Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

OSTP Announces Grand Challenges Conference;
CCC Seeking Your Topic Ideas

April 10th, 2012 / in big science, policy, research horizons / by Erwin Gianchandani

Yesterday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced that it will convene a Grand Challenges conference this summer, highlighting the “progress the Administration has made on existing Grand Challenge initiatives” and recognizing “new commitments and actions by Federal agencies, companies, philanthropists, universities, and non-profits to set and meet Grand Challenges.” To aid with the Administration’s quest, today the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is calling on the computing research community to submit ideas for Grand Challenge topics.

In a blog post yesterday, OSTP Deputy Director for Policy Tom Kalil and Assistant Director for Grand Challenges Cristin Dorgelo wrote:

A number of organizations are already demonstrating the power of setting sights on Grand Challenges. The Gates Foundation has made important commitments through its Grand Challenges in Global Health. Duke University and the University of Southern California have partnered with the National Academy of Engineering in a Grand Challenge Scholars Program that enables students to organize research and learning around an engineering Grand Challenge. IBM has driven advances in computing and artificial intelligence with Watson beating Ken Jennings at JEOPARDY! and Deep Blue beating Kasporov at Chess. Google is making significant investments in self-driving cars, building on the technical advances stimulated by the DARPA Grand Challenge.


This Administration believes that the Grand Challenge model has great potential to do even more. Companies and philanthropies could sponsor major incentive prizes designed to address a Grand Challenge. Angel, venture, and impact investors could back start-ups that are pursuing Grand Challenges. Large companies could partner with these startups by serving as early customers and providing capital, mentoring, and milestone-based payments. And media companies and other storytelling enterprises could help elevate the role that Grand Challenges and innovators play in our culture –and help make engineers and entrepreneurs the rock stars of the 21st century.

In our view, considering the examples specified above, suitable Grand Challenge topics must:

  • Be easily grasped (even though there may be underlying details);
  • Help solve important economic and societal problems, often through high-impact, multi-disciplinary collaborations;
  • Capture the public’s imagination;
  • Have a clear test for whether/when it has been accomplished;
  • Create a foundation for future industries and jobs; and
  • Inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

If you have suggestions for Grand Challenge topics, please leave a comment below or e-mail We’d like your input by Friday, April 27th.

And to learn more about OSTP’s summer conference, see the announcement here.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

OSTP Announces Grand Challenges Conference;<br>CCC Seeking Your Topic Ideas