Sunday, April 03, 2005

DARPA cutting funding for basic computer science research

There was an article in the New York Times on Saturday entitled "Pentagon Redirects Its Research Dollars" which describes how the Department of Defense has shifted its priorities somewhat away from the funding of academic research in favor of "narrowly defined projects that promise a more immediate payoff." I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, I'd like to see more support for basic research (including work that I do on software agent technology). On the other hand, the research programs at a lot of universities have drifted over the years and gotten rather out of control, or even too focused on strictly commercial interests such as e-commerce and the whole "dot-com thing". And finally, I was never vey happy with so much research "beholdin'" to the Department of Defense.

The good news is that the overall DARPA computer science research budget has risen, even as the share targeted to academic research has fallen.

If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, it's that academic researchers should be getting a message loud and clear: shift back to hard-core research that has some hard-core fundamental value, rather than continuing to chase after the lingering vestiges of "the dot-com thing". And finally, it's about time that we start ramping up research that isn't so dependent on defense spending. Who knows how many research projects were not even considered because of the implicit defense bias of DARPA.

-- Jack Krupansky

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