NSF pumps millions into info tech

The National Science Foundation awarded the first grants last week to promote

advancements in computer science, and its information technology program

cleared a hurdle toward a $215 million budget for fiscal 2001.

This year's grants, awarded under NSF's Information Technology Research

(ITR) program, will go to 62 large projects funded at about $1 million per

year for three to five years and 148 smaller projects funded at $500,000

or less for up to three years.

The ITR awards stress computer science enhancement, such as how to produce

reliable software, how to build interfaces to help disabled or elderly people

access computers and how to advance quantum and DNA computing, said Michael

Lesk, division director for Information and Intelligent Systems at NSF.

NSF is soliciting proposals for the second round of ITR awards, which

will focus more on applications of IT, Lesk said. And on Sept. 13, the Senate

Appropriations Committee approved a $215 million budget for ITR in 2001.

The grants fund research at national universities that is somewhat risky

and typically not funded by industry, Lesk said. NSF's strategy to support

long-term, high-risk research responds to direction from the president's

Information Technology Advisory Committee, according to an NSF statement.

Projects include:

n Improving data resource sharing to benefit digital government efforts.

n Studying the human/computer interface using advanced vision technology

to develop robotic assistants that could help elderly people live more independently.

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