CCC: The CRA in Action
CRA is all about ensuring that the future of computing research is even brighter than the past has been. The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is one of CRA’s prime mechanisms for doing so with the goal of creating such compelling research visions that researchers, funders, policy folks, students and the public become engaged. CCC is pursuing several strategies which are discussed in detail on its website www.cra.org/ccc. Here we’d like to provide some highlights with the goal of enticing you to explore more about CCC and then to become engaged in its current activities or to propose new ones.
CCC is a nimble activity, always ready to pounce on opportunity. Administration transitions provide a great opportunity to influence strategic directions, and CCC did just that by creating a set of “transition documents” which highlighted computing research areas that were ripe for impact (and funding). As typical in Washington, the request from OSTP was for documents that were brief and could be provided within a few days. Thus there was no possibility for a community-wide approach with vetting, etc. Instead, well-known research leaders were approached to contribute and they did—generating 19 documents (http://www.cra.org/ccc/initiatives.php) that provided guidance for how the computing fields can help drive the Administration’s innovation priorities forward. Did they have impact? We’ve been told that they did; perhaps the best measure is the ultimate Washington indicator—do they show up in the President’s budget request? See CRA’s Government Affairs blog (http://www.cra.org/govaffairs/index.php) for the good news.
CIFellows represents a second example of quick response to conditions. At the start of 2009 it became clear that the economy was in bad shape, leading to a highly likely negative impact on faculty and researcher hiring. Discussions started in January, and by the end of February a team was organized to put together a proposal to NSF to fund post-doctoral positions for the most highly qualified new PhDs in order to keep them in the computing research field. But the team quickly decided that this program could have a very positive impact on a much broader range of institutions than typically participate by ensuring that no more than two researchers either came from or went to any one institution. In this way, broad participation and impact was ensured—bridges would be built between diverse institutions.
A proposal was developed and submitted in March, funded in early May, and the selection process was completed by early July—seven months from concept to contracts! Nimble indeed. [See http://cifellows.org/ and The Computing Innovation Fellows Project: Strengthening the Field in Difficult Times.]
One of the Administration’s signature issues has been health care—and improving health care requires solving deep issues in computer science. Following the Administration’s wishes, federal agencies are working together on this issue, and they asked CCC to organize a workshop to discuss the role of computing research in health care. Susan Graham took the lead on this responsibility, and http://www.cra.org/ccc/healthit.php gives both the video record and the highlights of the results of the workshop. The workshop output has evolved into a funded research program (http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=1436&mode=2).
Each of these three activities has the same key characteristic—none was on the horizon even a few months before it showed up. Reacting quickly takes an existing infrastructure, and CRA is providing that infrastructure through CCC.
But it’s not all about reacting, it’s also about creating. CCC has engaged in two main creative thrusts. The first is supporting research communities in asking “What questions shape our intellectual future? What are the key questions in your research domain and how should researchers go about answering them? To date, CCC has supported 11 visioning activities. Some are just under way; others have progressed beyond developing blueprints for a research future and are, with CCC support, actively seeking funding to enable that future. All are covered (http://archive.cra.org/ccc/activities.php), along with the call for you to develop new visioning activities (http://www.cra.org/ccc/vision.php).
To build support for additional research funding, it is imperative that we engage funders and staffers in our visions. “Computing Research That Changed the World” was designed to do just that. This one-day symposium, held in the Members Room of the Library of Congress, featured thirteen talks by research leaders in key areas of computing research, research that impacts the lives of people everywhere. And each talk highlights the enormous possibilities as we continue to explore these areas. The talks were videoed and are available on YouTube and (in higher quality) on the website (http://archive.cra.org/ccc/locsymposium.php) along with summaries of each talk. Permission is given to freely make use of each talk (for non-commercial purposes) so they are good to go in the classroom, for recruiting, for explaining to family and friends exactly what it is you do, for …
As CCC begins its third year of activity, we wish to thank those who have served on the governing Council and who have now rotated off: Greg Andrews, Dick Karp, Peter Lee, Andrew McCallum, Karen Sutherland, David Tennenhouse and Dave Waltz. And we welcome those who joined the Council in January: Randy Bryant, Lance Fortnow, Hank Korth, Eric Horvitz, and Margo Seltzer. These folks are working to create futures that will benefit all computing researchers!