2016 CRA Conference at Snowbird
The biennial CRA Conference at Snowbird is the flagship invitation-only conference for the leadership of the North American computing research community.
Invitees: Computer science, computer engineering, and information technology department chairs; assistant, associate, and prospective chairs; directors of graduate or undergraduate education; directors of industry or government research labs/centers; and professional society or government leaders in computing.
The conference site: The Snowbird Resort is located in the Wasatch Mountains about 30 miles from Salt Lake City. A top-rated ski resort in the winter, off-season at Snowbird offers hiking amidst beautiful scenery.
This year at Snowbird:
The 2016 CRA Snowbird conference will kick-off with a plenary conversation between John Markoff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covers science and technology for The New York Times, and University of Washington professor Ed Lazowska. A second plenary will feature Jessica Hodgins, professor in the Robotics Institute and Computer Science Department at CMU. Panel sessions will include topics ranging from Smart Cities to computing’s place in the university to the future of work. A major focus of the conference will be booming enrollments, with a short plenary followed by parallel sessions devoted to the topic, its various ramifications, and ideas to help you deal with it, including best practices for managing growth. The meeting will also feature a view into computing and Washington from CRA’s Government Affairs Director Peter Harsha, and short after-dinner talks on computing research futures organized by the CCC. New this year, we will facilitate book and article discussion groups over coffee on Tuesday morning.
In addition to the conference, a workshop for new department chairs will be held on July 17. There will be several hours of free time for networking, mingling, hiking, or hanging out and enjoying the gorgeous environment.
2016 CRA Conference at Snowbird Organizing Committee
CRA Contact: Andrew Bernat, abernat [at] cra.org
Mary Czerwinski (Microsoft Research) Co-Chair
Ellen Zegura (Georgia Tech) Co-Chair
Nancy Amato (Texas A&M)
Jeffrey Forbes (Duke University)
Steve Heller (Two Sigma)
H.V. Jagadish (University of Michigan)
Farnam Jahanian (Carnegie Mellon)
Chris Johnson (University of Utah)
David Liben-Nowell (Carleton College)
Daniel Russell (Google)
Barbara Ryder (Virginia Tech)
New Department Chairs Workshop
Stephanie Forrest (University of New Mexico) Co-Chair
Martha Pollack (University of Michigan) Co-Chair
July 17, 2016 (Sunday)
|02:00 PM||Registration (until 7:00PM)|
|03:00 PM||New Chairs Workshop (until 5:30 PM)
Co-Chairs: Stephanie Forrest, University of New Mexico, Martha Pollack, University of Michigan, and Barbara Ryder, Virginia Tech
Speakers: Carla Brodley, Northeastern University, Hank Levy, University of Washington, and Donna Reese, Mississippi State University
This workshop will introduce new CS department chairs to some of the skills that they need to lead their organizations and to work with deans, provosts, and advisory boards—i.e., the stuff they never taught you in graduate school.
|06:00 PM||Welcome Reception|
|07:00 PM||Dinner/ Awards Presentation / After Dinner Speech
Welcome From the Conference Co-Chairs
Distinguished Service, A. Nico Habermann, and Service to CRA Awards
CRA-E Faculty Mentoring Awards
Machines of Loving Grace: Computers After the Smartphone
Chair: Ed Lazowska, University of Washington
John Markoff has been a technology journalist, a student of technology, and a confidant of leading technology insiders for 40 years.
In addition to his reporting for the New York Times (and previously for The San Francisco Examiner, Byte Magazine, and Infoworld), Markoff is the author of a half-dozen books, including Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier (1991, with Katie Hafner), What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2005), and Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots (2015). The topic of the latter book—artificial intelligence and human values—is a particular current interest.
Markoff is at his best when conversing about topics that draw upon his broad and deep knowledge of technology and the personalities that shape it. Ed Lazowska will engage Markoff in such a conversation, with plenty of time for attendees to pose questions.
July 18, 2016 (Monday)
|06:00 AM||Registration (until 6:30PM)|
|08:30 AM||Disney Research: Eight Years In
Chair: Ellen Zegura, Georgia Tech
Disney Research is an international network of research labs, with the mission to push the scientific and technological forefront of innovation at The Walt Disney Company. Founded in 2007, Disney Research has contributed to products and installations that have been experienced by millions of people around the world. It has also published more than 600 papers on robotics, human-computer interaction, computer vision, machine learning, wireless technologies, displays, and computer graphics. In this talk, Hodgins will reflect on some of the design decisions that were made in setting up Disney Research and present an overview of some of the research that the organization has performed.
|10:00 AM||Booming Enrollments: Understanding the Surge
The brief plenary will be followed by breakouts into parallel tracks.
“Booming enrollments” is on the minds of many CS faculty. In this session, the panelists will share details on what has been learned recently via two CRA surveys (one to departments, one to students), present the status of a National Academies committee on the growth of computer science undergraduate enrollments, and introduce the parallel breakout sessions.
The brief plenary will be followed by a 30 minute break and then parallel tracks.
|11:00 AM||Parallel Tracks
Programs for High-Achieving Students
Chair: Nancy Amato, Texas A&M University
Speakers: Marie desJardins, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Maggie Johnson, Google, Bruce Porter, University of Texas at Austin, and Jennifer Rexford, Princeton
During growing enrollments, CS departments need to find ways to provide enriching and challenging experiences for top students. Honors programs, undergraduate research, specialized leadership experiences, and five-year B.S. and M.S. programs can engage such students and give them high-quality experiences that make them competitive for future graduate school and fellowships.
Student Profiles and Motivations During the Enrollment Growth
Chairs: Tracy Camp, Colorado School of Mines, and Mary Hall, University of Utah
Speakers: Lecia Barker, University of Texas at Austin, Tracy Camp Colorado School of Mines, Jeff Forbes, Duke University, Mary Hall University of Utah, and Rob Rutenbar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This panel will address a number of questions, including:
Impact of Enrollment Increases on Department Practices
This panel will address a number of questions including:
|01:30 PM||Parallel Tracks
Today, communities across the nation face a set of deeply interlocking physical, social, economic, and infrastructural challenges. By collaborating at the intersection of computing, engineering, and public policy, private and public-sector stakeholders are finding innovative solutions to the evolving needs of our cities—from enhanced delivery of city services to increased resiliency and efficiency of urban infrastructure and more sustainable environments. This digitization of the urban environment holds the potential to unlock transformational progress in key areas, including health and wellness, energy efficiency, building automation, transportation, and public safety. This session will discuss the potential to bring interdisciplinary university researchers together with civic leaders and an engaged citizenry to build the smart and connected communities of the future—with a focus on the catalytic role of computing, information science, and engineering
Extracurricular Temptations–Hackathons, Innovation Contests, Etc.
This session will explore the growth and impact of activities for computing students that operate outside the usual classes and degree programs. These extracurricular temptations include hackathons and competitions where students may invest intense effort over short periods of time for rewards that may include fame and fortune. The panelists will discuss how universities can and should support these activities for the benefit of students and overall educational goals.
Why CS Departments Should Embrace CS Education Research
Computing education research (CER) is an area of growing interest as participation in computing draws a larger and broader audience to our field. CER has a number of high quality venues for disseminating research; the NSF is now awarding both CAREER and Graduate Research Fellowship awards in this field; and departments are increasingly hiring CER faculty into tenure-track lines. This panel will address a number of questions including:
|03:30 PM||Networking Activities|
After Dinner Talks – Computing Research Futures
Computing research continues to be at the forefront of innovation, impacting society in ways never before imagined. In this session, speakers will discuss these new impacts and what the future might hold.
Theory for Society
As technology reaches increasingly deeper into our everyday lives, changing the fabric of society woven by our interactions with fellow citizens, government, and the corporate world, design decisions have an increasing impact on basic social values such as privacy, fairness, and protection from physical and emotional harm. Complexity of this type requires mathematically rigorous notions that allow us to quantify these goods and their loss, explore fundamental tradeoffs and limitations, and lay the theoretical groundwork for what can be achieved. This talk will describe relevant efforts in privacy-preserving data analysis and fairness in classification, and discuss an agenda for future directions.
Computing Alone Doesn’t Solve Social Problems. So, What Next?
Speaker: Kentaro Toyama, University of Michigan
In spite of the do-gooder rhetoric of Silicon Valley, it’s no secret that computing technology in and of itself cannot solve systemic social problems. Even after a golden age of digital innovation, poverty persists, economic inequality is rising, and politics is more polarized than ever. Given this, what should computer scientists do if they want to genuinely contribute to a better world? This talk offers suggestions for computing researchers and educators.
July 19, 2016 (Tuesday)
|06:00 AM||Registration (until 6:30PM)|
|08:30 AM||Reading Group Breakouts
Organized discussions based on the following articles and books:
“Rescuing US Biomedical Research From its Systemic Flaws,” in Proceedings of the National Academies (pdf available here)
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (available for purchase here)
Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing by Jane Margolis (available for purchase here)
Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff (available for purchase here)
Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time) by Claude M. Steele (available for purchase here)
|10:30 AM||Parallel Tracks
Data Science in the 21st Century
Lately, the interdisciplinary area of data science has recently received an enormous amount of attention. The use of analytics to extract information from small or large amounts of heterogeneous data, in order to inform decision-making, is a hot topic in a broad set of areas such as policy, science, and business.
This panel, comprised of practitioners and academics, will explore the educational and research aspects and the implications of the following questions:
Our goal is to stimulate discussion on these topics.
Department Rankers and Rankings: Truths and Consequences
Many members of our community currently feel the need for an authoritative ranking of CS departments in North America. Should CRA or another organization be involved in creating a ranking? To inform such discussions, the speakers will explain what is involved in creating an authoritative ranking. We will hear about the U.K. ranking, which dictates resource allocation to CS departments in the U.K., and about the U.S. News & World Report ranking, which became popular after the National Research Council’s exit from the field. We will also survey some of the issues connected with creating or not creating an authoritative ranking.
Synthetic vs. Natural: Hybrids Between Technology and Biology
New technologies have brought biology into the spotlight and opened up novel opportunities to program, design, engineer, and communicate with biological components. Programming and engineering give computer scientists the ability to not only understand the complexity of these biological components but to also take advantage of them in order to create new functions, applications, and novel interfaces, all of which are enabled by technology but driven by nature.
In this panel, the speakers will explore the new opportunities enabled by combining engineering, computer science, and biology, and will present research examples using programmable materials, data storage in DNA, obfuscation and encryption in vivo, and tools for biological circuits. The speakers hope to encourage discussion and inspiration around these biologically inspired research projects.
|01:30 PM||Parallel Tracks
Schools and Colleges of Computing
As computing continues to grow by tremendous leaps and bounds and permeate throughout the university’s intellectual landscape, many department chairs are finding their programs have outgrown, or are outgrowing, the confines of their current locations in colleges of engineering or science. Discussions are taking place in many departments about exploring the possibility of expanding to a school or college of computing (or a similar related name). This panel will explore the multifold administrative, social, strategic, and economic challenges confronting departments that want to become schools or colleges of computing. Following short presentations by the panel members of their insights, the panel will discuss the challenges of, and the strategies for, transforming a department into a school or college of computing.
Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work
Chair: Moshe Vardi, Rice University
Speakers: Vijay Kumar, University of Pennsylvania, Maja Mataric, University of Southern California, Tom Mitchell, Carnegie Mellon University, and Moshe Vardi, Rice University
This session will focus on the potential impact of computing technology on employment and the nature of work over the coming years. Panelists will suggest the advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation that they believe are possible and the impact these advances may have on employment. The panel will include a discussion with the audience about likely trends, government policy debates that may arise as a result, and the role computing researchers can play in helping assure these debates are well-informed.
Whistling Past the Graveyard: Why the End of Moore’s Law Matters to All of CS
For five decades, Moore’s law has allowed the computer industry to achieve increasingly capable and high-performance hardware and software with each new semiconductor generation. These scaling trends have underpinned most of the revolutionary computing breakthroughs of the past 50 years. Now, however, scaling trends are slowing due to both physical limits in fabricating ever-smaller transistors and to power dissipation limits in using them. Increasingly, computing hardware researchers and manufacturers are planning for the post-Moore’s law era. There is no silver bullet; the solution will require fundamental changes at all levels of the computing stack. In this panel, the speakers will lead a discussion about why all of computer science will be affected by these changes and how departments should be planning for, and reacting to, this development.
|03:30 PM||Making a Federal Case for Computing
Chair: Fred Schneider, Cornell University
Uncertainty with the political process is always a problem for those concerned with federal investments in research, but 2016 promises to be even more uncertain than usual. Highly contentious presidential campaigns, heated congressional races, a deeply polarized Congress, exceptional scrutiny of federal investments in research, and who-knows-what-else that will emerge in the months ahead will likely impact the level of federal spending on science.
To start the discussion, CRA’s Peter Harsha will attempt to make sense of this seemingly chaotic political landscape and discuss how and why CRA and CRA’s partners in the science advocacy community are navigating the terrain to support the computing research community’s interests. Next, a panel will discuss research-funding realities given the imminent increases in faculty size, where and whether additional funding might be found, and promotion and tenure criteria if research funding becomes scarce.
|05:15 PM||CS for All: Does Your Department Have a Role?
Organizer: Jan Cuny, National Science Foundation
This session will begin with a reception, which will be followed by a panel discussion. The national Computer Science for All initiative aims to make great CS available to students in every K-12 school. It’s an audacious goal as any one who’s worked in a school can tell you. Yet, Computer Science for All has gained tremendous momentum, with participation from federal agencies, states, school districts, and private organizations, including ACM, Code.org, the Computer Science Teacher’s Association, NCWIT, and Teach for America.
This session will provide the opportunity to talk with faculty from leading CS departments about how they are supporting Computer Science for All. The speakers will discuss their experiences launching the new AP CS Principles course, supporting research on CS education, providing professional development for local teachers, working across districts and states to create CS pathways, broadening participation across the pipeline, and involving undergraduates in K-12 with service-learning projects.