Editorial: Search as a model

Investments in research and development (R&D) get budget allocations, but they are often the first to be cut in favor of more pressing needs. But two positive recent developments could poise information technology R&D for a breakthrough.

IT R&D is a critical issue if the United States is to remain globally competitive, and the federal government has an important role to play. Of course, the Internet, begotten by federal funding, serves as the R&D poster child.

Earlier this year, we criticized the Bush administration for allowing the President's IT Advisory Committee (PITAC) to expire. So we want to give the administration credit for bringing the organization back, folding it into the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Some people hope the combination will raise the visibility of PITAC's work, and we share their hopes. But much like when the administration decided to let PITAC expire, it made this decision without seeking much public comment or consultation. Although we hope for the best, we would have preferred for administration officials to make a statement about the importance of the change. Such comments would help ensure that the issue will not be relegated to the back burner.

The other important development is the unique yet unspecified agreement between NASA's Ames Research Center and search giant Google. This agreement has also spurred hope even though many details are unknown. The partnership's development will be interesting to watch. On its face, it seems like a good arrangement for both parties.

The NASA/Google arrangement could stand as a true example of a public/private partnership -- a term people often bandy about, but most often, they simply mean a contract agreement.

The NASA/Google partnership is particularly interesting because search technology has altered the IT landscape. Perhaps it will be a solution to the long-standing information-sharing problem.

Search engine technology in general and Google specifically stand as powerful examples of the importance of investing in IT R&D. Search engines have proven that technologies can evolve. A simple search today involves much more than it did five years ago. Unfortunately, predicting which engines will evolve and how they will evolve is difficult. But everyday search engines illustrate why R&D is an important way to spend our money.

-- Christopher J. Dorobek

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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