Research and Development

  • Defense R&DDARPA seeks to speed new materials development process

    Military platforms — such as ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles — rely on advanced materials to make them lighter, stronger, and more resistant to stress, heat, and other harsh environmental conditions. Currently, the process for developing new materials to field in platforms frequently takes more than a decade. DARPA seeks to address this problem by developing a methodology and toolset to compress the applied material development process by at least 75 percent: from an average of ten years or longer to just two and a half years.

  • Defense R&DAs budget shrinks, DOD needs to rethink strategy to preserve U.S. technological edge

    The United States currently accounts for less than one-third of global research and development spending, and this fraction is projected to decline to 18 percent by 2050. Those statistics, together with the recognition that the United States no longer maintains superiority across all research fields, mean that DOD’s technological leadership now depends upon its ability to identify and leverage relevant research advances as they emerge from the global science and technology enterprise, says a new report from the National Research Council.

  • Designer toxinsConvergence of chemistry and biology raises concerns about designer toxins

    The convergence of chemistry and biology is providing major benefits to humankind, particularly in health care, alternative energy sources, and in environmental control – and when combined with other advances, particularly in nanotechnology, it is also being exploited in developing improved defensive countermeasures against chemical and biological warfare agents. This convergence, however, has also raised concerns that biotechnology could be applied to the production of new toxic chemicals, bioregulators, and toxins. A new report from OPCW says that the potential for scaling up biological processes for large scale production of chemicals of concern is still limited, but biomediated processes might still be effective for producing weaponizable quantities of toxins which are lethal to humans in microgram or lower dosage.

  • In the trenchesMilitary implications of advances in brain research

    Researchers funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA) have developed a new way to visualize the complete brain in three-dimensional imaging. The breakthrough could advance the field of rapid brain imaging, allowing scientists to see in greater detail how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level and better understand those interactions throughout the brain. A former DARPA program manager recently told a policy group that “It turns out the expert marksman has a brain state, a state that they enter before they take the perfect shot. Can I teach a novice to create this brain state? The answer was yes.”

  • Science investmentResearch reconfirms that public investment in scientific research promotes growth

    New and independent research has reconfirmed and quantified some of the economic and societal benefits of public investment in scientific research. The report says that for every £1 spent by the U.K. government on R&D, private sector R&D output rises by 20p per year in perpetuity, by raising the level of the U.K. knowledge base.

  • R&DUniversity scientific research has enormous short-term value: study

    Using new data available to examine the short-term economic activity generated by science funding, researchers have for the first time been able to illuminate the breadth of the scientific workforce and the national impact of the research supply chain that is funded by federal grants. They found that university research is a key component of the U.S. economic ecosystem, returning the investment through enormous public value and impact on employment, business, and manufacturing nationwide.

  • CybersecurityNew state-of-the-art cybersecurity resource available to software developers

    Cybercrime is booming; it is an estimated $100 billion industry in the United States and shows no signs of slowing down. Attackers have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal, including social engineering — or phishing — penetrating weak security protocols and exploiting software vulnerabilities that can serve as an “open window” into an organization’s IT environment. Closing those windows requires effective and accessible tools to identify and root out software vulnerabilities. Supported by a $23.4 million grant from DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Software Assurance Marketplace, or SWAMP, provides a state-of-the-art facility that serves as an open resource for software developers, software assurance tool developers, and software researchers who wish to collaborate and improve software assurance activities in a safe, secure environment.

  • R&DDARPA makes agency-sponsored software, publications available to R&D community

    DARPA has invested in many programs that sponsor fundamental and applied research in areas of computer science, programs which have led to new advances in theory as well as practical software. The R&D community has asked about the availability of results, and now DARPA has responded by creating the DARPA Open Catalog, a place for organizing and sharing those results in the form of software, publications, data, and experimental details. The Web site aims to encourage communities interested in DARPA research to build off the agency’s work, starting with big data.

  • ResearchFunding gap makes the high costs of research at universities more onerous

    Although more opportunity exists for university-based researchers to be innovative, and there is more financial support for innovation than ever before, the cost of university research is rising to new levels and presents a serious funding problem. The “real costs” of research — costs that include indirect costs — often extend far beyond support from a university’s central research office and are almost never covered by funding. As a result, the aggressive research agendas set by universities have costs that often outweigh the ultimate revenue universities hope to gain from research.

  • R&DU.S. global share of biomedical research spending declines

    The U.S. global share of biomedical research spending fell from 51 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2012, while Japan and China saw dramatic increases in research spending. The research and development spending in the United States dropped from $131 billion to $119 billion, when adjusted for inflation, from 2007 to 2012, while Japan increased spending by $9 billion and China increased by $6.4 billion. Overall, Asia’s share of spending grew from 18 percent to 24 percent. Europe held steady at 29 percent.

  • DronesVirginia Tech to get $2.6 million to test unmanned aircraft systems

    The Commonwealth of Virginia announced it will award more than $2.6 million over three years in Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) funds to Virginia Tech to operate an unmanned aircraft systems test site in the state, officials from the governor’s office said. The test range is operated by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which is led by Virginia Tech and Rutgers University and represents an effort safely to develop unmanned aircraft systems. The University of Maryland has also agreed to partner with Virginia Tech and Rutgers on unmanned aircraft system integration.

  • Nuclear facilities securityY-12 security breach update: Old nun awaits sentencing while costs of new Y-12 facility not to be released until 2015

    By Robert Lee Maril

    On 28 July 2012, three senior citizens, led by an 83-year old nun, easily breached the supposedly impregnable security systems protecting the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The three peace activists wondered the grounds of the maximum security facility for a while before being noticed by security personnel. While the three aging protesters are awaiting sentencing, the two companies — Bechtel Corporation and Babcock and Wilcox – which were responsible for designing and implementing security at Y-12, have been named as the primary construction contractors for planning and design of the new uranium processing facility (UPF) to be built at Y-12.

  • R&DFY 2012 sees first constant-dollar decline in higher education R&D since FY 1974

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) says that university spending on R&D in all fields totaled $65.8 billion in FY 2012. After adjusting for inflation, higher education R&D declined by 1 percent in FY 2012. This represents the first constant-dollar decline since FY 1974 and ends a period of modest growth in higher education R&D during FYs 2009-11, when R&D expenditures increased an average of 5 percent each year.

  • R&DResearch funding and reward structure contributes to formation “science bubbles”

    Fashions in research funding, reward structures in universities, and streamlining of scientific agendas undermine traditional academic norms and may result in science bubbles. New research shows how the mechanisms that set off the financial crisis might be replicating in the field of science. The prevailing scientific reward structure thus amplifies social phenomena like “pluralistic ignorance” and “lemming effects,” which have been shown to have significant impact on information processing and assessment in populations of interacting persons — including in one of the most rational enterprises of modern social life.

  • Science R&DSequestration already eroding U.S. research capabilities

    As congressional budget leaders continue negotiations over Fiscal Year 2014 spending levels, three organizations representing the U.S. leading public and private research universities say that the results of a new survey reveal the pernicious impact of sequestration on scientific research across the country. Budget cuts have already led to fewer grants, cancelled projects, staff reductions, and reduced learning opportunities. “If Congress fails to reverse course and doesn’t begin to value investments in research and higher education, then the innovation deficit this country is facing will worsen as our foreign competitors continue to seize on this nation’s shortfall,” the leader of one of the organizations said.