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Purdue University - Discovery Park
Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security

Panel #3: The Evolution of Research Funding and Projects (Symposium Summary)

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Panel Members:

  • David Bell, Retired, Co-author Bell-La Padula Security Model
  • Joe Pekny, Purdue University
  • Kenneth Brancik, Northrop Grumman
  • Petros Mouchtaris, Telcordia

Summary by Utsav Mittal

The panel was started by Petros Mouchtaris. He said that applying for funding is not that bad although the researcher gets a lot of rejections, but then also once the funding comes through it gives the researcher a lot of control about the areas he wants to work in. He said in the last 10 years most of their funding came from DARPA, initially the funding was for long-term small projects. He said that a smaller, long-term project gives more time to foster basic research about abstract ideas.

Joe Pekny, who has worked in Discovery park for about 10 years, said that the fundamental principle about generating funding is about that “Research follows impact.” He said that difference between getting and not getting funding is between the ability of the researcher to relate his potential and ability to provide impact. He also talked about the research opportunities in electronic medical records and about privacy issues in videos surveillance that is widely used.

He mentioned some tactics that help in order to monetize the research impact:

  1. Leverage: He mentioned that everyone wants a big grant which runs long, but that is not always possible, so the researcher should leverage whatever opportunities that he has to have the biggest advantage.

  2. Interdisciplinary: He said that this is important, as many problems that we face today are of a complex nature and no single idea can crack the problem, so different smart minds from different areas should work on it.

  3. Minimalistic: Joe said that a minimalistic team should be assembled in order to crack the problem, there should not be too many people working on the project.

  4. Relationships: Joe stressed the importance of fostering long standing relationships for generating funding.

  5. Entrepreneurship: Joe mentioned that money never comes in the form that a person wants it to, so a researcher should have the spirit of entrepreneurship.

  6. Operations v. Philanthropy: He meant that if a organization thinks that the researcher has the potential to solve an operations problem then it would shell out billions and fund it. On the other hand if they do not believe in the potential then they may give money as philanthropy.

  7. Vision: Joe said that an enduring, fundamental over arching vision is needed for a researcher to be successful. A researcher should have creativity and innovation is every situation.

Kenneth Brancik shared his experiences about research funding in the last 30 years. He related his life experience and its help in increasing his “situational awareness.”” He said that technology is an enabler for business. He said we should think out of the box and be aware about the “situational awareness” related to cyber security. He said that a researcher, in order to understand the complex cyber security problems, should:

  1. Think out of the box
  2. Understand the business impact related to it.
  3. Use a wide angle lens to look at the picture.

David Bell started his talk by quoting Mark Twain and about people being lost in “Power Point Age” which cracked the audience up. David shared his experiences that he had working with ARPA and other federal agencies. He also mentioned about various projects like “Blacker.” He mentioned that in the earlier research was “Tethered research.” People were not very sure what they were working on, all they knew was that they are working on some advanced technology. His current take on federal funding was that it has dropped from 1.3% to 1%, and a lot needs to be done in the area of cyber security.

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