In an election year, the arguments both for and against government welfare programs like Social Security always pop up. One such program, the Social Security Disability Insurance program, is undergoing much scrutiny for hemorrhaging taxpayer money, and this infographic does a decent job collecting some of the most devastating statistics.
US Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the creation of a new “Scalable Data Management, Analysis, and Visualization (SDAV)” Institute to tackle the problems of big data on a national level.
Led by the Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the SDAV Institute will bring together the expertise of six national laboratories and seven universities to develop new tools to help scientists manage and visualize data on the Department’s supercomputers, which will further streamline the processes that lead to discoveries made by scientists using the Department’s research facilities.
In addition to the big labs, that need solutions in order to maintain basic functionality, there’s a slew of corporate companies involved as well hoping to get a slice of the pie on building these solutions. One of these is Kitware:
Kitware’s role is to support the DOE’s scientific teams with large-scale data analysis and visualization. This will involve making enhancements and extensions to current tools, such as ParaView and VisIt; introducing and supporting new technologies leveraging many-core and multi-core architectures; and coupling data analysis capability with simulation codes for in-situ analysis and co-processing.
Currently funded at only $5 Million, they hope to bring in over $20 Million over the next 4 years.
The Kitware Blog just pointed me to a pair of important RFI’s posted on the Science & Technology Policy Office’s website, both focused on Open and Public Access to data.
The first is focused on long-term broad public access to digital data resulting from federally funded work, with a deadline of January 12th. The second is similar, but focuses on access to scholarly publications based on such federally funded research. The first is important, but I think the second is even more so. Far too often scientific publications get locked up inside organizations like ACM and IEEE, requiring the public to then go back and buy them. Effectively, interested citizens wind up paying twice (once via Taxes, and again via the Organization).
So go hit the links and submit your input on how this should be handled!
One of US President Obama’s platforms during the election battle was to add several degrees of transparency to government, embracing open standards and visualization. Last week at the Tech@State event there was lots of discussion on the topic, and an article on NextGov recaps their progress and some of the attempts underway.
Several projects have recently been launched, including a map of sexual orientation and gender identity issues in South and Central Asia and another map charting specific incidents of anti-Semitism in Europe by country. Since the site is part of the Open Government Initiative, all data is in the public domain and made embeddable for easier sharing.
It’s been 2 years since we first showed you guys this, but with the recent discussions at the US Capital, it seems now is a great time to pick it up again. Check out the “US Debt Clock” For a real-time animated view of the US Deficit and Revenue, and all the other numbers associated with it.
M.A. Thomas of John Hopkins University has published a little piece of code that analyzes the government database of contracts to see just how the contracts land amongst the many players in the industry. No surprise, the bulk of the contracts land in the hands of just a few big companies.
Scholars and practitioners are expressing concerns about the impact of unprecedented levels of government contracting on economic and political concentrations of power and on government accountability and transparency. Understanding the total organizational structure of government contractors is key to many of their concerns, such as identifying and resolving organizational conflicts of interest. Until recently, there was little publicly available information on the ownership of government contractors. However, a government database includes partial information, allowing the first visualizations of these ownership structures by means of a STATA program that exports to Netdraw or Pajek.
Obviously this is only as accurate as the database, which is a bit suspect since some big players are missing from that visualization above (Lockheed, Raytheon, CSC, and many others). But his concept and data would make for some great interactive viz, I imagine.
If you’re in the VFX industry, you may want to consider a stint over in Australia thanks to a new government offset of 30% for post, digital, and VFX companies. Australia already plays host to Animal Logic, Rising Sun Pictures, and Fuel VFX, and it looks like they may start attracting many more.
‘We [in Australia] are well respected for our skills and craft but you have to compete financially as well,” said the policy and communications manager at Fuel VFX, Trish Graham, who cited the high Australian dollar and generous movie production incentives in Canada as the main constraints on the Australian industry.
The Air Force has long been looking at Second Life for training and education, and a new article over on the Defense.Gov website chronicles some of the more successful efforts and what they hope to gain.
“What really drew us out to [the virtual world] was this wonderful opportunity to interact and connect with people on a global scale and with high levels of creativity,” Andrew Stricker of the Air Force’s Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter Annex in Montgomery, Ala., told American Forces Press Service.
“We thought Second Life was perfect for doing innovation work in the Department of Defense,” said Stricker, whose team is part of Air University’s innovations and integration division
I’m sad to see Data.gov go, but it seems dozens of small startups are rising up to take its place as sources of freely availably public data. This week is the Data2.0 conference, and it seems that without really meaning to, the Focus of the event will be the collapse of Data.gov.
Yet, not all is lost: there are over 50 startups at the Data 2.0 Conference which specifically aim to make data accessible and useful with or without Data.gov.
As Nick Ducoff, CEO of InfoChimps, wrote:
“It would be very helpful if the government would devote its limited resources on simply pointing us to public data sets wherever they live in the wild. Socrata, Infochimps and others can do the rest of the heavy lifting (appending metadata, making the data findable, etc.). [U.S. CIO] Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park and others have been great cheerleaders for open data and I hope this doesn’t take the wind out of their sails.”
Several of the early-stage data startups pitching at the Data 2.0 Pitch Day (including DataMarket.com, Envirogent.org, opencorporates.com, opensignalmaps.com, and micello.com) are themselves new data sources giving businesses and consumers better access to data.
Hopefully the many startups using Data.gov as their primary source of data can switch to these other companies, and hopefully they will all embrace the same goals of open and transparent access to the data.