Your faithful correspondent recently participated in the European Computer Science Summit 2009, the annual meeting of Informatics Europe (Paris, 8-9 October; http://www.informatics-europe.org/).
Informatics Europe was created five years ago as a European version of CRA (which is a North American association by charter). A recurring theme at this meeting was the concern that the European scientific research community still does not fully appreciate computing as an intellectually vibrant research discipline in its own right; instead the field is often viewed as an enabler of research in other disciplines. A number of discussions centered on ways in which the computing community can do a better job in explaining the field to others.
Informatics Europe is working on a series of additional initiatives of value to its members. It is beginning data collection analogous to the CRA’s Taulbee Survey and there are discussions on overseeing the process of departmental evaluation. Evaluation is a major issue in Europe, where departments are regularly and systematically evaluated under national government authority. The fear among computing researchers is that the evaluation process will be defined by a non-computing body using irrelevant or inappropriate standards. Therefore, Informatics Europe hopes to develop its own evaluation process and a list of potential evaluators. There was considerable discussion of the possibility that the end result would be a European-wide ranking of departments, an outcome that is generally not favored.
Overall, it was an interesting meeting and, being held in Paris, the food was quite above the typical conference fare, including wine with lunch. A further note – ACM chose this conference to announce the creation of ACM in Europe (http://dev.acm.org/test/europe/).
This report was contributed by Andrew Bernat, Executive Director of CRA.