NSF Announces Intent to Establish Two New Science and Technology Centers


From National Science Foundation Press Release
By William C. Noxon

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced it intends to establish two new Science and Technology Centers (STCs) in fiscal 2005. One is a major collaborative cybersecurity project led by the University of California, Berkeley, and a second, centered at the University of Kansas, will study how the balance of mass in the polar ice sheets may affect sea level.

The centers serve as critical national resources that partner teams of researchers who take on innovative scientific projects that are interdisciplinary in nature and involve pools of expertise at multiple institutions. The centers consist of a lead institution and multiple partners that may include other academic institutions, industry or national laboratories. The projects not only involve groundbreaking research, they also build into their work broad educational activities for students at various levels.

NSF authorized funds for the new centers after completing the normal external merit review process. Formal approval of the new centers, with funding estimated at nearly $19 million over 5 years for each center, is still subject to final negotiations between NSF and the lead institutions.

At the University of Kansas, researchers at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) will develop models and technology to achieve a better understanding of the mass balance of polar ice sheets and its impact on the rising sea level glaciologists have observed in recent years. According to the proposal, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the mass balance of ice sheets is one of the largest unknown factors in the rapid change in sea level. The center, therefore, will bring in scientists and engineers from several institutions to design and create new ways to measure ice sheets as well as models to predict ice-sheet dynamics. CReSIS researchers will seek new innovations in sensors, platforms and cyberinfrastructure. Scientists and engineers will work together on new analytical models and algorithms to interpret data gathered from satellite, airborne and ground-based sources to improve the understanding of glacial dynamics.

The center is a partnership with several institutions including Ohio State and Penn State universities, the University of Maine, and several minority serving institutions including Haskell Indian Nations in Kan. and Elizabeth City State University in N.C. The center will also provide a forum for policymakers to learn about the impacts of ice sheets on climate change.

The cybersecurity center led by the University of California, Berkeley, will investigate key issues of computer trustworthiness in an era of increasing attacks at all levels on computer systems and information-based technologies. The Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST) will address a parallel and accelerating trend of the past decade--the integration of computing and communication across critical infrastructures in areas such as finance, energy distribution, telecommunications and transportation.

"The overlapping and interacting trends force us to recognize that trustworthiness of computer systems is not an IT (information technology) issue alone," say center leaders. They explain that the center will lead development of new technologies based on findings from studies of software and network security, trusted platforms and applied cryptographic protocols. The center will also look at systems problems through modeling and analysis, development of secure, embedded systems, and integration of trusted components and secure information management software. The center will merge these efforts with investigations of social science questions involving economics, public policy and societal challenges, human-computer interfaces and privacy, among other issues.

The TRUST center will also have an education and outreach component to K-12 schools, undergraduate students and institutions serving underrepresented populations. These education programs will lay the groundwork for training new scientists and engineers, who, center leaders say, will develop the next generation of trustworthy systems. Students will also benefit in their future roles as users, consumers and beneficiaries of these systems. The the overall project involves several major partners.

NSF established the Science and Technology Center program in 1987, responding to a presidential commitment to fund important fundamental research activities that also create educational opportunities. The program was designed to encourage technology transfer and provide innovative approaches to interdisciplinary research challenges. In 1997, the STC program was modified to emphasize the contributions of partnerships.

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