Archive for November, 2010


Call for CCC Council Nominations

November 29th, 2010

The Computing Community Consortium today issued a call for nominations for individuals to serve on the CCC Council for the next three years.  The deadline for nominations is December 15.  See complete details — including nominating instructions — below.

What questions shape our intellectual future? What attracts the best and brightest minds of a new generation? What are the next big computing ideas – the ones that will define the future of computing, galvanize the very best students, and catalyze research investment and public support?

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is charged with mobilizing the computing research community to answer these questions by identifying major research opportunities for the field, and by creating venues for community participation in this process. The CCC supports these efforts through advocacy with federal agencies, through visioning activities such as workshops, through arranging plenary talks on key topics at major venues, and through other community building activities.

The CCC is funded by the National Science Foundation under a cooperative agreement with the Computing Research Association (CRA). The work of the CCC is carried out by an active and engaged Council, currently chaired by Ed Lazowska with Susan Graham as vice-chair, which reports to the CRA board. The members of the Council are appointed by CRA in consultation with NSF, with staggered 3 year terms. In the aggregate, the Council must reflect the full breadth of the computing research community – research area, institutional character, etc. Details on the role of CCC, as well as the current composition of the Council, may be found at

The nominating committee invites nominations (including self-nominations) for members to serve on the CCC Council for the next three years. Please send suggestions, together with the information below, to Eric Grimson by December 15. The committee’s recommendations will serve as input to CRA and NSF, who are responsible for making the final selection.

1.  Name, affiliation, and email address of the nominee.

2.  Research interests.

3.  Previous significant service to the research community and other relevant experience, with years it occurred (no more than *five* items).

4.  A brief biography or curriculum vitae of the nominee.

5.  A statement from the nominee of less than 1 page, supporting his or her nomination by describing his or her ideas for, and commitment to, advancing the work of the CCC in engaging broader communities, finding wider funding sources, and encouraging new research directions. Remember that the CCC needs truly visionary leaders — people with lots of great ideas, sound judgment, and the willingness to work hard to see things to completion.

CNN Labs: Sensors in Healthcare

November 20th, 2010

CNN Labs:  Sensors monitor older people at home []CNN’s John Sutton has written a really great article describing sensor networks — and how they’re radically altering the way older patients lead their lives.  John describes how sensor networks — installed in mattresses or on doors, refrigerators, etc. — are being used to monitor motion and vital signs, and to look for breaks in people’s normal routines.  And these networks are linked to the Internet, so they can alert friends, family members, and doctors anytime something seems awry.

It’s a terrific exposé about how far we’ve come in an area of health IT research

The sensors know when Charlton Hall Jr. wakes up to go to the bathroom. They know how much time he spends in bed. They watch him do jigsaw puzzles in the den. They tattle when he opens the refrigerator.

Sound like a Big Brother nightmare?

Not for Hall. The 74-year-old finds comfort in monitored living.

“It’s a wonderful system for helping older people to stay independent as long as possible,” he said, sitting in the living room of his 7,500-square-foot house, a sensor watching him from an elaborate bookshelf. “They know where I am — all the time.”

The systems — which can monitor a host of things, from motion in particular rooms to whether a person has taken his or her medicine — collect information about a person’s daily habits and condition, and then relay that in real-time to doctors or family members.

If Hall opens an exterior door at night, for example, an alert goes out to his doctor, a monitoring company and two of his closest friends, since he doesn’t have family nearby.

“They want to know if I’ve fallen, and where I am,” he said, noting that he’s fallen several times in recent years and also has a chronic heart condition and diabetes.

…but also illustrative of more we have yet to do…

Bob Jennings’ dad, Robert Jennings, now 86, didn’t take to the idea kindly.

“I don’t need that damn thing,” Bob Jennings recalls his dad saying.

But if it meant he could stay in his house, he would agree to it.

The younger Jennings said the system has proven useful…

But it’s not clear Robert Jennings understands the system.

Check out the full article here:

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

The future of social networking

November 19th, 2010

To Facebook message or to e-mail? Facebook message.

At least that was the conclusion of a report from Nielsen Online published earlier this year, which found that, through 2008, people spent more time on social networking websites than they did in their e-mail accounts.  While the revelation wasn’t too surprising, it was an important milestone in the history of the Internet.  Add to that a Sheraton Hotels survey this week, which reported that 60% of us use social media — not cell phones or e-mail — to communicate with loved ones when we’re traveling, and it’s clear that the Facebooks and Twitters of the world are here to stay.

IEEE Computer November 2010 special issue:  Technology Mediated Social Participation [Courtesy IEEE]In light of this increasing prevalence of social media, this month’s IEEE Computer is very timely.  In a special issue titled Technology-Mediated Social Participation (or TMSP for short), guest editors Peter Pirolli (Palo Alto Research Center), Jenny Preece (University of Maryland), and Ben Shneiderman (University of Maryland) — working with teams of prominent colleagues — lay out a roadmap for long-term R&D, education, and policy, describing the key questions and challenges for building upon existing tools to foster even wider, more in-depth social participation, address national priorities, and, perhaps most importantly, mitigate the potential dangers associated with these technologies.

Calling for a “National Initiative in Social Participation,” Peter, Jenny, and Ben describe the “deep science questions with profound theoretical impacts on human use of technologies.  Computer science challenges include scalable network analysis algorithms, effective visualizations that guide moderator decisions and community organizer activities, and universal usability to support diverse users and platforms. … Data-driven visual analytics would enable tracking and ranking evolving networks, agent-based simulations, and searching for distinctive and common features in large networks.”  They go on to highlight the “strong research opportunities” in areas like collective intelligence, collective action, social creativity, social dilemmas, as well as around basic principles such as privacy, freedom, and identity — all of which influence design decisions and social participation.

Among the areas of national significance for TMSP:  open government; health 2.0; education; traditional media (i.e., TV newscasts and newspapers) literacy; and person-to-person diplomacy.

The IEEE Computer special issue is the result of a pair of workshops in December 2009 and April 2010 funded by the National Science Foundation — an activity, the trio point out, that itself emerged from the grassroots efforts of academic, industrial, and government participants.

I encourage you to check out the entire issue.

Update 11/7/2010: Ben Shneiderman and Jenny Preece will be speakers at a December 1 New America Foundation event in Washington, DC:  Technology, Social Innovation, and Civic Participation:  What’s the Next Step? The session — Wednesday, Dec. 1, 3:30-4:45pm, at the New America Foundation at 19th & L Streets, NW — is open to the public; register here today!

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

Presidential Early Career Awards… The Value of a CS Education… and More

November 12th, 2010

Lots of interesting stories this past week of relevance to the field:

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

On Tuesday, the White House announced the names of 85 early-career researchers who will receive the government’s highest honor for young scientists and engineers — the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE awards were established in 1996 and are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Awardees are selected on the basis of their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology as well as their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Among this year’s awardees, at least 12 are in computer science or allied fields:

– Scott Aaronson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
– Eugenio Culurciello, Yale University
– Andrew A. Houck, Princeton University
– Manolis Kellis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
– Bradley A. Malin, Vanderbilt University
– Jose H. Blanchet Mancilla, Columbia University
– Emilia Morosan, Rice University
– Reza Olfati-Saber, Dartmouth College
– Eric Pop, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
– Michelle L. Povinelli, University of Southern California
– Rahul Ramachandran, The University of Alabama in Huntsville
– Edo Waks, University of Maryland, College Park

For a complete list of awardees, see the official White House press release. More information about NSF’s nominees, including detailed descriptions of the game-changing research they are conducting, can be found here.

Congratulations to all of the 2010 PECASE recipients!

“Decoding the Value of Computer Science”

On Sunday, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a terrific article contributed by Kevin Carey describing the importance of computational thinking in everyday life — and warning that we’re failing our next generation when it comes to teaching such lifelong principles. Carey writes:

In The Social Network, a computer-programming prodigy goes to Harvard and creates a technology company in his sophomore dorm. Six years later, the company is worth billions and touches one out of every 14 people on earth.

Facebook is a familiar American success story… But it may also become increasingly rare. Far fewer students are studying computer science in college than once did. This is a problem in more ways than one.

The signs are everywhere. This year, for the first time in decades, the College Board failed to offer high-school students the Advanced Placement AB Computer Science exam. The number of high schools teaching computer science is shrinking, and last year only about 5,000 students sat for the AB test. Two decades ago, I was one of them.

I have never held an information-technology job. Yet the more time passes, the more I understand how important that education was. Something is lost when students no longer study the working of things.

He goes on to articulate multiple examples of computational thinking from his own life, comparing a misplaced semicolon in an early Pascal program he wrote to a sports car with a single piston out of line; describing how he rewrote from first principles a financing formula for Indiana’s school districts, and watched as the formula became law months later (“good public policy and good code, it turned out, go hand in hand”); and noting how “writing a great deal in a short amount of space” harks back to the days NASA coders had to fit every procedure for a space-probe into tiny chunks of memory (“writing, in other words, is just coding by a different name”).

The entire story is a must-read — — as it jives quite nicely with the themes of Computing in the Core and CS Education Week.

Advances in quantum computing

Also this week, The New York TimesJohn Markoff wrote about recent advances in quantum computing.

The President discusses mHealth while visiting India

And on Tuesday at the mHealth Summit — a conference co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to explore ways mobile technology can increase the access, quality, and efficiency of healthcare — Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s Chief Technology Officer, delivered President Obama’s recent remarks about the power of research and development in mHealth:

…in many rural areas in the United Sates, it’s hard sometimes to get to a hospital… and to the extent that we can use technology to provide people with basic health information, in some cases simple diagnoses, that can save people time, it can save the government money, and we can end up with better health outcomes.

Another featured speaker, Bill Gates, talked a bit about the inherent complexity of biological systems, how computation is changing the way we study these systems, and how the drug discovery landscape is likely to be “utterly different just 10 years from now.”

About 2,500 researchers, technologists, and policymakers from around the world engaged in mHealth attended the Summit in Washington, DC, Monday through Wednesday.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

Ed Felten Named FTC’s First Chief Technologist

November 5th, 2010

Ed Felten, Princeton University (image courtesy Princeton)Our colleague Ed Felten, Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs and the founding Director of the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University, yesterday was named the first Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission. He starts this full-time gig January 1, 2011.

Ed, who has been advising the FTC as a part-time consultant, will add “unparalleled expertise on high-technology markets and computer security,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement announcing his hiring. “And he also will provide invaluable input into the recommendations we’ll be making soon for online privacy, as well as the enforcement actions we’ll soon bring to protect consumer privacy.”

For more information, see Princeton’s announcement or The Washington Post‘s Post Tech Blog.

Congratulations to Ed!

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

A Review of NITRD

November 4th, 2010

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) today unanimously approved a draft report reviewing the 14-agency, $4 billion Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program. The 14-person working group that assisted with the biannual review, completed this summer, was co-chaired by Ed Lazowska (full disclosure: Ed is Chair of the CCC Council) and PCAST member David Shaw.

In their summary of the major findings during a public session of PCAST in Washington, DC, this morning, Ed and David noted how networking and information technology (NIT) has greatly enhanced our nation’s economic competitiveness, all the while significantly accelerating the pace of discovery in all fields. They further emphasized how this impact of NIT arises from a deep tradition of fundamental research in NIT, in which the Federal government plays a critical role. Moreover, NIT research “is now squarely at the center of the nation’s ability to achieve many of its important priorities,” Ed said, “from improved healthcare to improved energy efficiency to improved transportation systems, national security, education, and open government.”

Among the research recommendations, the report calls for new long-term, multi-agency basic research initiatives for health information technology, energy and transportation, and cybersecurity. Other important new frontiers that are highlighted include high-performance computing, privacy and confidentiality, large-scale data analytics, human-computer interaction (including social computing, crowdsourcing, etc.), graphics and visualization, robotics, scalable systems, and software development. In addition, education of the next-generation workforce is critically important.

For a complete recap of this morning’s presentation — including detailed recommendations for the structure and role of the National Coordination Office (NCO), which oversees NITRD — as well as highlights from the rest of the PCAST meeting, please visit CRA’s Policy Blog.

I also encourage you to view an archived webcast of the NITRD talk here.

Update 11/7/2010: For an approximate transcript of Ed’s remarks to PCAST, click here.

(Posted by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)