Capitol building in Washington DCAs part of its mission to develop a next generation of leaders in the computing research community, the Computing Research Association’s Computing Community Consortium (CCC) announces the third offering of the CCC Leadership in Science Policy Institute (LiSPI), intended to educate computing researchers on how science policy in the U.S. is formulated and how our government works. We seek nominations for participants.

LiSPI will be centered around a two day workshop to be held April 27-28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Full details of LiSPI are available at: http://cra.org/ccc/spi.)

LiSPI will feature presentations and discussions with science policy experts, current and former Hill staff, and relevant agency and Administration personnel about mechanics of the legislative process, interacting with agencies, advisory committees, and the federal case for computing. A tentative agenda is viewable from the link above. LiSPI participants are expected to

  • Complete a reading assignment and a short written homework prior to attending the workshop, so that time spent at the workshop can focus on more advanced content,
  • Attend the April 27-28th workshop, which includes breakfast both days, lunch, and a reception with the speakers and invited guests at the conclusion of the first day, and
  • Complete a small-group assignment afterwards that puts to use the workshop content on a CCC-inspired problem–perhaps writing an argument in favor of particular initiative for an agency audience, or drafting sample testimony on a CCC topic.

LiSPI is not intended for individuals who wish to undertake research on science policy, become science policy fellows, or take permanent positions in Washington, DC. Rather, we are trying to reach work-a-day academics who appreciate that our field must be engaged in helping government.

The CCC will provide funds for hotel accommodations for two nights of local expenses (hotel, meals) for the April 27-28 workshop. Nominees are expected to pay their own travel expenses, though there will be a limited fund available for participants who cannot attend unless their travel is provided.

Eligibility and Nomination Process

LiSPI participants are expected to have the experience and flexibility in their current positions to engage with government. University faculty members should be from CS or IS departments and be post-tenure; industrial researchers should have comparable seniority. Participants should be adept at communicating. They must be nominated by their chair or department head and must have demonstrated an interest in science policy, especially as it relates to computer science (and closely allied fields).

Specifically, the nomination process is as follows:

  • A chair or department head proposes a LiSPI candidate by visiting the nomination page and providing the name and institution of the nominee, along with a letter of recommendation.
  • The candidate will then be contacted by the CCC and asked to submit a CV, a short essay detailing their interests in science policy, and an indication of whether they would require financial aid to attend.

All nominations and material from nominators and nominees must be received by December 22, 2014.

Selection Process

The LiSPI selection committee will evaluate each nomination based on record of accomplishment, proven ability to communicate, and promise. Selections will be announced by January 15, 2015. We plan to open the workshop to 60 participants.

Please discuss this opportunity with your colleagues, identify those you believe would be interested in participating, and submit nominations!

Organizing Committee:

Fred B. Schneider, Cornell
Chair, CRA Government Affairs Committee

Peter Harsha, CRA
Director of Government Affairs

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With their wildly successful 2013 drive under their belt, Code.org is ready to reach even more students with their 2014 Hour of Code (HOC) campaign. This year’s HOC, featuring Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, will be a one-hour activity where students, “will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa create snowflakes and magical ‘ice craft,’ while also learning logic, math and cultivating creative confidence.”

In last year’s campaign, 20 million students participated, which is 1 in 4 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and half of the students who participated were girls. At a Congressional hearing in early 2014, touting the success of the campaign, Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi said, “more students participated in computer science during Computer Science Education Week 2013 (of which, the Hour of Code campaign was a part) than had ever taken computer science in the history of our K-12 system.” And for 2014, Code.org is hoping to more than double those numbers.

The goal this year is to get 50 million girls to participate in the HOC. As stated in their announcement, “the girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students.” And with three weeks before the weeklong event, Code.org has an excellent jump start by already signing up over 40,000 classrooms worldwide.

I know I’ll be getting my middle-school-aged niece to sign up, along with myself, and I highly encourage all of our readers to do the same. Sign up now! And start coding too!

Five leading computing societies and associations today released a letter they’ve jointly sent to House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressing their fivecomputingsocietiesconcern over mischaracterizations of research on information diffusion in online social networks at Indiana University. The work has come under fire from Smith and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who believe it may represent an affront to free speech. (Jeffrey Mervis in Science Magazine has good coverage of the controversy.) The joint letter argues that the work is focused on significant problems in computer science and calls on the committee to consult subject-matter experts and not rely on media mischaracterizations as they investigate the work further.

The letter reads:

November 4, 2014

To: The Honorable Lamar Smith, Chair; The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ranking Member; House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Johnson,

As representatives of the computing community, we are dismayed by recent mischaracterizations and misplaced criticisms of research on information diffusion in online social networks at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at Indiana University. This work is focused on significant research problems in computer science, and in no way represents “a Federally-funded assault on free speech.”

The research project is a scientific study of how information spreads in social networks – a communication landscape that is fundamentally different than anything that has come before. It uses automated sentiment analysis algorithms and other network analysis tools to study real-time Twitter streams of millions of publicly available tweets to attempt to understand how information is spread across the network.

The work can help internet users discover where information they glean from the web or social networks has come from – did it arise organically, did it originate from authoritative sources, or has it been spread by bots designed to “game” social networks and spread misinformation? The work can provide great value to internet users in the U.S. by helping them understand the source of the messages they receive, allowing them to potentially avoid malware or phishing attacks.

The work can also have great value to other researchers studying the flow of information across the network, including a better understanding of why some memes travel faster than others, and how bad actors can game the network to their advantage.

And we believe the work can have value to national security and law enforcement as well: helping explain how movements organize across the globe using these new communication tools, helping understand the effectiveness of government communications for disaster preparedness and response, and helping authorities understand how frauds propagate.

We do not believe this work represents a threat to free speech or a suppression of any type of speech over the internet. The tools developed in the course of this research are capable of making no political judgements, no prognostications, and no editorial comments, nor do they provide any capability for exerting any control over the Twitter stream they analyze. The work is not a database tracking hate speech, or even defining it. It simply visualizes the patterns of flow of publicly available information in the Twitter stream.

We ask that as you exercise your oversight responsibilities over the National Science Foundation, which funded much of this research, you call on subject-matter experts to help guide your investigation and not let media mischaracterizations of the work color your effort. We commend you for your long support of fundamental computer science research and your appreciation of the value of the Federal investment. We trust that your investigation will draw on your long experience with the computing community, and we stand ready to help in any way that we can.

Sincerely,

Dr. J Strother Moore
Chair
Computing Research Association (CRA)

Dr. Thomas G. Dietterich
President
Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)

Dr. Alexander L. Wolf
President
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

Dr. Irene Fonseca
President
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

Dr. Brian Noble
President
USENIX Association (USENIX)

cc:
Members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology;
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy;
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi;

Update (11/7/14): The letter has generated some positive press.