One of the visioning activities supported by the CCC is exploring the possibility of a compelling research agenda in the theoretical, experimental, and societal aspects of “network science and engineering” (NetSE). A NetSE Council has been established. It’s chair, Ellen Zegura, provides this brief status report on the NetSE Council’s activities.
Thanks for the opportunity to update the community on what has been happening recently with the Network Science and Engineering (NetSE) effort, from my perspective as chair of the NetSE Council.
Let me explain my take on NetSE with an anecdote from my Georgia Tech colleague Mike Best based on a recent trip he made to Africa. Mike and his group met with a group of chiefs of the Acholi people in Northern Uganda. This is an area that has suffered through profound conflict and lacks for essentially any communication technology. Mike and his team wanted to engage in participatory design to understand the existing communication needs, unmet needs and requirements, and latent requirements.
They were very cautious not to influence the conversation towards modern communication technologies so they did not mention specific systems. But after about thirty minutes of this exercise one of the chiefs finally stated, “We want the internet. Unless you have something better.”
To me, NetSE is about the potential for something better. That isn’t to take away from how incredible the Internet is, but that success has led to a dependence on an infrastructure that we understand surprisingly little about. Figuring out what “better” means and how we might get there is a challenge that is intellectual, economic, political and social. In other words, hard, but incredibly important.
The last couple of months have been busy for the NetSE community. Five workshops and meetings have taken place since mid-June covering Network Design and X, where X has been Network Science, Societal Values, Theoretical Computer Science, Behavioral Economics, and Network Engineering. The goal of these activities has been to add to all the good work on research opportunities done under the auspices of GENI, but without the yoke of justifying a large facility.
NetSE is shaping up to be strongly disciplinary AND interdisciplinary. There remain major challenges and opportunities in the core disciplines of networking and distributed systems, as well as across disciplines in and out of CISE. For example, technology advances are producing the ability to program all the way down to the photon or RF wavelength. How can and should future networks take advantage of programmability at this extreme? In the interdisciplinary vein, there are important and exciting opportunities at the intersection of human behavior and network behavior. How should home networks be structured so that mere mortals can deploy and manage them?
Over the next couple of months, we will be synthesizing the output of the various activities into a NetSE research agenda that will include recommendations to funding agencies about what is needed to advance the agenda. You can watch for updates on the NetSE page hosted by the CCC at www.cra.org/ccc/netse.php.
– Ellen Zegura is Professor and Chair of Computer Science, School of Computer Science, College of Computing, at the Georgia Institute of Technology.