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Q: What's government-owned, designed to kill, and now more transparent? A: DARPA!

Skunkworks research lab launches 'Open Catalog' to share research information

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While one part of the US government tries to slink further back into the shadows, another is pushing itself into the light via a new transparency scheme at DARPA.

The US's defense boffins at DARPA announced the launch of the its Open Catalog on Tuesday – an initiative designed to drum up support from the wider research community into co-development of DARPA projects by giving information on what bits of open source software and publications have been part-funded by the development lab.

"Making our open source catalog available increases the number of experts who can help quickly develop relevant software for the government," said Chris White, a DARPA program manager, in a canned statement.

"Our hope is that the computer science community will test and evaluate elements of our software and afterward adopt them as either standalone offerings or as components of their products."

To begin with, the Open Catalog incorporates assets from Darpa's XDATA program which involves research into distributed analysis of large and sometimes incomplete datasets.

DARPA plans to expand this out to include the fruits of research in other programs like Broad Operational Language Translation, and Visual Media Reasoning.

Some of this DARPA-backed software includes cutting-edge data center management tech like the Apache Mesos and Tachyon projects, along with less well known but sophisticated projects like the Vowpal Wabbit out-of-core learning system, or the Julia dynamic programming language.

A peruse of the catalog shows that private companies like IBM and MDA Information Systems have already produced large amounts of research for the company in this area, while public institutions like the University of California at Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Tech, and others have all done significant amounts of part-DARPA-funded research.

"DARPA is interested in building communities around government-funded software and research. If the R&D community shows sufficient interest, DARPA will continue to make available information generated by DARPA programs, including software, publications, data and experimental results," DARPA wrote.

Given the fact that DARPA is funded by US taxpayers, and that the research it funds has broad applicability beyond the defense uses, it seems like a good idea for interested parties to reward this bout of openness and use the Catalog to inform them about where a minute fraction of their tax dollars are going. ®

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