Research on Scientific Databases

Robert J. Robbins rrobbins at NSF.GOV
Wed Feb 27 09:59:58 EST 1991


Division of Information, Robotics and Intelligent Systems

Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering

R E S E A R C H   O N   S C I E N T I F I C   D A T A B A S E S

Special Announcement



     The Division of Information, Robotics and Intelligent
Systems (IRIS) in the Directorate for Computer and Information
Science and Engineering (CISE) announces a special interest in
supporting interdisciplinary research efforts in scientific

     Research on the design, development, management, and
use of databases has  traditionally focused on concepts and
requirements critical to business-like environments.  However,
current database technology falls short of supporting the
diverse needs of scientific applications.  New advances in data
storage/access technology, knowledge-based systems, and
networked computing have brought about the promise to
greatly increase the productivity in science and engineering
research in this final decade of the 20th century.  Scientific
databases can be viewed as critical repositories of knowledge,
both existing and yet to be discovered.  Global change studies,
astronomy, human genome mapping, biochemical engineering,
tracking long-term social and economical phenomena are a few
examples of research areas that generate and require access to
extraordinarily large amounts of multi-media data forms:
numbers, symbols, texts, images and others.  Addressing the
special characteristics and requirements of scientific databases
will potentially further database technologies and enable a wide
range of scientists and engineers to better utilize their data
and other computing resources.

The research needed to make progress in scientific databases must
be drawn from specialists in many disciplines, including computer
science and engineering, mathematical and physical, and social
and behavioral sciences.  Therefore, collaboration of computer
and information sciences with other sciences is strongly
encouraged.  Depending on the content of the received proposals,
joint consideration by the relevant scientific NSF programs
outside CISE is planned.

     The objective of this announcement is to foster coupling
between database technology and scientific research for the
advancement of both.  Specifically, the aim is to promote:

1.  Stimulation of multi-disciplinary research in scientific
databases that addresses significant, real requirements of an
application domain. Understanding of the requirements should be
derived through collaboration with the domain scientists.

2.  Expansion of general database technology through
addressing the generic requirements of the application
domains.  Methodologies and tools developed for scientific
databases should be at a high conceptual level with an aim to
enhance capabilities of the next generation of general
information systems.

3.  Enhancement of scientific infrastructure by making the
databases, software, and other sharable resources produced
under this initiative available to the research community.

     Research is sought on methodologies and tools for the
representation and manipulation of very large volumes of
scientific data in highly distributed heterogeneous
environments.  In this context, research in three interrelated
areas is encouraged:

1. Scientific Database Models and Systems.  Theoretical
foundations for the representation and manipulation of new
data types (e.g., temporal, spatial and image data, spectrum
data, design data, sequences, graphs, user-defined objects with
inheritance and encapsulation, or declarative extensions);
metadata management; data/knowledge calibration and
validation; and uncertainty handling.  System issues include
system extensibility; rapid prototyping support; development of
user-transparent, multi-level storage management (main
memory through tertiary storage); long/parallel/concurrent
transaction processing; archiving; and version control.  Research
in this area must consider the special data characteristics
associated with a scientific discipline.

2. Knowledge Discovery in Scientific Databases.  Innovative
methods, techniques and tools that provide seamless
integration between database management and scientific
analytic tools.  Topics span computing environment
transparency; event finding, data examination, selection,
analysis and manipulation of temporally or spatially related
data; data analysis algorithms; scientific visualization;
parallel model execution and cross-validation on large volumes of
data; automated knowledge acquisition; incorporation of new
knowledge into the system; and audit trail provisions.

3. Resource Sharing Environments.  Improvement of data
access and resource sharing in distributed, networked
environments to support collaboration among scientists.
Research in interoperability is critical to browsing, resource
(data or tools) location, access, and joint processing on systems
ranging from personal workstations to supercomputers.  Topics
include heterogeneous database systems management;
effective methods for transport, combination and manipulation of
data subsets; development of domain-specific and
interdisciplinary lexicons and directories for databases and
software; assessment of the data relevance and quality; and
evolutionary establishment of self-describing, extensible
standards for data exchange.

The topics listed above are not intended to represent the
complete set of issues comprising the areas; they are suggestive
rather than limiting.  Other relevant information may be found in
three NSF workshop reports, "Scientific Data Management" and
"Database Systems: Achievements and Opportunities", and
"Heterogeneous Databases Systems", published in SIGMOD Record,
Vol. 19, No. 4, December 1990, and in the report by the Committee
on Physical, Mathematical, and Engineering Sciences, "Grand
Challenges: High Performance Computing and Communications", The
FY 1992 U.S. Research and Development Program, To Supplement the
President's Fiscal Year 1992 Budget (available by calling
National Science Foundation, Division of Advanced Scientific
Computing, 202-357-7727).

       The size of awards is anticipated to range from the usual
individual investigator awards of $60,000 per year for 2 years to
funds of up to $300,000 per year, for up to 3 years,  for
research teams with 3 - 5 principal investigators.  Collaborative
research is encouraged.  Institutional cost-sharing is required
per NSF Grant Policy Manual, Section 640.  Addional
institutional or industrial cost-sharing is encouraged, but will
not be used as a proposal evaluation factor.

     Proposals should refer to "Research on Scientific
Databases", and be prepared in accordance with the guidelines
contained in Grants for Research and Education in Science and
Engineering (NSF 90-77, August 1990), available from NSF,
Attn: Forms and Publications, Rm. 232, 1800 G St., N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20550, or electronically from
<pubs at>.

For this announcement, the following additional proposal and
budget preparation guidelines should be adhered to:

   *   The main body must describe the issues the project
addresses, previous work upon which the proposed research is
built, the theory, methodology and data, and the detailed
research plan.

   *   A section describing expected results and a detailed plan
for evaluating actual results of this research must be provided.

   *   Plans for making the databases, software, and other
sharable resources produced in this project available to the
research community should bepresented.

Collaborative research projects involving more than one
institution can be submitted either as a single proposal from the
primary institution, or as coordinated proposals
individually submitted by the collaborating institutions.

In the former case, the other collaborating institution(s) is/are
included in the proposal budget as a sub-contract, consultant
fee, or other suitable means.

In the latter case, inter-institutional collaborative research
proposals must contain the same material for all institutions and
should observe the following guidelines: (1) the first page of
the proposal should clearly indicate the project title, the
submitting institutions, and the principal investigators
involved, (2) the proposal body contains a section describing the
nature and benefits of inter-institutional collaboration, and the
project management, (3) bibliographic material for all
principal investigators is included, (4) budgets for all
institutions are included with a summary sheet for all
institutions showing the total amount requested for the project.
The Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207) and Information about
Principal Investigators (NSF Form 1225) should be prepared
separately by each collaborating institution reflecting their
component of the collaborative proposal.  To facilitate
coordination of inter-institutional collaborative research
proposals, principal investigators are encouraged to alert the
program director listed below under INQUIRIES about the
forthcoming related proposals.

Ten (10) copies (total for the inter-institutional projects) of
the proposal should be submitted to:

     National Science Foundation
     Proposal Processing Unit -- Room 223
     1800 G Street, N.W.
     Washington, D.C. 20550

            IRIS / DBES

One information copy should be sent to the program director
listed below under INQUIRIES.

     Universities and colleges or nonprofit, nonacademic
institutions may submit proposals under this competition.
Participation and cost sharing by industrial partners through an
academic or other not-for-profit organization is encouraged.

     In order to be considered under this announcement,
proposals must be postmarked no later than May 15, 1991.
Awards are planned for the Fall 1991.

Proposals will be evaluated by a panel composed of experts
from database and relevant scientific disciplines and may be sent
for mail review as well.  The evaluation of proposals will be
conducted in accordance with the procedures and criteria
described in NSF 90-77.  Satisfaction of this announcement's
OBJECTIVES constitutes additional review criteria.

     In order to maximize knowledge transfer, results from
the funded projects under this initiative, including successes,
lessons learned, and future research directions are to be widely
disseminated to both the database community and the
application domain community.  Reporting will be done at
appropriate workshops at the end of significant phases, and
through published articles in widely accessible journals after
the completion of the project.

     Inquiries about this research initative announcement are
welcome and may be directed to:

     Dr. Maria Zemankova
     Program Director, Database and Expert Systems
     IRIS  --  Room 310
     National Science Foundation
     1800 G Street, N.W.
     Washington, D.C. 20550

     Telephone: 202-357-9570       Fax: 202-357-0320
     Email: mzemanko at


     The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides awards for
research in the sciences and engineering.  The awardee is wholly
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OMB: 3145-0058
PT:  34                       RESEARCH ON
KW:  071020, 0403007          SCIENTIFIC DATABASES     NSF 91-18

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