It is with great pleasure that I am writing this contribution to CRN in my new capacity as the Assistant Director (AD) of NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. It’s an incredible privilege, and I’m honored and excited to begin serving the community in this role.
These are exciting and important times for our field. It’s a time of great advances within the core of computing, as well as unprecedented opportunities for research at the interfaces between computing, cyberinfrastructure, and many other disciplines. Within our core, we are seeing myriad advances in the increasingly intelligent computing systems that have become so inextricably woven into our lives; in the scale, functionality, effectiveness, security and resiliency of these systems; and in At the interfaces, computing plays a central role in recent national initiatives such as the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the National Big Data Research and Development Initiative, the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), US Ignite, and more. Taken together, our research and education investments are central to addressing national priorities, including health and well-being, environmental sustainability, public safety, advanced manufacturing, transportation, clean energy, and education and workforce development.
On campuses across the country, our discipline is becoming phenomenally popular. The numbers of computer and information science and engineering undergraduate majors are soaring, and our courses are in high demand from all students, many from other disciplines. Computational thinking is being widely embraced today. Indeed, we are seeing many students moving far beyond computational fluency and into our more advanced courses. The confluence of computing, statistics, and domain applications in numerous emerging data sciences programs is helping to fuel this interest.
I spent much of this past fall serving as an expert at NSF, becoming acquainted with leadership and staff at NSF and other agencies, and participating in several key meetings. The breadth and quality of CISE activities, and the innovations and discoveries throughout our community are breathtaking (and I write this even having served on the CISE Advisory Committee for a number of years, where I was able to understand the directorate at a deeper level). In thinking about the future, let me highlight a few key areas for our community:
CISE has a long history of working across boundaries to create meaningful, lasting partnerships that leverage our investments and interests in mutually beneficial ways. Partnerships with private industry, non-profits, and other government entities, including state and local governments, are an important means to grow the impact of our research and education efforts. A new report published this past fall by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, “Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream,” which I highly recommend, points to partnerships as a critical means to ensure America’s standing as an innovation leader. CISE has already established a number of exceptional partnerships (e.g., with other federal agencies, the private sector, non-profits, international funding organizations, and many others), and we will continue to highlight and build on the momentum of these partnerships in 2015. Partnerships can serve to further strengthen our core research areas, which remain critical to our discipline, as well as to build bridges with other disciplines and application areas.
CISE education and workforce development activities provide another compelling example of the power of partnerships. The numerous collaborations among NSF, state and local governments, industry partners, and non-profits such as Code.org – all building on NSF’s efforts over the past decade to increase access to computer science at the K-12 levels – were on full display at the December 2014 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) event for CS Education Week. Of course, our community’s challenges extend beyond K-12. The surging enrollments of undergraduates in computing – both from CS majors and non-majors alike – provide a challenge for many CS programs. However, they also represent an important national need and an opportunity for our community in preparing a data- and computationally-empowered workforce. This is especially true in light of the pervasive nature of computer and information science and engineering across nearly all disciplines in academia and across all sectors of society.
The demand for advanced computing infrastructure is also on the rise. Cyberinfrastructure is crucial to enabling U.S. research and education across all fields of study. To meet the diverse needs of many research areas, it is critical to support cutting-edge cyberinfrastructure (computing, data, software, and people) at all scales – from sustained petascale capabilities to mid-range cloud computing and increased capacity. Two very important activities are ongoing this year in this area. The first is a National Academies study entitled, “Future Directions for NSF Advanced Computing Infrastructure to Support U.S. Science and Engineering in 2017-2020,” for which an interim report was published in October 2014. The second activity is the formulation of an interagency advanced computing strategy led by OSTP.
We have much to look forward to in the year ahead! On that note, I want to take the opportunity to thank Farnam Jahanian for his leadership during his tenure as the CISE AD. I am extremely lucky to be following him – he’s built a solid foundation for the growth that our community is experiencing now and into the future, and he’s assembled and led a remarkable, talented, and dedicated team at NSF. I also want to thank Suzi Iacono, who provided steady stewardship and leadership of the directorate as Acting AD during the transition this past fall.
I’m looking forward to working with you during my tenure as CISE AD at NSF. Working together, we can build upon decades of advances and continue to push forward the frontiers of computer and information science and engineering and meet important national needs, with the power to change the world for decades to come. You will be hearing from me regularly as we move into this exciting future together.