ARLINGTON, Va. -- Protecting individual privacy in a networked world, getting the right information at the right time for emergency response, predicting high-impact local weather such as thunderstorms, and monitoring wetlands with networks of mobile robotic sensors are the challenges being addressed by four of the eight large projects funded this year by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Information Technology Research (ITR) program.
The other four large ITR awards will design secure and reliable network architectures for bringing high-speed networking to millions of homes; create tools for comparing collections of DNA sequences and construct a "family tree" for life on Earth; harness automated microscopy and data mining of biological image databases to observe and understand cellular and molecular processes; and simplify the way scientists develop applications for grid computing.
"This year's ITR awards demonstrate how fundamental computer science research, combined with other research disciplines and practical activities, makes it possible to address new scientific questions and urgent national priorities," said Peter Freeman, head of NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate.
Large ITR projects focus on long-term innovations through coordinated research and education efforts at the intersection of computer science and other science and engineering fields. This year's eight large ITR awards involve researchers from nearly 50 universities, companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The eight projects were each awarded between $7.5 million and $12.5 million over five years.
This year, NSF awarded more than $169 million in new awards through the ITR program. In addition to the eight large projects, more than 175 mid-sized projects have been awarded up to $4 million for three to five years, and 180 smaller projects will each receive up to $500,000 for up to three years. The projects were selected by merit review from a landslide of more than 2,500 proposed projects from the academic community.
Notably, more than 800 proposals were related to homeland security, including proposals on analyst support, language processing, knowledge discovery and dissemination, biometrics, bioterrorism countermeasures, critical infrastructure protection, cybersecurity and other areas. As a result, NSF collaborated with other agencies, which are providing an additional $4.6 million to co-fund projects relevant to those agencies' missions.
"The academic community clearly has a wealth of innovative ideas for applying information technology to homeland security challenges," Freeman said. "We're pleased that the cutting-edge research supported by the ITR program will also enhance the country's capabilities in this critical area."
The ITR program encourages and stimulates innovative, high-risk and high-return multidisciplinary research that extends the frontiers of information technology, improves our understanding of its impacts on society, helps prepare Americans for the Information Age, and reduces the vulnerabilities of society to catastrophic events, natural and man-made. In addition to augmenting the nation's information technology knowledge base and strengthening the information technology workforce, the ITR program fosters visionary work that could lead to major advances, new and unanticipated technologies, revolutionary applications or new ways to perform important activities.
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