Computing Research Policy Blog

The Computing Research Association (CRA) has been involved in shaping public policy of relevance to computing research for more than two decades. More recently the CRA Government Affairs program has enhanced its efforts to help the members of the computing research community contribute to the public debate knowledgeably and effectively.

Rice to Host Conference on Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work


Screenshot 2016-08-04 16.54.53Those who attended this year’s CRA Snowbird conference may have heard Moshe Vardi’s provocative panel session on Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work, discussing the potential impact of computing technologies on employment and the nature of work over the coming years. Vardi makes a compelling case that the computing research community ought to be concerned with the impact its innovations will have on society, both positive and negative. To that end, Vardi has led an effort to pull together some of the leading thinkers from the computing, economics, and social science communities to consider the issue in Houston in December. The De Lange Conference on Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work will be held December 5-6, 2016, at Rice University. Here’s an announcement from the organizers (CRA is a co-sponsor).

The conference will focus on issues created by the impact of information technology on labor markets over the next 25 years, addressing questions such as:

  • What advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and automation are expected over the next 25 years?
  • What will be the impact of these advances on job creation, job destruction and wages in the labor market?
  • What skills are required for the job market of the future?
  • Can education prepare workers for that job market?
  • What educational changes are needed?
  • What economic and social policies are required to integrate people who are left out of future labor markets?
  • How can we preserve and increase social mobility in such an environment?

CALL FOR POSTERS DEALINE IS SEPTEMBER 5TH, 2016!!

REGISTRATION AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, VISIT delange.rice.edu.

Renowned Speakers and Panelists:

 Diane Bailey
Associate Professor, School of Information
The University of Texas at Austin

Guruduth Banavar
Vice President, Cognitive Computing
IBM Research

John Seely Brown
Co-chairman Deloitte’s Center for the Edge; Advisor to the Provost USC
Deloitte

Daniel Castro
Vice President,
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Stuart Elliott
Directorate for Education and Skills
OECD

Richard Freeman
Professor of Economics
Harvard University

Eszter Hargittai
Delaney Family Professor Affiliation
Communication Studies Department, Northwestern University

John Leslie King
W.W. Bishop Professor of Information
University of Michigan School of Information

Vijay Kumar
Nemirovsky Family Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Pennsylvania

John Markoff
Reporter
New York Times

Lawrence Mishel
President
Economic Policy Institute

Joel Mokyr
Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics and History at Northwestern University and Sackler Professor, (by spec. appnt.) Eitan Berglas School of
Economics at Tel Aviv University

David Nordfors
Co-Founder and Co-Chair
I4j Innovation for Jobs

Debra Satz
Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, Professor of Philosophy, Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts, J. Frederick and Elisabeth Brewer Weintz University Fellow in Undergraduate Education
Stanford University

Manuela Veloso
Herbert A. Simon University Professor School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University

Judy Wajcman
Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology
The London School of Economics

For more information, see delange.rice.edu.

Clinton Unveils New Tech and Innovation Agenda


[Editor’s Note: This post was written by CRA’s new Tisdale Policy Fellow for Summer 2016, Satoe Sakuma.]

On June 28th, Secretary Hillary Clinton unveiled her “Tech and Innovation Agenda” which outlines how her administration will approach technology. The presumptive Democratic nominee is positioning herself as a strong supporter of the advancement and expansion of technology through education, entrepreneurship, and infrastructure. This agenda in many ways continues the Obama Administration’s efforts to expand federally supported research efforts and expand their impact on the nation’s economic ecosystem.

Of most importance to our community is her promoting of science and technology R&D. In the agenda she recognizes “the benefits of government investment in research and development (R&D) are profound and irrefutable” and plans to increase research budgets for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and DARPA. The agenda goes on to say that the country should make certain to remain international leaders in High Performance Computing, green energy, and machine learning. She also plans to create an easier, more efficient means of technology transfer, which is the movement of research and breakthroughs from government laboratories to industry for economic benefit and job creation.

Another section of Secretary Clinton’s agenda focuses on computer science education. Voicing her support for, and plans to expand, the Obama Administration’s “Computer Science for All” initiative. Clinton states that she will launch the next generation of Investing in Innovation grants and double the investment in pre-existing programs. She also plans on training 50,000 new CS teachers while assisting current teachers in gaining additional training to accommodate the projected growth. In order to support the expansion of CS faculty, Clinton promises to “improve CS Education certification pathways, and to broaden ongoing learning opportunities for CS teachers so they can remain up to date on the cutting edge developments in the field.” Addressing the issue of diversity in the Tech Workforce, Clinton promises to create a $25 billion fund for colleges with minority students and invest $20 billion to build a pathway for underrepresented youth through “models like linked learning, P-Tech, apprenticeships, and Career Academies.”

Additionally, to encourage advancement in technology, Secretary Clinton looks to “ensure the patent system continues to reward innovators” and deploy 5G technology to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) development. The idea being that IoT has tremendous potential to create jobs and improve the quality of people’s lives, and having the federal government invest in infrastructure now can speed the arrival of those benefits. To close the Digital Divide, Clinton states that “by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs.”

A few questions and concerns were not addressed. Clinton outlines launching various grant programs, but does not mention how the new educational programs will be funded. Another possible seed for tension is her support for funding “commercialization capacity building and accelerator grants, and expand[ing] proven models like the Regional Innovation Program and the NSF I-Corps program,” by taking a small portion of federal research budget, which has been consistently flat funded or even reduced in recent years. Lastly, due to her unclear stance of “support[ing] efforts such as the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield to find alignment in national data privacy laws and protect data movement across borders. And… [to] promote the free flow of information in international fora,” there is likely to be pushback concerning the agenda’s position on privacy laws and encryption.

Secretary Clinton’s tech agenda is the first to be released by either candidate. We will provide an update regarding Donald Trump’s tech agenda once it is released.

Senate Version of COMPETES Act Reauthorization Introduced


UPDATE: On June 29th the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reported S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, out favorably. There were a number of amendments but nothing of note to our community, besides the expected amendment (described in the original post below) including authorized funding levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

What is worth noting is that the bill was approved on a bipartisan basis with only one dissenting vote, Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE). Citing the fact that the authorization levels approved in the legislation are not off-set by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, the Senator voted against the bill. This is likely a preview of what S. 3084 will encounter when/if it reaches the full Senate, even though the bill is not an appropriations bill (it only sets a target for the appropriators to aim for and has no binding budgetary power).

CRA endorsed the bill before it was passed by the committee.

Original Post (06/23/2016):This morning, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee released their long awaited reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. The bill, called the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), would set federal science policy at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), and the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP). As our long time readers will remember, the House Science Committee introduced and passed their own reauthorization of COMPETES in 2015, called the FIRST Act. The Senate bill is scheduled to be marked up next week, on June 29th. Let’s get into some of the details with the bill.

The first thing to notice is what’s not in the bill, namely authorization for funding levels for NSF and NIST. Quick note: this is an authorization bill, not an appropriations bill; the difference is an authorization bill sets a goal for how much money should go to programs, while an appropriations bill actually assigns the money. We have heard from members of the S&T policy community that an amendment will be filed tomorrow, which will authorize funding for the two agencies for two years. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, the bill authorizes $7.5 billion for NSF, which is the same level of funding included in the Senate’s FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill. For FY2018, the bill authorizes a four percent increase in funding for NSF. It’s worth pointing out that this is still tentative and could change. Lastly, it worth pointing out that there is also no directorate-by-directorate level funding for NSF in the bill, and we don’t anticipate there will be any offered at the markup. That is a big difference with the House’s FIRST Act and a big win for the NSF research community, particularly the Social and Behavioral scientists.

As for what’s actually in the bill, it contains a number of policy provisions. Of interest to our community are the following items:

– “Title 1 Section 101 – Reaffirmation of merit-based peer review” – this is a “Sense of Congress” reaffirming the importance of peer review. It is likely a counter to the House’s FIRST Act, which calls for more scrutiny of the peer review process at NSF. The language is quite strong and supportive of NSF; for example, “as evidenced by the Foundation’s contributions to scientific advancement, economic development, human health, and national security, its peer review and merit review processes have successfully identified and funded scientifically and societally relevant research and should be preserved.”

– “Title 1 Section 105 – Networking and information technology research and development (NITRD) update” – This is the Senate version of the NITRD reauthorization, which the House passed recently. This section is similar to the House bill in its call for more strategic planning by NCO and the participating agencies, and in identifying some new areas of focus for the program, including:

  • “provide for research on the interplay of computing and people, including social computing and human-robot interaction;”
  • “provide for research on cyber-physical systems and improving the methods available for the design, development, and operation of those systems that are characterized by high reliability, safety, and security;”
  • “provide for the understanding of the science, engineering, policy, and privacy protection related to networking and IT;” and,
  • “provide for the understanding of the human facets of cyber threats and secure cyber systems.”

– “Title II Section 201 – Interagency working group on research regulation” – This sections concerns reducing the administrative burden on researchers. The bill cites that, “researchers spend as much as 42 percent
16 of their time complying with Federal regulations,” and, as a Sense of Congress, directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with OSTP to establish an interagency working group to coordinate how to reduce the burden.

– “Title II Section 202 – Scientific and technical collaboration” – Asserts the importance of Federal scientists attending symposia and conferences. Directs OMB to work with OSTP and other science research agencies to “revise current policies and streamline [approval] processes.” Decision should be based on whether attendance at the workshop would meet the mission of the organization and whether there are sufficient funds available for that purpose.

– “Title III Section 311 – Computer Science Education Research” – Directs NSF to award grants to support CS education research. The language notes, “the Foundation is well positioned to make investments that will accelerate ongoing efforts to enable rigorous and engaging computer science throughout the Nation.”

– “Title VI Section 601 – Innovation corps.” – Sense of Congress that, “I-Corps is a useful tool in promoting the commercialization of federally-funded research by training researchers funded by the Foundation in entrepreneurship and commercialization.” The bill directs NSF to, “encourage the development and expansion of I-Corps and other training programs that focus on professional development, including education in entrepreneurship and commercialization.”

The bill contains a number of provisions on expanding the opportunities of STEM education, reducing administrative burdens on researchers, and improving the transferring of technology and research from federal labs to the marketplace. On the whole, the bill is very supportive in tone of the science agencies.

So, what happens next? As noted above, the bill is scheduled to be marked up next week by the full Senate Commerce Committee and is expected to pass with bipartisan support. After that, the bill heads to the full Senate and the path forward becomes less clear. There are only two more weeks of legislative work days before Congress breaks for their respective July Presidential Conventions and the August recess. When the legislature comes back into session in September, the expectation is very little work will get done before they gone on break for October to campaign for reelection. All that means is it is unlikely that the bill will get floor time on the Senate until November, at the earliest. That leaves the lame duck session after the November election; how that session unfolds will depend greatly on the outcome of the election. So check back, as we will be watching this legislation very carefully.

CRA Releases Letter Endorsing American Competitiveness and Innovation Act


CRA today released a letter to Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), and Senate Commerce, Science Screenshot 2016-06-28 14.45.54and Transportation Committee Chair John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL), expressing support for their efforts to pass S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which will be marked up in committee tomorrow (June 29, 2016).

June 27, 2016

The Honorable Cory Gardner
The Honorable Gary Peters
The Honorable John Thune
The Honorable Bill Nelson

Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, Senators Gardner and Peters,

As an organization representing over 240 industry and academic institutions involved in computing research and six affiliated professional societies, the Computing Research Association is pleased to support your efforts to bolster Federal innovation policy and American competitiveness through the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084). We believe the bill represents a reaffirmation of the importance of key elements of the nation’s science and technology enterprise, including the strength of the merit-review process at the National Science Foundation, and the importance of the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program.

Indeed, we are pleased to see a number of provisions in the bill reflect the importance of Federal investments in computing research. As you are aware, advances in information technology are transforming all aspects of our lives. Virtually every human endeavor today has been touched by information technology, including commerce, education, employment, health care, energy, manufacturing, governance, national security, communications, the environment, entertainment, science and engineering. The profound reach of IT is enabled in large part by the innovations that spawn from the IT research ecosystem — that incredibly productive, yet complex interplay of industry, universities and the Federal government. Indeed, nearly every sub-sector of the IT economy today bears the stamp of Federal support. The program responsible for overseeing this crucial investment is NITRD.

We believe this Act makes the NITRD program stronger by improving the planning and coordination of the National Coordination Office for NITRD, requiring that the NCO and the NITRD agencies engage in strategic planning, and requiring the periodic review and assessment of the program contents and funding. All have been recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology in their recent reviews of the program.

We are also pleased to note that you plan to amend the bill during its markup to include an increase to the funding authorizations for NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Last year, CRA joined with more than 500 companies, universities, and national business, science and university organizations in endorsing “Innovation: An American Imperative,” which called on Congress and the Administration to provide at least four-percent real annual increases in funding for key research agencies, including NSF and NIST. The amendment under consideration would meet this target for FY 2018. We would urge that you and your colleagues on the committee continue your strong support of the U.S. innovation ecosystem, fueled in part by this Federal investment, and adopt it.

We thank you for your work on this legislation and for your long-standing support of the Federal investment in research, particularly in computing. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues as you endeavor to move the legislation forward this session.

Sincerely,

Susan B. Davidson

Chair, Board of Directors

CRA’s CRA-W Urges Continued Support for Diversity Efforts in Capitol Briefing


Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) (at podium) introduces the first briefing of the Diversity in Tech caucus. Rebecca Wright (seated, third from right), represented CRA-W on the panel.

Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) (at podium) introduces a briefing of the Diversity in Tech caucus. Rebecca Wright (seated, third from right), represented CRA-W on the panel.

At a briefing of the congressional Diversity in Tech Caucus,
hosted by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Capitol yesterday, CRA-W board member Rebecca Wright explained why efforts to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields — particularly computing — were worthy of continued Federal support. Wright, a professor of computer science at Rutgers University, was a member of a panel of experts assembled by the Diversity in Tech Caucus to explore the issue of diversity within the research and STEM Education communities.

 

Wright explained that a lack of diversity in the tech fields ought to pose a real concern for policymakers for three reasons:

  • A diverse talent pool working on tech problems leads to better tech outcomes — not only because you have a range of different perspectives that can be brought to bear on a problem, but because a diverse workforce understands the needs of a diverse populace and can help tailor solutions to them.
  • There’s an economic necessity — projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the demand for tech workers over the next ten years is likely serious, demand that won’t be met without increasing the draw from these underrepresented pools.
  • There are also social justice benefits of providing equal opportunities in these high-paying, high-skill jobs for women and other underrepresented groups.

She also detailed social science research conducted by CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline explaining some of the factors that underlie women’s low participation rates in computing fields, and gave examples of how a few key CRA-W programs, like the CRA-W Research Experiences for Undergraduates and CRA-W’s Grad Cohort programs do an effective job of addressing those factors.

Wright was joined on the panel by economist Adams Nager, from the Information Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF); Njema Frazier, a nuclear physicist, representing the National Society of Black Engineers; Gloria Washington, a computer scientist from Howard University (and recent CCC participant!), representing IEEE-USA;  and Janet Koster, from the Association of Women in Science. All hit similar themes and reiterated the call for continued Federal support for successful programs.

CRA-W board member Rebecca Wright addresses the Diversity in Tech Caucus.

CRA-W board member Rebecca Wright addresses the Diversity in Tech Caucus.

The Diversity in Tech caucus is a recently-formed bi-cameral, bi-partisan congressional caucus driven at the moment by Sen. Klobuchar who has taken a keen interest in improving workforce diversity in this key industry. The caucus hopes to sponsor more events to drill down into the policy details necessary for ensuring that the Federal government is doing what it can to help foster a more inclusive technology workforce. We’ll have all the details when they do.

Robotics Researchers Wow Congress with All Day Exhibition


On June 9th, the Congressional Robotics Caucus, with support from the National Science Foundation, held an all day event on Capitol Hill marking five years of the National Robotics Initiative (NRI). The event was broken up into a lunch briefing, where members of Congress and their staff would be able to hear from a panel of experts on the past accomplishment of the NRI and future challenges and benefits of continued funding of robotics research; and an afternoon exhibition of roboticists and their work, where guests were able to interact one-on-one with the researchers. CRA is a member of the steering committee for the Congressional Robotics Caucus.

Robotics Caucus - Rep Doyle - 6-9-16

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Robotics Caucus, delivers some remarks to the audience.

Some background on the NRI: launched in 2011, the goal of the initiative is to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside or cooperatively with people. The NRI is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The purpose of the program is to support the development of the next generation of robotics, to advance the capability and usability of such systems and artifacts, and to encourage existing and new communities to focus on innovative application areas. It addresses the entire lifecycle from fundamental research and development to manufacturing and deployment. In its first five years, the NRI has awarded more than $150 million to support over 230 projects in 33 states.

Greg Hager (center), chair of the Computing Community Consortium, speaks at the Congressional Robotics Caucus Hill event marking 5 years of the National Robotics Initiative.

Greg Hager (center), chair of the Computing Community Consortium, speaks at the Congressional Robotics Caucus Hill event marking 5 years of the NRI.

The lunch briefing had a distinguished list of panelists to speak on what the NRI has accomplished, the research challenges that still remain in the field, and what benefits the country can potentially reap from both past and future breakthroughs in robotics. Giving the perspective of the research community was the Computing Community Consortium chair, Greg Hager of Johns Hopkins University. Representing the federal funding agencies was Lynne Parker, co-chair of the NITRD Interagency Working Group on Robotics and Intelligent Systems. Giving the industry perspective was Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association. And finally, providing the perspective on the economic impacts and potential gains of robotics research was Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. The Congressional co-chairs of the Robotics Caucus, Representatives Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) also gave some remarks on the importance of continued federal funding of research in this area. It was a standing room only briefing, with the speakers fielding many questions from the audience of Congressional staffers and interested groups.

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Robotics Caucus, delivers some remarks to the audience.

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Robotics Caucus, delivers some remarks to the audience.

Dr. Hager had some thoughts on the return on investment of federal research dollars, which were pertinent to the discussion at the Capitol Hill event.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) is shown the robotics demonstration by Marica O'Malley of Rice University.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) is shown the robotics demonstration by Marica O’Malley of Rice University.

The afternoon of demonstrations were particularly well received. From Ekso Bionics’ exoskeleton; to the Robo Raven of Satyandra Gupta, of the University of Southern California; to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Cang Ye’s Co-robotic Cane, all the demos gave a picture of the benefits the country has reaped from the NRI, as well as giving an idea of gains still to come. Dozens of attendees kept the open house crowded for the entire day, with multiple members of Congress stopping by to see the exhibits. As well, the exhibition was the subject of a PBS News Hour segment, which showcased some of the researches and their robots.

All around, it was an excellent day for robotics researchers. Hopefully, the Representatives and their staff members walked away with a better idea of the benefits of the federal investment in robotics research.

Satoe SakumaSatoe Sakuma

CRA Welcomes Satoe Sakuma as its 2016 Eben Tisdale Fellow


By Satoe Sakuma, 2016 Eben Tisdale Fellow

Satoe Sakuma, 2016 Eben Tisdale FellowI am currently a rising senior at Boston University, double majoring in computer science and international relations with a focus in East Asian economics. I am very interested in high tech public policy, especially areas of cybersecurity, because it allows me to utilize both my areas of studies. My two very different majors are finally coming together during my last year as an undergraduate student through my acceptance into the senior honors program, which requires a year-long research project culminating with a thesis and defense. My thesis will examine data privacy laws in East Asia.

At Boston University, I am heavily involved in extracurricular activities that consume most of my time outside of the classroom. I was recently elected president of the Asian Studies Initiative at Boston University, which acts as a liaison for the faculty and students to promote Asian Studies through informative events, and Women in Computer Science, which provides a community as well as technical training for women in a male-dominated field. I am also involved in Boston University High Performance Computing (BUHPC), which competes in international competitions about the optimization of supercomputer applications. Through BUHPC, we ranked in the top 16 of 148 teams worldwide, and I was fortunate enough to travel to Wuhan, China to compete in the Asian Student Cluster competition in April.

Besides my hectic academic life, I find balance in yoga, traveling, and enjoying my time in nature. My travels this year include not only China, but also visiting the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE and scuba diving in Bali, Indonesia. Although Boston does not provide lush forests, the past three summers I was able to escape the busy city life in exchange for fishing in Kodiak, Alaska. If you think fishing is boring, like I used to, I highly recommend fishing for salmon and halibut in Alaska, which somehow never fails to make fishing thrilling.

I am honored to be an Eben Tisdale Fellow this summer and am really looking forward to working with CRA.

House Science Committee Passes NITRD Reauthorization!


UPDATE: The NITRD Reauthorization bill, now with the bill number H.R. 5312, passed on the floor of the full House of Representatives on Monday June 13th. The vote was 385 for and 7 against; it was passed under suspension, meaning that no amendments could be considered. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration; the timeline for that is not clear at this time (see original post for more details).

CRA was specifically called out by Chairman Smith for supporting the bill. CRA was joined in supporting H.R. 5312 by CompTIA, Information Technology Industry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, Texas A&M University System, and the University of Illinois.

Original Post: Today the House Science, Space, & Technology Committee unanimously passed the “Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Modernization Act of 2016” (note, as of press time, the act has not been assigned a bill number). The bill is written to update the High Performance Computing Act of 1991 and modernize the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program in line with recent recommendations from the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCast). In his opening statement, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) pointed out, “networking and information technology ultimately supports and boosts American competitiveness, enhances national security, helps strengthen the economy, and creates millions of jobs.” And in her own opening statement, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) concurred with Chairman Smith, saying, “when the original High Performance Computing Act was enacted in 1991, I don’t think any of its sponsors could begin to imagine how central networking and information technologies would become to our lives, and to our society.” After short debate, and only one non-controversial amendment, the bill was approved unanimously and is now headed to the full House for a vote.

The Computing Research Association submitted a letter of endorsement to the committee for the bill, saying that CRA is, “pleased to support your efforts to bolster Federal information technology research.” The letter further says:

We believe this Act makes the NITRD program stronger by improving the planning and coordination of the National Coordination Office for NITRD, requiring that the NCO and the NITRD agencies create a five-year strategic plan for the program, and requiring the periodic review and assessment of the program contents and funding. All have been recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology in their recent reviews of the program.

Looking ahead, since the legislation is bipartisan and non-controversial, it’s likely to pass the full House chamber. However, the bill’s fate in the Senate is less clear; when the House has passed similar NITRD reauthorizations in the past four Congresses, the Senate has failed to consider the legislation. We will continue to monitor the progress of this bill as it moves through Congress and will provide more updates as they happen.

NSF Funded Vision Assistance Technology Amazes at the 2016 CNSF Exhibition


On April 26th, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), an alliance of over 140 professional organizations, universities, and businesses, held their 22nd Annual Capitol Hill Exhibition. CNSF supports the goal of increasing the federal investment in the National Science Foundation’s research and education programs, and the exhibition itself is a great way to show members of Congress and their staff what research the American people have funded.

Gus Smith, left, demonstrates his visual assistance smart glove to France Cordova, NSF Director. Peter Zientra, right, looks on.

Gus Smith, left, demonstrates his visual assistance smart glove to France Cordova, NSF Director. Peter Zientra, right, looks on.

This year the Computing Research Association, a member of CNSF, sponsored the research group led by Vijaykrishnan Narayanan at Penn State University, demonstrated multiple pieces of technology under “Visual Shopping Assistance for Person with Visual Impairment.” Dr. Narayanan was assisted in exhibiting his group’s research by some of his students and colleagues: Nandhini Chandramoorthy and Peter Zientra, PhD students at Penn State; Ikenna Okafor and Gus Smith, both undergrad researchers at Penn State; Kevin Irick, a former faculty student at Penn State and current founder and CEO of SiliconScapes; and Laurent Itti, professor of computer science, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California. The group’s research has been conducted under their “Visual Cortex on Silicon” project, which is funded by NSF’s Expedition in Computing program.

Kevin Irick, right, demonstrates his visual assistance eyepiece to a exhibition attendee.

Kevin Irick, right, demonstrates his visual assistance eyepiece to a exhibition attendee.

There were two pieces of technology that the group demonstrated at the exhibition: a smart glove with tactile feedback and a visual assistance eyepiece. The smart glove was demonstrated by Ikenna Okafor and Gus Smith; the photo above with Mr. Smith and Francis Cordova, shows the device. You can view a demonstration of the glove on the research group’s website (first video). The device has a camera in the palm and interprets the visual data to detect a desired object and direct the user to it using tactile feedback in the glove. The eyepiece, demonstrated by Kevin Irick and Peter Zientra, interprets data to read the labels of products in a grocery store aisle and directs the user, using audio directions, to a specific item. You can see Kevin demonstrating the glasses, along with the mock grocery aisle, in the photo above. Both of these devices have major applications for visually impaired people, as well as other computer vision uses.

Laurent Itti, left, explains his research to Jim Kurose, Assistant Director of CISE at NSF.

Laurent Itti, left, explains his research to Jim Kurose, Assistant Director of CISE at NSF.

The final demonstration was performed by Laurent Itti of the University of Southern California, a member of the Visual Cortex on Silicon project. Dr. Itti demoed his visual attention, face detection, and object recognition algorithm, which is able to detect both faces and movement of people on the fly. Pointing a miniaturized camera at the passing crowd at the exhibition, the system was able to detect faces on anyone facing the camera and highlighted them with different colored boxes on the computer screen.

From left to right: Carol Frost, Division Director for the Division of Earth Sciences at NSF; Vijaykrishnan Narayanan, Penn State; Laurent Itti, University of Southern California; and Jim Kurose, Assistant Director for CISE at NSF

From left to right: Carol Frost, Division Director for the Division of Earth Sciences at NSF; Vijaykrishnan Narayanan, Penn State; Laurent Itti, University of Southern California; and Jim Kurose, Assistant Director for CISE at NSF

All of this work is supported from the CISE directorate at NSF. All three projects were well received by the attendees of the exhibition; in fact, the students fielded questions from Congressional staffers; NSF Program Officers; the Assistant Director of CISE, Jim Kurose; and even the NSF Director, France Córdova.

From left to right: Peter Zientra, Penn State; Nandhini Chandramoorthy, Penn State; Ikenna Okafor, Penn State; Jim Kurose, Assistant Director for CISE; and Gus Smith, Penn State.

From left to right: Peter Zientra, Penn State; Nandhini Chandramoorthy, Penn State; Ikenna Okafor, Penn State; Jim Kurose, Assistant Director for CISE; and Gus Smith, Penn State.

A number of other organizations had displays and were demonstrating NSF funded research at the event. From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s “Listening to Einstein’s Universe with LIGO,” to the American Economic Association’s “The Future of Data for Social Science Research,” to the American Mathematical Society’s “On the Movement of Cells, Birds, Fish and Other Agents: Mathematical Modeling in Biology and Ecology,” the exhibition was a great display of the different types of research being supported by NSF. Look here to see a list of some of the participating organizations and what a few of the exhibitors were presenting.

Artificial Intelligence for Social Good


This post originally ran on the Computing Community Consortium blog.

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is proud to announce a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and CCC co-sponsored public workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Social Good on June 7th, 2016 in Washington, DC.

There has been a dramatically increasing interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in recent years. AI has been successfully applied to societal challenge problems and it has a great potential to provide tremendous social good in the future. In this workshop, we will discuss the successful deployments and the potential use of AI in various topics that are essential for social good, including but not limited to urban computing, health, environmental sustainability, and public welfare.

Eric Horvitz, former CCC Council Member, will be a keynote speaker, discussing Artificial Intelligence in Support of People and Society. The full agenda will be published soon.

If you are interested in attending, please register here. The workshop will also be live streamed.

This is one of four workshops that OSTP is co-sponsoring which will be held around the country to spur public dialogue on artificial intelligence and machine learning and to identify challenges and opportunities related to AI. Proceedings from the workshops will feed into a public report on Artificial Intelligence that will be issued by OSTP later this year.

The other workshops are:

To learn more about the OSTP initiative and the other workshops, please see the White House OSTP blog post.


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