This article is published in the September 2012 issue.

The Computing Community Consortium: Research Visioning – And How You Can Get Involved

Established six years ago through a Cooperative Agreement between CRA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) has sought to serve as a catalyst and enabler for the computing research community, providing mechanisms to encourage the community to identify compelling research visions for the future of the field, all the while attracting bright young talent and fostering development of the next generation of leaders.  During this time, the CCC itself has evolved – from a startup-like organization into a much more stable, long-term enterprise that empowers the field broadly.  This past spring, the CCC received a positive review from an independent peer review panel commissioned by NSF, and it is anticipated that a new Cooperative Agreement with support for another four years will be signed early this fall.  So as we embark upon a new period, we would like to revisit our core activity – community-wide visioning exercises that bring together members of our community to coalesce around research visions – and describe ways in which you can get involved.


We have employed several mechanisms for encouraging the generation of bold new research challenges and opportunities for the field, particularly in the context of national priorities like healthcare, energy, transportation, education, and national defense:

  • The CCC supports workshop programs that seek to define compelling visions for exciting frontiers of computer science (and related fields).  The workshop programs result in research roadmaps that are shared with Federal funding agencies.  Since 2007, the CCC has supported over a dozen such community-inspired visioning activities, and over half of these have resulted in new solicitations issued by Federal agencies.  For example, the CCC funded a visioning activity in the area of robotics research, including a series of workshops in late 2008 and 2009, followed by extensive discussions between the research community and government officials.  This effort resulted in a definitive report titled A Roadmap for U.S. Robotics:  From Internet to Robotics, developed by more than 100 robotics experts from academia and industry, that served as the basis for a new, multi-agency, $70 million investment in robotics called the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) announced in June 2011.  There are three ways in which these efforts come into existence:  (1) Members of the research community propose; the CCC works with them to formulate and carry out a plan.  (2) An agency comes to the CCC with a suggestion or request; the CCC assembles members of the research community.  (3) The CCC perceives an opportunity, and encourages the community to pursue it.  See a complete list of our latest visioning activities here.
  • The CCC funds Challenges and Visions Tracks at computing research conferences, encouraging outrageous, “out-of-the-box” thinking that could lead to transformative research frontiers.  Nearly a dozen such tracks have been funded to date – with authors of Best Papers within each track receiving travel awards.  Most recently, the CCC has partnered with several conferences to sponsor a set of computational sustainability challenges and visions tracks.  The goal is to promote work at the intersection of computing and sustainability, on principle and applications that address environmental, economic, and societal needs in support of a sustainable future.  These special CCC-sponsored conference tracks on computational sustainability are an outgrowth of a visioning workshop the CCC held in February 2011 in this space.
  • And the CCC solicits white papers that articulate key research challenges and make specific recommendations for Federal investment.  For example, a series of white papers produced for the Presidential Transition Team in fall 2008 was instrumental in shaping the initial activities of the current Administration.  As an example, an author of a white paper on “Re-envisioning DARPA” was tapped to lead a new office within that Department of Defense (DoD) agency.  A series of 8 white papers describing the promise of data mining, machine learning, predictive modeling, and related data analytics approaches – produced at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) – helped catalyze a $200 million Federal Big Data Research and Development Initiative, announced in March of this year.  Most recently, the CCC shepherded a white paper on 21st century computer architecture that served to define a compelling agenda for that community. See the complete list of CCC-led white papers produced over the last several years.

Computing for Disaster Management

This spring, the CCC funded Robin Murphy (Texas A&M University) and Trevor Darrell (UC Berkeley) to co-organize a workshop on computing for disaster management.  Together with a Steering Committee, they convened a group of 45 indivdiuals spanning computer science broadly – communications, social media, social science, sensors, visualization, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, robotics, high-performance computing, structural engineering, data mining, information retrieval, machine learning, geospatial databases, computing for economics, and game theory.  The primary goal was to formalize what we individually were seeing that made computing research for disasters unique. We each saw that disasters were more than an application area, yet required significant understanding of the larger socio-technical system in order to conduct research with broad impacts.  The resultant report, issued this summer, captures one vision of what it would take: a robust, multi-disciplinary community in which researchers partner with practitioners to tackle fundamental new research in socio-technical systems that enable decision making for extreme scales under extreme conditions.  The report describes what is meant by “critical real-time computing and information systems” (CRICIS), why it is different from existing research areas and paradigms, what its benefits to society and to science are, and what a broad investment portfolio and living roadmap facilitating the engagement of researchers from all disciplines might entail.

Like CRICIS, we have several visioning activities planned this fall, the majority of which have been inspired by proposals submitted by members of the computing research community. Check out the CCC Blog for updates.

How You Can Get Involved

To achieve its goals, the CCC relies heavily upon the participation of the broader computing research community.  Besides formulating a visioning proposal or white paper, or organizing a challenges and visions track at an upcoming research conference, here are three quick and easy things you can do today to become involved in CCC:

  • Submit a “highlight” describing your most recent exciting research result.  Over the last several years, the CCC has showcased a “Computing Research Highlight of the Week” every Thursday, showcasing a cool new research finding in the previous week.  This fall, the CCC will expand this effort with a new feature called “Transforming the Future:  Computing Research Breakthroughs.”  Every month, the CCC will select one submission to be featured in a short (two- to four-minute) “spot” video segment.  On-site production and editing costs will be covered, and the lead researcher for the selected project will receive a $1,500 travel award to be used for an upcoming conference or workshop.  Videos will be disseminated widely through CCC’s websites and network.  If you have a research result that you would like considered for this feature – or for our Highlight of the Week – submit it here.  Press releases by your lab, department, or university press office are welcome!
  • Help us get the word out about the remarkable achievements of the field over the last several decades, as well as the potential for the future.  This past spring, the CCC organized a daylong symposium in Washington, DC, marking 20 years of the Federal government’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, providing a framework and mechanisms for coordination among 15 Federal agencies that support networking and information technology R&D.  Attended by over 150 Federal officials, Congressional staffers, academic researchers, and industry leaders packed a room overlooking the United States Capitol, the symposium featured an excellent collection of short technical presentations reviewing the progress and promise of the field.  Shortly after the symposium, the CCC launched a new website with complete materials from this extraordinary day – including videos, photos, slides, and written summaries from the 19 15-minute presentations by leaders of the field, plus the luncheon keynote by former Vice President Al Gore, a longtime champion of information technology R&D, and special remarks by former Congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.), also a champion of our nation’s investments in fundamental R&D.  Please check it out – and help us disseminate this resource by circulating it throughout your labs, classrooms, departments, and beyond.
  • Put together a short video describing exciting computing research that encourages undergraduates to pursue computer science.  Many undergraduates lack a clear understanding of computing research; often they believe it involves writing really large, complicated, even cumbersome programs.  As part of a broader effort to encourage students to pursue computer science, the CCC is assimilating a collection of short videos that provide undergraduates with concrete, compelling examples of current research in computer science – described in ways that inspire and engage them.  A video can be as short as one minute or as long as five minutes.  The CCC will fund up to $1,000 to cover expenses (e.g., time for one or more graduate students to make a video).  For the full solicitation, visit.  And be sure to check out the videos that have already been funded.  At least one, called Exploring Photobios, which aired by a local TV news station last summer.

To learn more, check out a new brochure and video that we have developed describing the CCC and our various activities.  And please take a quick moment to subscribe to the CCC Blog, a constant source of news and information for and about the computing research community.
We hope to see you involved soon!

The Computing Community Consortium: Research Visioning – And How You Can Get Involved