yearly budget of $60 million for fundamental and applied research to advance cyberinfrastructure and a yearly budget of $100 million for “research into applications of information technology to advance science and engineering research.” Taking into account the fact that cyberinfrastructure includes more than supercomputing and that the categories are different, the Atkins committee’s estimate is similar to this committee’s.

The sustained cost of providing a supply of production-quality software depends in part on the funding model that is assumed. The cost of a nonprofit software organization of the kind described earlier would be $10 million to $15 million per year, but such an organization would provide only a fraction of the needed software. A vertically integrated supercomputer vendor would provide some system software as part of the delivered system. The development cost for such a supplier is on the order of $70 million per year, some of which would come from the purchase of systems and some from direct investment in R&D.

These estimates do not include the cost of procuring capability supercomputers to satisfy government missions (except indirectly as customers of vendors). Assuming a cost of between $100 million and $150 million per procurement and six or seven procurements per year by organizations such as DOE (the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Office of Science), DoD (including NSA), NSF, NIH, NOAA, and NASA, the procurement cost for capability supercomputers would be approximately $800 million per year. This estimate does not include the cost of meeting capacity computing needs.

The Need for People

The report presented in Chapter 6 some results from the most recent Taulbee Survey, which showed that only 35 people earned Ph.D.’s in scientific computing in 2002. This is not an anomaly, as the chart in Figure 9.2 shows.17 The average yearly number of Ph.D.’s awarded in scientific computing in the last 10 years was 36; on average, government laboratories hire only three of them a year. These numbers are extremely low.

While it is hard to collect accurate statistics, the same situation seems to hold for other areas of supercomputing. For example, few students study supercomputer architecture. Increased and stable research funding is needed not only to ensure a steady flow of new ideas into supercomputing but also, and perhaps more importantly, to ensure a steady flow of new people into supercomputing.


Taulbee Survey data are available at <>.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement