Archive for August, 2011


NSF Seeking US Ignite White Papers

August 30th, 2011

NSF seeking US Ignite white papers.(This post has been updated; please scroll down for the latest.)

The NSF’s CISE Directorate has issued a call for white papers for the new US Ignite initiative:

The National Science Foundation invites white papers from individuals and organizations (e.g., academic, non-profit, industry, associations, government agencies) that want to express particular interest in the US Ignite initiative — as a partner/resource/infrastructure provider; researcher/innovator for gigabit application development in areas of national priority; or as an entity willing to set up a not-for-profit to govern US Ignite resources in a public-private partnership…

» Read more: NSF Seeking US Ignite White Papers

A Summer Social Webshop

August 29th, 2011

The following is a special contribution to this blog by Alan Neustadtl, Jennifer Preece, and Ben Shneiderman, faculty at the University of Maryland at College Park, as well as Marc Smith of the Connected Action Consulting Group. The four co-organized a Summer Social Webshop on Technology-Mediated Social Participation in College Park, MD, last Tuesday through Friday.

Summer Social Webshop on Technology-Mediated Social ParticipationFuture leaders of social media research gathered at the University of Maryland at College Park Aug. 23-26 to hear from top researchers about Technology-Mediated Social Participation (TMSP), including the state of the art, emerging methodologies, and practical applications to national priorities.

Ed Chi (Google) addresses the Summer Social Webshop Thursday morning [photo by Ben Shneiderman].The Summer Social Webshop (@Webshop2011) — the result of a collaboration between the University of Maryland’s Human Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL), its College of Information StudiesSociology and Computer Science departments, and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, as well as the Social Media Research Foundation — brought together 40 doctoral students (chosen from 160 applicants) to hear and engage with more than two dozen leading researchers exploring digital social landscapes from a variety of perspectives. The students’ backgrounds spanned computer science, iSchools, sociology, communications, political science, anthropology, psychology, journalism, etc. — and their interests included social networking tools, blogs and microblogs, user-generated content sites, discussion groups, problem reporting, recommendation systems, mobile and location aware media creation, and other social media.

The workshop explored the many ways social media can be applied to national priorities such as health, energy, education, disaster response, political participation, environmental protection, business innovation, or community safety. Among the key goals:

» Read more: A Summer Social Webshop

SSTD 2011 Vision & Challenge Track Winners Announced

August 27th, 2011

Mohamed Mokbel, University of MinnesotaShashi Shekhar, University of MinnesotaThe following is a special contribution to this blog from Shashi Shekhar and Mohamed Mokbel, faculty in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Minnesota. The pair organized the 12th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases in Minneapolis, MN, this week.

We were delighted to host a successful Vision and Challenge Track at the 12th International Symposium on Spatial and Temporal Databases this past Wednesday through Friday. SSTD 2011 was the twelfth event in a series of biennial symposia that discuss research in spatial, temporal and spatio-temporal data management. This year’s SSTD program exhibited diversity across organizations (e.g., academic, industry, and government), career stage (e.g., graduate students, early-stage, mid-stage, and senior researchers), and research life-cycle (e.g., research papers, demonstrations, challenge/vision papers).

The Vision and Challenge Track invited submissions of short papers in the areas of interest of the main event that: 1) described revolutionary ideas that are likely to guide research in the near future; 2) challenged existing assumptions prevalent in the research community; and 3) identified novel applications and technology trends that create new research challenges. Of the 21 vision/challenge papers submitted, 8 were accepted.

Of these 8, three were chosen for CCC Headwaters awards. (As we believe many papers in the Vision and Challenge Track will be headwaters for influential rivers of follow-on discoveries, inventions, and research papers, we named the awards after the Mississippi River’s headwaters — the place within Minnesota where the mighty Mississippi begins its 2000-mile journey as a humble stream, ultimately becoming one of the longest and most powerful rivers in the world.) Prizes were provided for the first-, second-, and third-placed papers/presentations on the basis of the papers and subsequent presentations. The prizes took the form of travel reimbursement awards totaling $1,000, $750, and $500 for first, second, and third place, respectively.

The award-winners were (after the jump…):

» Read more: SSTD 2011 Vision & Challenge Track Winners Announced

Forecasting Hurricane Irene

August 26th, 2011

(This post has been updated; please scroll down for the latest.)

Satellite imagery, taken at at 3:15pm EDT, of Hurricane Irene as it approaches the Carolina coastline [image courtesy NOAA].Despite some slight weakening over the last few hours, Hurricane Irene is being called the “storm of a lifetime” — on its current path, it will affect over 65 million people in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. over the next 72 hours. Packing winds of 100 mph (as of this writing) and ocean waves in excess of 25 feet near its center, Irene looks every bit as ferocious as it sounds — and forecasters are warning of destructive flooding and wind damage.

And as those of us on the East coast prepare for the storm, at a cost of millions of dollars — there are now mandatory evacuations all along the coastline, flights are being cancelled, utility companies are deploying extra crews, etc. — there’s one question some are wondering:

Just how accurate is that forecast?

Our colleagues at IEEE Spectrum have penned a very timely story describing hurricane forecasting — driven by a variety of computational approaches and tools — and how it’s improved significantly in just the last five to 10 years:

» Read more: Forecasting Hurricane Irene

CISE Names Deputy Assistant Director

August 26th, 2011

The NSF’s CISE Directorate today announced the appointment of Cynthia Dion-Schwarz as the Deputy Assistant Director, effective Sept. 12:

Dr. Cynthia Dion-SchwarzDr. Dion-Schwarz will be joining us from the Department of Defense (DoD), where she served as the Director of Information Systems & Cyber Security Research in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. In this position, she was responsible for the strategic oversight of the science and technology research in Information Technologies and for serving as the program executive for research programs in tactical networked communications, software initiatives, cyber security, and high performance computing. She also served as the DoD representative to the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology. Dr. Dion-Schwarz was previously the Associate Director for Network Technologies in the Office of the Director of Information Systems. Her time at the Pentagon began when she was detailed as a Technical Advisor in the Office of Secretary of Defense, working to develop programs in communications networking and intelligence, from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA).


Dr. Dion-Schwarz joined IDA in 1998 as a researcher into wireless communications networks and sensor systems. From 2004-2006, she was Assistant Director in the Science and Technology Division at IDA, where she built vigorous research programs in communications networking, data analysis and bio-informatics, exploiting her diverse background in experimental physics, engineering, and theoretical mathematics to advance cutting edge projects for Defense and the Intelligence Communities. During her early academic career, she conducted research at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory.

» Read more: CISE Names Deputy Assistant Director

First Person: “Life as a NSF Program Director”

August 24th, 2011

Doug Fisher, Vanderbilt UniversityThe following is a special contribution to this blog by Doug Fisher, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering at Vanderbilt University. From July 2007 to August 2010, Doug served as a Program Director in the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) within NSF’s CISE Directorate. He has agreed to describe something of his life as a NSF PD so that others can judge whether it might be something they would like to try. To contact him, e-mail

In November 2006, I received a call from a colleague suggesting I apply for a PD opening at NSF. Prior to his call, I had determined to reorient my research in machine learning towards environmental applications. It didn’t take long to decide that NSF would be much more a retooling for, rather than a distraction from, this new direction.

The following March I gave my first job talk in 20 years. The talk included a retrospective of my research, teaching and professional service, but I was instructed that my work be a minority focus; I was to reflect on the works of others, attempting to express themes in, and visions for, my research and education community. I learned early that synthesis was highly valued at NSF. My themes included evolutionary specialization and competition as metaphors for incremental and transformative research agenda; my visions included the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, as well as the integration of ethics and contemporary issues into technical courses.

» Read more: First Person: “Life as a NSF Program Director”