Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Army Advancing Network Capabilities

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) will invest up to $166 million over the next five years to bring government, industry, and academic institutions together to advance the Army’s network capabilities. The ultimate goal is to develop a scientific foundation for modeling, designing, analyzing, and examining how very large networks of humans behave as they interact with each other.

According to Dr. Alexander Kott, ARL’s Network Science Division Chief, “The Army is moving rapidly and deeper into a network-centric world. So much today depends on how warfighters with sensors and weapons are able to communicate information through mobile, self forming, and rapidly changing networks.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute received $16.75 million in funding from the Army to launch a new interdisciplinary research center devoted to the study of social and cognitive networks. The Center for Social and Cognitive Networks is now part of the Army’s newly created Collaborative Technology Alliance within ARL that includes four nationwide centers focused on the emerging field of network science.

Rensselaer will receive $8.6 million of the $16.75 million to lead the new center for the first five years. ARL anticipates funding an additional $18.75 million for the second phase which brings the total funding to $35.5 million for the next ten years and will involve additional universities and corporations.

Rensselaer will be joined by corporate and a number of academic partners to include IBM Corp., Northeastern University, and the City University of New York, University of Illinois, and collaborators from Harvard University, MIT, New York University, Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, The University of Maryland, and Indiana University.

As technological advances provide tools to better monitor social interactions and influence social networks, researchers want to understand both the human interactions and the underlying technological infrastructure used.

The Center will link social scientists, neuroscientists, and cognitive scientists with physicists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to work to uncover, model, understand, and study the complex social interactions that take place in today’s society.

The Center will study the fundamentals of the networks and their role in today’s society and in organizations including the Army. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the networks and build a firm scientific basis in the field of network science.

The work will include research on large social networks with a focus on networks with mobile agents. An example of a mobile agent is someone who is interacting with others while moving around the environment. The Army and the societies where it operates are examples of such networks.

Five topics will be the focus for the Center’s research. The first step will be for the researchers to understand human interactions and the underlying technological infrastructure that they use. A second area for study will look at organizational networks and how knowledge, particularly in the Army is spread from peer to peer in the modern military. Researchers will look for digital traces of collaboration and communication within an organization at all levels to understand how information flows.

The third area will be to study adversary networks. This research has important implications for the Army to deal with terrorists and other hidden groups within society. The researchers will study ways to monitor the activities of the networks, map the composition and hierarchy of the network, and try to understand how their dynamics and evolve over time. This work will bring expertise together ranging from computer science to game theory.

The fourth area of focus will examine trust in social networks by measuring the level of trust within a network and how the level of trust moves information through a network. For example, researchers will use mathematical and computational modeling to understand how different types of social interactions impact an individual’s thoughts and behaviors. Finally, the Center will look at the impacts of human error in social networks and use computational systems to predict how human error or bias influences judgment.

The University of Illinois, Department of Computer Science through their Network Academic Research Center will use $8.1 million of the Army funding to work together with industry and university partners to specifically address how to handle massive amounts of data, how to do large scale information mining, and how to process information rapidly.