This article is published in the January 2008 issue.

The Computing Community Consortium: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How


Computing Research News interviews Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, and Chair of the Computing Community Consortium. Short articles on the CCC in its formative stages appeared in the November 2006 and May 2007 issues of CRN.

Computing Research News:  Begin by describing the Computing Community Consortium. What is its role?

Ed Lazowska: The National Science Foundation created the Computing Community Consortium with the goal of stimulating the computing research community to imagine, articulate, and pursue more audacious research visions—visions that will capture the imagination and change the world. The CCC is funded through an NSF award to the Computing Research Association; the CCC’s Council operates as a committee of CRA.

CRN:  Who is on the CCC Council? How were they chosen?

EL:  The CCC Council comprises a Chair and 15 members on staggered 3-year terms.  Members of the Council are listed on the CCC website: http://www.cra.org/ccc/ . The Council was chosen through an open process led by Randy Bryant, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. I chair the Council (this selection, too, involved an open process led by Randy), and Susan Graham from UC Berkeley serves as Vice Chair.

CRN:  What’s the role of the Council?

EL:  The Council serves as a facilitator. It is the computing research community as a whole that must imagine, articulate, and pursue more audacious research visions. The Council helps the process in various ways.

CRN:  How?

EL:  We’re in the early stages—the Council was appointed six months ago, after an open process that engaged the entire computing research community. Here are some examples:

  • The CCC sponsored a set of five plenary talks at the Federated Computing Research Conference in June—talks by Christos Papadimitriou, Bob Colwell, Randy Bryant, Scott Shenker and me that described specific research visions for the field. See http://archive.cra.org/ccc/fcrc/.
  • The CCC is providing support for “visioning workshops” organized by members of the computing research community. Sponsorship can be obtained through a lightweight proposal process; the first awards have already been made, and we were excited by the level of participation. Seehttp://archive.cra.org/ccc/rfp/.
  • We will coordinate closely with funding agencies so we can help to transition visionary ideas into funded programs.
  • We are preparing an inspirational website and booklet describing a wide range of research visions for the field. We are also initiating a blog where the entire research community can participate in real time.

CRN:  How does the CCC relate to CRA and to NSF?

EL:  CRA and CCC both are concerned with the health of the computing research community—CRA in a broad-based way, and CCC with a narrower focus on research visions. One way to view the relationship is that NSF, by funding the CCC through CRA, has provided CRA and the computing research community with the means to dramatically expand our efforts in this particular area. The relationship between CCC and CRA is extremely close: Andy Bernat serves as the Executive Director of both organizations, the Chair of the CRA Board is an ex officio member of the CCC Council, and several members of the CCC Council (including myself) are current or former CRA Board members.  NSF funds the CCC through a “cooperative agreement,” meaning that we consult closely with NSF on all of our activities. Dick Karp from UC Berkeley, Chair of the NSF CISE Advisory Committee, is a member of the CCC Council, as are several other members of the CISE AC. Jeannette Wing, NSF AD for CISE, and a number of other CISE personnel participate in CCC activities in various ways.

CRN:  What about other funding agencies?

EL:  We’re developing those relationships, with NSF’s strong encouragement. The CCC Council includes individuals with strong ties to DARPA and the Department of Energy. We need to exploit these ties and develop ties with NIH and other agencies, as well as with industry (there are several industry members on the Council) and with international partners.

CRN:  What’s the relationship between CCC and GENI?

EL:   GENI—the Global Environment for Networking Innovation—is an initiative of NSF and the computing research community that pre-dates the CCC, but is an example of one sort of activity that the CCC might facilitate in the future. In 2004, CISE supported a community-based workshop to identify barriers to disruptive innovation in networking research, and to propose strategies to surmount them. Responding to the workshop recommendations, CISE established the Future InterNet Design (FIND) program to advance research on disruptive network architectures, and announced the GENI initiative to enable a process that would lead to specifications for what the workshop participants termed a “meta-testbed”—a large-scale research instrument that the workshop participants deemed necessary to tackle some of the most crucial questions related to networking. FIND is a research program. GENI is envisioned as a research instrument. NSF charged the CCC with establishing the GENI Science Council (GSC), whose job is to create the strongest possible research plan, and to ensure that any instrument that might be constructed enables the research plan to be carried out. There was a brief status report on GENI in the September 2007 issue of CRN.

CRN:  Who’s on the GENI Science Council?

EL:  Like the CCC Council, the GSC was established through an open process, which I led.  It includes 19 eminent computer scientists from a variety of fields, and is chaired by Ellen Zegura of Georgia Tech. The members are listed on the CCC website:  http://www.cra.org/ccc/.

CRN:  Will the research visions stimulated by the CCC all have the scale of GENI?

EL:  Certainly not. The computing research community needs to identify the research directions that will shape the intellectual future of the field; the agendas that will catalyze research investment and public support; and the visions that will attract the best and brightest minds of a new generation. Some of these may require substantial research instrumentation; others will not. The role of the CCC is to help the community advance all of these visions. Our field has accomplished so much, and there is so much more to do. The opportunities are extraordinary.