• NSF awards $74.5 million to 257 interdisciplinary cybersecurity research projects

    The NSF the other day announced the awarding $74.5 million in research grants through the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program. In total, the SaTC investments include a portfolio of 257 new projects to researchers in thirty-seven states. The largest, multi-institutional awards include research better to understand and offer reliability to new forms of digital currency known as cryptocurrencies, which use encryption for security; invent new technology to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the “science of censorship resistance” by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors.

  • U.S. R&D increased in 2013, outpacing GDP

    U.S. expenditures in research and development rose to $456.1 billion in 2013 — a $20.7 billion increase over the previous year, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. The business sector continues to be the largest performer of R&D in the United States, accounting for $322.5 billion, or 71 percent, of total national expenditures.

  • DHS S&T licenses third cybersecurity innovation for commercialization

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced that another cybersecurity technology has been licensed for commercialization. This is S&T’s third technology that has successfully gone through the Transition to Practice (TTP) program and into the commercial market. The Network Mapping System (NeMS), developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is a software-based tool that tells users what is connected to their network so that they know what needs to be protected.

  • Lawmakers reintroduce “Aaron’s Law” to curb CFAA abuses

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers have reintroduced a bill known as “Aaron’s Law,” which aims to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). CFAA has been cited by civil libertarians (EFF) as having been abused to the point where it now stifles research and innovation, as well as civil liberties. the measure is intended to honor Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder who was apprehended after downloading millions of scholarly articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology database in 2011. Following his arrest, with charges under the CFAA which might lead to a maximum sentence of thirty-five years in prison, Swartz committed suicide at age 26, leading some to charge that the aggression of prosecutors led to the his decision.

  • New MIT report details benefits of investment in basic research

    In 2014, European researchers discovered a fundamental new particle which sheds light on the origins of the universe; the European Space Agency successfully landed the first spacecraft on a comet; and Chinese researchers developed the world’s fastest supercomputer. As these competitors increase their investment in basic research, the percentage of the U.S. federal budget devoted to research and development has fallen from around 10 percent in 1968 to less than 4 percent in 2015. A new report by MIT researchers examines how funding cutbacks will affect the future of scientific studies in the United States. The report also highlights opportunities in basic research which could help shape and maintain U.S. economic power, and benefit society.

  • The Brandeis program: Harnessing technology to ensure online privacy

    In a seminal 1890 article in the Harvard Law Review, Louis Brandeis developed the concept of the “right to privacy.” DARPA the other day announced the Brandeis program – a project aiming to research and develop tools for online privacy, one of the most vexing problems facing the connected world as devices and data proliferate beyond a capacity to be managed responsibly.

  • Funding extended for simulated nuclear reactor project

    Hard on the heels of a five-year funding renewal, modeling, and simulation (M&S) technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new inter-institutional agreement for intellectual property. CASL is a U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Innovation Hub established in 2010 to develop advanced M&S capabilities that serve as a virtual version of existing, operating nuclear reactors. As announced by DOE in January, the hub would receive up to $121.5 million over five years, subject to congressional appropriations.

  • DNA synthesis creates risk of resurrecting deadly viruses

    Scientists are warning that decades of public research on the sequencing of virus DNA are now posing unforeseen threats, as synthesis technologies advance to the point where individuals without expert knowledge may be able to reconstruct long dormant viruses using readily available maps. Diseases which have been extinct for many years may be resurrected by bioterrorists using mail-order DNA kits, with openly published sequence data as their guide. Among these, smallpox eradicated since 1980, could be reintroduced by using the 1994 gene mapping which was prepared in order better to understand why the disease was so deadly.

  • Throwing science at anti-vaxxers just makes them more hardline

    Since the uptick in outbreaks of measles in the United States, those arguing for the right not to vaccinate their children have come under increasing scrutiny. What drives anti-vaxxers is similar to what drives other groups – climate skeptics, for example – which also hold beliefs at odds with conventional scientific thought: It is a process psychologists have called “biased assimilation” — we all regard new information in the light of what we already believe. Research shows that throwing scientific facts at anti-vaxxers is not likely to change minds because the level of knowledge and expertise of the people providing the facts — government, scientists, or journalists, say — was a poor predictor of how much they were trusted on the issue. Instead, what was critical was how much these experts were perceived to have the public’s interests at heart. Researchers who conducted surveys on the issue of pollution, for example, found that groups of people — such as friends and family — who were perceived to want to act in line with the survey respondents’ best interests were highly trusted, even if their expertise on the issue was judged as poor. Rather than lacking scientific facts, anti-vaxxers lack a trust in the establishments which produce and disseminate science.

  • Invisibility cloak closer to reality: Concealing military airplanes, and even people

    Since the beginning of recorded time, humans have used materials found in nature to improve their lot. Since the turn of this century, scientists have studied metamaterials, artificial materials engineered to bend electromagnetic, acoustic, and other types of waves in ways not possible in nature. Now, Hao Xin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona, has made a discovery with these synthetic materials that may take engineers one step closer to building microscopes with superlenses that see molecular-level details, or shields that conceal military airplanes and even people.

  • U Wisconsin, shedding 1960s anti-classified research image, launches cybersecurity center

    A new cybersecurity research center being built in partnership with private firms and the University of Wisconsin(UW) system aims to attract high-tech research dollars to the state, but administrators must balance the secrecy required for classified research with the openness which is the foundation of academic science. The state legislature passed a 2014 law allowing UW to accept contract for classified work partly in hopes that the school system will lose the perception of being an anti-classified-research environment, a perception dating back to campus protests against military research in the 1960s.

  • Research advocates urge 114th Congress to act on Top 5 science priorities in first 100 days

    Research!America urged the 114th Congress to take action on five science priorities in the first 100 days of the legislative session in order to elevate research and innovation on the U.S. agenda. The organizations says that the five priorities: end sequestration, increase funding for U.S. research agencies, advance the 21st Century Cures initiative, repeal the medical device tax, and enact a permanent and enhanced R&D tax credit.

  • Young researchers increasingly denied research grants, putting the future of U.S. science at risk

    America’s youngest scientists, increasingly losing research dollars, are leaving the academic biomedical workforce, a brain drain that poses grave risks for the future of science, according to an article published this week by Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels. For example, the number of principal investigators with a leading National Institutes of Health grant who are 36 years old or younger dropped from 18 percent in 1983 to 3 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, the average age when a scientist with a medical degree gets her first of these grants has risen from just under 38 years old in 1980 to more than 45 in 2013.

  • U.S. nuclear arsenal must be upgraded to maintain effective deterrence: Experts

    Former military officers, academic strategists, scientists, and congressional leaders have recently been calling for the development of new nuclear weapons to replace the nation’s older, outdated stockpiles. Twenty-five years since the cold war ended, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been significantly reduced to its current level of 4,804 nuclear weapons — from a peak of 31,000 weapons in 1967.As cooperation with Russia deepened in the 1990s, U.S. weapons complexes deteriorated. A recent “60 Minutes” story on the U.S. nuclear forces found that missileers charged with watching over and controlling Minuteman III ICBMs in Wyoming were still using floppy disks to store critical information. One expert arguing for shoring up and upgrading the U.S. nuclear deterrence says that “one of the reasons deterrence is so valuable is that it provides incentives for self-discipline in the behavior of states that otherwise cannot be trusted to behave peaceably.”

  • Transforming planes into flying aircraft carriers

    Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets — and their pilots — at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range, and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach — one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch, and recover multiple small UAS. A flying carrier would allow the United States to use of drones in areas where the United States has no access to nearby airfields, but recovering a drone in mid-air remains a daunting technical challenge.