NET NEWS: Center to Harness Next Internet for Sciences

Science  31 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5377, pp. 615c
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5377.615c

Later this year, Northwestern University plans to open a new Center for Advanced Internet Research, devoted to wringing the best science from the emerging second-generation Internet. The center is mustering strong support from IBM, Cisco Systems, and Ameritech, three companies that played major roles in building the first Internet.

The center will carve its niche by developing ideas for helping scientists make full use of the superfast backbones at the core of the next Internet (Science, 24 April, p. 491), according to center director Joe Mambretti. Scientists across the country will be able to control instruments remotely on the Net, or interact in shared virtual environments—for example, exploring inside a human body or a turbulent nebula. Besides working on such high-end applications, the center will also develop “middleware” to enable applications to work efficiently—software to prioritize computing tasks, for instance, a job the present Internet simply ignores. Finally, it will host policy discussions on topics such as security. “I don't know of any other [organization] that has all of these components,” says Mambretti.

This work will be spread out at various sites at Northwestern and IBM, whose researchers will help staff the center. Mort Rahimi, head of information technology at Northwestern, says financial support from the founding companies won't be set until next month. He notes, however, that IBM contributed $1.5 million last year to Northwestern for work on Internet2 (a university group helping to build the next Internet) and says that figure is “likely to increase.”

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