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Keywords:

  • data volume;
  • big data;
  • NSF;
  • PCAST

The world is now generating zetabytes—which is 10 to the 21st power, or a billion trillion bytess—of information every year, according to John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. With data volumes growing exponentially from a variety of sources such as computers running large-scale models, scientific instruments including telescopes and particle accelerators, and even online retail transactions, a key challenge is to better manage and utilize the data. The Big Data Research and Development Initiative, launched by the White House at a 29 March briefing, initially includes six federal departments and agencies providing more than $200 million in new commitments to improve tools and techniques for better accessing, organizing, and using data for scientific advances. The agencies and departments include the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.