Another Year, More Dollars
For the fifth—and probably last—year, it is my honor on behalf of the NSF and CISE to welcome you back after what I hope was a productive and relaxing summer. The coming year promises to be an important one for NSF and CISE, so in addition to commenting briefly on the year past I want to highlight some issues for the coming year.
I have received a number of comments—almost all positive—on my article in the May 2006 issue of CRN (http://www.cra.org/CRN/issues/0603.pdf). I’m very pleased that it struck a responsive chord, and even more pleased to report that we are making good progress on the Computing Community Consortium (described in the May issue of CRN) and GENI (www.nsf.gov/cise/geni/ and www.geni.net). We expect an award to be made very soon to create the Consortium and we also expect to release a solicitation to establish a GENI Project Office (GPO) in early fall. As we plan the FY08 budget request to Congress (which will be made public in February), we are paying close attention to how we can help the community tackle bigger and bolder projects.
Speaking of budget, the FY08 outlook in general is quite positive. The American Competitiveness Initiative emphasizes the importance of basic research and highlights in a number of ways the work that CISE supports. It is important that you not only let us at NSF know of how your research is having impact (by sending us cogent results of your research and education projects, keeping us generally informed, and proposing great research and educational activities), but also by making sure that those in your community have an understanding of how your research and educational work makes a difference.
Looking back, FY05 granted us a bit of a reprieve in terms of funding success rates and we anticipate that FY06 will finish at a similar level; we plan to have a fuller report in the November issue of CRN. On the other hand, as I hope you understand, looking at only a single year’s data is imperfect at best—the timing of competitions, the fact that proposals submitted in one fiscal year may be funded in another, changes in community behavior, all impact success rates. That said, there is no question that funding is much tighter now than it was five or ten years ago and is something we must all continue to work on.
The creation over the past year of NSF’s new Office of Cyberinfrastructure has gone as smoothly as could be expected. The Deputy AD for CISE, Dr. Deborah Crawford, served as the Acting Director from last July until this June when Prof. Dan Atkins assumed the position of Director/OCI. CISE is working closely with OCI to ensure that their efforts are well informed and that the results of CISE-supported research make their way into deployed cyberinfrastructure as quickly as possible.
While a direct successor to the very successful ITR initiative is not foreseen, I continue to hear of computer scientists who are working with scientists in other domains utilizing a variety of funding sources. Indicative of this is that at this summer’s Snowbird meeting, when a speaker asked a plenary session how many in the audience had engaged in such interdisciplinary work, a sizeable fraction of the room raised their hands and indicated, in response to a subsequent question, that they would like to continue such work. We do emphasize our support of those who are trying to develop new generations of concepts and tools that will be fundamental to the progress of all of science and engineering. If you haven’t, I encourage you to read http://research.microsoft.com/towards2020science/downloads.htm .
Another topic that was addressed at Snowbird was the coming shortage (yes, shortage!) of CS graduates at all levels. I will address this topic in more detail in a column in the future, but let me note, with the advantage of more than forty years in the field, that we know enrollments are cyclical, but that the spread of computer-science-related topics continues its relentless increase in importance to our society. This is something that CISE will be addressing in an upcoming solicitation.
CISE supported a small, but successful, tour of Chinese universities and labs late this spring that I believe was an eye-opener for those who participated. This was a start at what we are planning to be a heightened and more focused emphasis on international activities involving those who seek funding from CISE.
Two other areas on which we hope to place more emphasis are software design and productivity, and IT and innovation. Regarding the former, we are discussing how to best build on our existing programs in Science of Design, Software Engineering, and related areas. Regarding the latter, we have brought to CISE as a Visiting Scientist a distinguished researcher and educator, Dr. Mary Lou Maher, to help us formulate efforts that will both enable the use of IT-related concepts and tools in the innovation process generally, and the use of creativity/innovation enablers in the process of creating IT-intensive systems.
The CISE Advisory Committee (AC) has given us broad, strategic guidance over the past year, and we will be seeking more of the same in the coming year. Professor Al Aho of Columbia University will be leading the AC again this year, and we are in the process of appointing a new group of members. I will be asking them to help us address strategic issues in the coming year, and I encourage you to interact with the AC members to express your views and assist them in helping CISE. Our meetings are always public and are posted on our website in advance. The next meeting will be held at NSF on October 19-20, 2006.
Regarding CISE personnel, we are very pleased that Prof. Haym Hirsh of Rutgers University will begin as Division Director of IIS in October. We will be posting recruitments this fall for the other two Division Director positions to be filled within a year as Dr. Wei Zhao ends his rotation and Dr. Michael Foster ends a three-year term and assumes other responsibilities. Dr. Suzi Iacono, who has been acting DD/IIS since Dr. Michael Pazzani left to become VP Research at Rutgers, will return to the front office of CISE as a senior advisor.
A distinguished search committee was appointed by the Deputy Director of NSF and has submitted to her a short list of candidates to replace me within the year. The Office of the Director conducts that process and anticipates identifying a new AD/CISE before next summer, at which time I will transition out of NSF to pursue a variety of professional and personal activities.
Last September in this column I wrote:
Computer science, the disciplines based on it, and the students and results that flow from your efforts are at the heart of everything from economic development to national defense to better human communication. Yet, the future will see developments that even we cannot imagine. We are exceedingly fortunate to spend our time on something that is so important and also so much fun. Yet, with that comes great responsibility to utilize our resources strategically for the benefit of all and to lead, not only technologically, but also in helping to guide the productive use of the wonders that come from our efforts.
That statement is even truer today as our Nation faces increased challenges on all fronts.
Be bold and have a great year!
Peter Freeman (pfreeman [at] nsf.gov) is the Assistant Director of NSF for CISE.