This article is published in the November 2020 issue.

2020 Quadrennial Papers: Socio-Technical Computing and Diversity & Education

CRA released its third set of 2020 Quadrennial Papers, part of a series of white papers produced though its subcommittees, exploring areas and issues around computing research with the potential to address national priorities over the next four years. These Quadrennial Papers attempt to portray a broad picture of computing research detailing potential research directions, challenges, and recommendations for policymakers and the computing research community. This release focused on papers around the themes of Socio-Technical Computing and Diversity & Education. Previously, CRA has released papers in the Core Computer Science and Broad Computing themes.

The two Socio-Technical Computing white papers released in this set were organized by CRA’s Computing Community Consortium and focus on the intersection of computing technologies and society, in particular disinformation and data control. While the benefits of computing technologies are manifest, these papers highlight a call for increased understanding of how to avoid the myriad ways these technologies can also go wrong. From algorithmic mischief and disinformation, to the privacy cost of “big data,” these papers highlight challenges that need addressing if we are to move computing research in a more socially-responsible direction.

The three papers in the Diversity and Education theme, organized by CRA’s Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP) and Committee on Education (CRA-E), address “people” issues in computing. The three papers describe issues around and make recommendations to improve the production of domestic PhDs, the need to establish pathways for post-graduates in non-computing disciplines to obtain computing skill, and new approaches for diversifying the computing workforce through graduate education.

Brief descriptions, author details, and links to the Quadrennial Papers released in this set are included below. For a complete list and brief descriptions of upcoming and past releases, check the CRA Quadrennial Papers page.

Socio-Technical Computing

An Agenda for Disinformation Research
Authors: Nadya Bliss (Arizona State University), Elizabeth Bradley (University of Colorado, Boulder), Joshua Garland (Santa Fe Institute), Filippo Menczer (Indiana University), Scott Ruston (Arizona State University), Kate Starbird (University of Washington), and Chris Wiggins (Columbia University)

This paper describes a multi-disciplinary research agenda incorporating disinformation detection, education, measurements of impact, and a new common research infrastructure to combat disinformation and its effects upon the US and the world.

Modernizing Data Control: Making Personal Digital Data Mutually Beneficial for Citizens and Industry
Authors: Sujata Banerjee (VMware Research), Yiling Chen (Harvard University), Kobbi Nissim (Georgetown University), David Parkes (Harvard University), Katie Siek (Indiana University Bloomington), and Lauren Wilcox (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Via the Internet and IoT systems, there is an increasing amount of data being collected on individuals every day. This paper dives into the big questions related to this phenomenon, such as who owns the data, the implications for using, controlling, and quantifying the data, and, most importantly, how to best protect citizens’ privacy.

Diversity and Education

New Pathways for Workforce Diversification
Authors: Raja Kushalnagar (Gallaudet University), Maria Gini (University of Minnesota), and Patty Lopez (Intel Corporation)

Diversity enhances computing creativity. This paper recommends computing workforce diversification support through proven strategies of funding Masters programs at institutions committed to diversity, such as Minority Serving Institutions and Special Institutions, or in providing stipend funding for women, black, indigenous and other people of color, or people with disabilities for Masters or undergraduate research programs.

Addressing the National Need for Increasing the Domestic PhD Yield in Computer Science
Authors: Susanne Hambrusch (Purdue University), Lori Pollock (University of Delaware), Ran Libeskind-Hadas (Harvey Mudd College), and Christine Alvarado (University of California, San Diego)

The continuing demand for PhDs in computer science combined with this instability of international student participation requires bold action to increase the number of domestic students completing a PhD in computer science, especially as the percentage of domestic PhD students has decreased from 69 percent in 1985 to 37 percent in 2018. This report presents bold ideas on how government, industry, and academia can take action to engage domestic students to enter PhD programs and retain them through graduation. It focuses on increasing opportunities and funding for undergraduate research, creating new pathways into PhD programs, engaging students from admissions through PhD, and strengthening industry’s role in increasing the number of PhDs in CS.

Fostering a Postgraduate Tech Boom
Authors: Jan Cuny (Northeastern University), Andrea Danyluk (Williams  College), and Holly Rushmeier (Yale University)

In order to maintain its political and economic position in the world, and for that position to benefit its citizens, the United States must build and retain the strongest and most innovative tech talent at all levels. While the CS4All movement is increasing the preparation of current K-12 students for future tech careers, the U.S. cannot wait for future generations to fill the current tech gap. Today’s post-graduate population represents a valuable untapped resource for the country’s workforce needs. This paper outlines opportunities and requirements to fill the tech gap with individuals who bring to the field a diversity of experience and perspectives to fuel innovation, as well as overcome problems of social justice and equity.

2020 Quadrennial Papers: Socio-Technical Computing and Diversity & Education