the nation.