This article is published in the June 2015 issue.

CS in DC: Randy Bryant, Assistant Director, IT R&D, OSTP

Randy_BryantRandy Bryant is currently the Assistant Director, Information Technology Research and Development at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). While at OSTP, Bryant is on sabbatical from Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a University Professor in the Computer Science Department (with a courtesy appointment in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department). He served as dean of the School of Computer Science from 2004 to 2014.

Bryant has been at OSTP since August 2014.

What do you do in your current position? What do you hope to accomplish in your time in D.C.?

OSTP has two concerns: the technology and science behind government policy (e.g., what should the government do about climate change) and the policy behind science and technology (e.g., working with the National Science Foundation on its budget priorities). My role at OSTP concerns the latter. I’m working on initiatives in high-performance computing and big data.

Since I’m at OSTP for only 11 months, I feel the best way for me to have a lasting impact is to work with other people in OSTP on existing initiatives. If something comes out where I can identify tangible contributions I’ve been able to make, I will consider the year to be a success.

How did you find out about the opportunity, and how were you chosen?

I volunteered! I first came to know about OSTP by serving on the Council of CRA’s Computing Community Consortium (CCC). The CCC received requests by people in President Obama’s transition team to write white papers on the impact that big data could have on different aspects of government and society. I got involved in writing some of those papers, and that led to my interest in government policy and my contacts within OSTP.

How can the computing community participate in your work?

I’m hoping some of the initiatives that I’m working on will lead to important research opportunities in the coming decade. I’d like to see the computing research community get involved in defining future generations of high-performance computing systems and addressing challenges in both the hardware and the software.

What are your thoughts on the experience so far?

I’ve found people in government to be remarkably generous in their time and attention. Beyond my own field, it’s been an opportunity to learn about the issues being faced in domains ranging from high-energy physics to infectious disease.

As part of CRA’s mission to help the computing research community become more engaged in policymaking and programmatic roles in D.C., we’ve embarked on a new effort to highlight the work of members of the computing research community who have taken the plunge and chosen to serve the nation in policymaking roles. This new column will provide these policymaking researchers an opportunity to highlight work that the community should know about, as well as raise awareness of the types of opportunities that are available to those interested in serving.