The United States is spending considerably less on networking and information technology research than is suggested by official tallies and would benefit from both a larger investment and improved long-term strategic planning in this crucial field of research, according to an independent recent report released by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a group of presidentially appointed experts from academia, non-governmental organizations, and industry.
The report, “Designing a Digital Future: Federally Funded Research and Development in Networking and Information Technology,” examines the Nation’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program. That 19-year-old program, which encompasses work in more than a dozen Federal agencies, is the primary mechanism by which the Federal government coordinates its investments in unclassified networking and information technology research and development. PCAST examined both the coordinating program and the NITRD research portfolio itself.
The PCAST report found that EHR adoption is nowhere near its potential and will actually require more investment of time and resources, even more than the $27 billion already allocated. The report also found that up to 80 percent of physicians lack even some of the simplest electronic records and those that have been created, are limited in functionality.
The report finds that advances in networking and information technology (NIT) have been key drivers of economic competitiveness and have accelerated the pace of discovery in virtually every area of science and technology. It calls for robust funding of NIT research and development to continue that trend. But it finds that a substantial fraction of the NITRD spending reported by participating agencies is apparently being allocated to activities other than NIT research and development, such as the creation of information technology products and infrastructure expansion in support of research in other fields. Although these activities are valuable, the report concludes, the result is that far less than the $4 billion-plus indicated in the Federal budget is actually being invested in NIT research and development—the important, early-stage innovative work that will be crucial to addressing critical priorities and challenges in the years ahead.