Army opens cutting-edge lab for Network Science

March 28, 2016

By ARL Public Affairs Office

Story Highlights

  • The facility is dedicated to exploring network science challenges with in-person research collaboration at the Adelphi Laboratory Center

ADELPHI, Md. (March 28, 2016) -- The U.S. Army Research Laboratory formally opened a cutting-edge lab for network sciences with a ceremony March 25.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, Katherine Hammack formally cut the ribbon for the new Network Science Research Laboratory, or NSRL, along with U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Commanding General Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton and ARL Director Dr. Thomas Russell.

The facility is dedicated to exploring network science challenges with in-person research collaboration at the Adelphi Laboratory Center.

"As we open the laboratory to collaborate with academia and industry, we are establishing a global S&T network," Hammack said. "This facility is designed to give you a tool."

ARL has been seeking out opportunities to bring government and business together for several years in an Open Campus initiative designed to rekindle pre-9/11 engagement between the Army and its partners in basic research, officials said.

"It is one thing to have a vision. It's another to enact it. That is what you are doing here," Wharton said. "As we open the first Open Campus laboratory it is historic because of the collaboration it represents between government, academia and industry."

The NSRL is another key component of a growing science and technology ecosystem that empowers collaboration in order to leverage the combined expertise of government, industry and academia to deliver a technological competitive advantage to the nation.

This is the first major laboratory space to be designed specifically to support the laboratory's Open Campus initiative.

"At times, our workforce may seem isolated from the outside, but Open Campus is broadening our horizons and providing the access to seek out and ensure for collaborations with outside researchers, both nationally and globally," said Thomas Mulkern, team leader of ARL's Program Budget Office's Technology Transfer Team.

NSRL will be the cornerstone for research that will bring in human sciences, information sciences and robotics teaming starting later this year, Russell said.

"True collaboration starts with face-to-face relationships," Russell said.

The laboratory includes four large video display walls, video teleconferencing, state-of-the-art audio, flexible seating, wireless network access and a variety of computer hardware and software designed to support network science research and experimentation, said Brian Rivera of the Tactical Network Assurance Branch, who managed the project.

"This kind of facility is designed to enhance collaboration," said Dr. John Pellegrino, who had the vision nearly five years ago for creating a collaborative network science space when he was ARL's Computation and Information Sciences Directorate director. "It is a widely shared space so that people could see things on the screens together, rather than everyone at remote locations, behind individual screens. And furthermore, the framework for experimentation is set up so that people could bring experiments that plug in naturally without having to start from scratch."

Rivera envisions three people plugged into the mounted video displays in such a way that each contribution is up simultaneously. One person may be working on the report for a paper, another editing code and a third one might be writing code for the next portion of the experiment, but they are side-by-side.

"They could go, 'Hey, that looks interesting!' or 'Look at this. That doesn't quite look right.' And if they notice an error in code, they could fix it on the spot," Rivera said.

Besides the tech company atmosphere, it is the unique tools that most enhance the team workflow process at the NSRL, which include the following:

Dynamically Allocated Virtual Clustering Management System is a wireless emulation platform that supports research on mobile networks. It gives scientists the ability to create virtual experimentation environments, each automatically configured and tailored to their specifications.

ARL's Traffic Generation Tool generates real-time traffic patterns to define message traffic. It allows scientists to visualize traffic flows as conversations between network nodes rather than editing individual script files.

ARL Experimentation Framework houses the DAVC and the message traffic tool, which are useful for research collaboration. The framework could easily accommodate other reconfigurable ad-hoc and on-demand experimentation add-ons all in a single infrastructure.

Rivera has spent countless hours brainstorming with Andrew Toth, also of the Tactical Network Assurance Branch, about ways to build the NSRL not only based on today's demands, but to make sure that the laboratory is equipped for what may come years from now. They are fully satisfied that the new laboratory could grow beyond what researchers are capable of today, Toth said.

"I love what I do," said Toth, who has been instrumental in bringing the new lab to fruition. "I have worked in a lot of different industries, but I love working for the Soldier. I want to build a place that we're proud to show off, that we're proud to invite collaborators. We want to them to come in and say, 'Wow, I want to come back!' "

This is a time in their careers that he believes the work that they put into the laboratory could have lasting impact, Rivera said.

"We see it beyond government, academia and industry, beyond our expertise, to include social cognitive, information sciences and others all working together to solve problems beyond anything I could even imagine today," Rivera said. "It's really exciting to see that blossom.

Hammack told Army researchers that their work is important.

"You lead the nation in fundamental discoveries," she said. "What you do is not research for research's sake. You transition something to give us overmatch."

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Last Update / Reviewed: March 28, 2016