The Army Research Laboratory will be investing up to $166 million over the next five years to bring government, industry and academic institutions together to advance the Army's network capabilities.

Focusing on the new and growing area of network science, ARL officials announced late September that they are awarding the money to a consortium of institutions to create four centers to execute research in the information, social-cognitive and communications network areas.

"This is the first project looking at the social interaction, information distribution and mobile ad-hoc network as a whole," said Dr. Jay Gowens, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate director.

Bringing these three areas together will allow researchers a much more comprehensive understanding of network science, said Gowens.

The ultimate goal is to develop a scientific foundation for modeling, designing, analyzing and predicting the behavior of very large networks of humans interacting with each other, said Gowens.

BBN Technologies will focus on network integration; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will research information; Pennsylvania State University will explore communications; and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will delve into social-cognitive network research.

Each lead organization will work with additional partners, and the overall focus is expected to substantially enhance the future warfighter's network communication capabilities, according to Gowens.

"The Army is moving rapidly and ever-deeper into a network-centric world. So much now depends on how warfighters and sensors and weapons communicate information through mobile, self-forming, rapidly-changing networks," said Dr. Alexander Kott, ARL's Network Science Division chief, who manages the alliance. "Here, we see the same three intertwined types of networks: social-cognitive (warfighters), battlefield information, and communication nets."

Network science is a burgeoning field that is still very young and requires much more research to understand how to apply it most effectively, said Kott.

"It was only a few years ago that scientists realized that networks of all kinds--biological, social, computer--are in a unique class of creatures, which live their own mysterious lives," said Kott. "They evolve, change, behave in little-known ways and all this is very important to understand and to study."

ARL received eighteen proposals and selected four of them for the award because they provided the best value to the government, said Army Research Office's Patricia Fox, chief contracting officer on the project.

The NS CTA is just a part of ARL's comprehensive network science research that incorporates both new and existing ARL research activities, blending them into a coherent program, said Gowens.

ARL's existing programs include the Mobile Network Modeling Institute and the Network and Information Science International Technology Alliance. Other programs being developed include the Network Science and Technology Research Center, the Cognitive and Neuroergonomics Collaborative Technology Alliance.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16