Click for next page ( 2


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
Executive Summary As an academic discipline, computer science and engineering (CS&E) has been remarkably successful in its first decades of existence. But both the intellectual focus of academic CS&E and the environment in which the field is embedded are today in the midst of significant change. Accordingly, a proactive look forward will better prepare the field to evolve into the 21st century. The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board's Committee to Assess the Scope and Di- rection of Computer Science and Technology was asked to take such a look, examining how best to organize the conduct of research and teaching in CS&E for the future. THE BACKDROP Computers and computing are ubiquitous in modern society. In nearly every part of modern life, the hardware and software of com- puter technology enable the delivery of services and products of higher quality to more people in less time than would otherwise be possible. Indeed, computing and increasingly powerful computers are the driving force behind the movement of society into the information age, af- fecting transportation, finance, health care, and most other aspects of modern life; computing technology and related services account for about 5 percent of the gross national product. 1

OCR for page 1
2 COMPUTING THE FUTURE What has led to the unprecedented expansion of computational power? The contributions of those who have made successive gener- ations of electronic components smaller, faster, lighter, and cheaper are undeniable. But the organization of these components into useful computer hardware (e.g., processors, storage devices, displays) and the ability to write the software required to exploit this hardware are primarily the fruits of CS&E. Further advances in computer power and usability will also depend in large part on pushing back the frontiers of CS&E and will be motivated by a myriad of applications that can take advantage of these advances. CS&E research, in which the academic CS&E community has played a major role, has made enormous contributions to computing prac- tice, and insights derived from such research inform the approach of programmers and machine designers at all levels, from those design- ing a still-faster supercomputer to those programming a small per- sonal computer. Techniques and architectural themes developed or codified by CS&E are familiar to every developer of software and hardware, concepts like programming languages, compilers, relational databases, reduced-instruction-set computing, and so on. Moreover, as the complexity of computing has grown, so also has the need for well-understood concepts and theories with which to manage this complexity. Indeed, entirely new CS&E research problems and op- portunities today are created by rapid technological advances in com- puting. Whereas intuitively grounded insight was often sufficient to lead to substantial progress in the earliest days of the field, a system- atic approach has become increasingly important. Thus the impor- tance of CS&E research to computing practice can only be expected to increase in the future. Federal support for CS&E research has been critical. From its initial support of CS&E research for strictly military purposes, the federal government now invests considerable amounts ($680 million in FY 1991) in basic and applied CS&E research for both military and civilian purposes; about 46 percent of this $680 million went to aca- demic research. Such support is a strong indication that the federal government recognizes the importance of CS&E research to the mis signs of many government agencies as well as to the welfare of the nation. However, growth in funding, substantial though it has been in recent years, has not kept pace with the growing need for a science base to create, control, and exploit the potential of ever more power- ful computer systems. Nor has funding kept pace with the growth in the number of academic CS&E researchers; in the academic com

OCR for page 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3 munity, the ratio of funding per researcher has dropped by over 20 percent since 1985. Such trends have led to substantial concern within this community that resources are inadequate to support a research agenda vigorous enough to exploit advances and address problems as they arise. Decreasing per capita amounts of federal research funding are only one aspect of a new environment for academic CS&E. Assump- tions of the 1940s and 1950s regarding the positive social utility of basic research (i.e., research without foreseeable application) are be- ing questioned increasingly by the federal government, and justifica- tions for research may well in the future require concrete demonstra- tions of positive benefit to the nation. An illustration of this possible trend is that the High Performance Computing and Communications Program, a program initiated in FY 1992, calls for CS&E research specifically in the context of solving "fundamental problems in sci- ence and engineering, with potentially broad economic, political, and/ or scientific impact, that could be advanced by applying high perfor- mance computing resources.") In addition, another major influence on academic CS&E, the com- puter industry, is undergoing massive change as it shifts from sales based on large mainframe computers affordable by only a few insti- tutions to "computers for the masses," i.e., smaller computer systems that are increasingly portable and interconnectable to each other or to information service providers, and most probably embodying new computing styles such as pen-based computing. Such a trend will increase the importance, already considerable, of being able to intro- duce new products on a much shorter time scale. At the same time, customers are demanding greater degrees of functionality from their computer systems. New computing technology will have to be fitted to customer needs much more precisely, thus placing a premium on knowledge of the customer's application. New applications of com- puting will also lead to new CS&E research problems. Finally, computing has resulted in costs to society as well as ben- efits. Amidst growing concern in some sectors of society with re- spect to issues such as unemployment, invasions of privacy, and reli- ance on fallible computer systems, the computer is no longer seen as an unalloyed positive force in society. These changes in the environment for academic CS&E mark a critical juncture for the discipline. It is rapidly becoming clear that, although academic CS&E has enjoyed remarkable success in the last several decades, the ways of the past will riot necessarily lead to success in the future.

OCR for page 1
4 COMPUTING THE FUTURE JUDGMENTS AND PRIORITIES In considering appropriate responses of CS&E for the future, the committee examined the current state of the field and made several important judgments that guided its work. The first and foremost judgment was that CS&E is coming of age. Although as an organized and independent intellectual discipline the field is less than 30 years old, it has established a unique paradigm of scientific inquiry that is applicable to a wide variety of problems. Indeed, the committee believes that this history arid resulting strength should enable academic CS&E to recognize that intellectually sub- stantive and challenging CS&E problems can and do arise in the con- text of problem domains outside CS&E per se. CS&E research can be framed within the discipliners own intellectual traditions but also irk a manner that is directly applicable to other problem domains, as illustrated in Table ES.1. CS&E can thus be err engine of progress TABLE ES.1 Importance of Core Subfields of CS&E to Selected Applications Application Global Change Computational Commercial Electronic Research Biology Computing Library Multiple processors Very Central Important Very important important Data communications Central Important Central Central and networking Software engineering Important Nlery Central Important Important Information storage Central Very fiery Central and management important important Reliability Very Important Very Important important important User interfaces Very Very Central Central important important NOTE: The core subfields listed above constitute a future research agenda for CS&E. As significantly, they are important to, and can derive inspiration and challenging problems from, these selected application domains. The core subfields correspond to areas in which major qualitative and quantitative changes of scale are expected. These areas are processor capabilities and multiple-processor systems, available bandwidth and connectivity for data communications and networking, program size and com- plexity, management of large volumes of data of diverse types and from diverse sources, and the number of people using computers and networks. Understanding and manag- ing these changes of scale will pose many fundamental problems in CS&E, and using these changes of scale properly will result in more powerful computer systems that will have profound effects on all areas of human endeavor.

OCR for page 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5 and conceptual change in other problem domains, even as these do- mains contribute to the identification of new areas of inquiry within CS&E. Second, the strong connections between CS&E research and com- puting practice led the committee to conclude that at least within CS&E, the traditional separation of basic research, applied research, and development is dubious. Given the way research in CS&E is practiced, -distinctions between basic and applied research are espe- cially artificial, since both call for the exercise of the same scientific and engineering judgment, creativity, skill, and talent. Finally, the committee concluded that the growing ubiquity of computing within society places a premium on the largest possible diffusion of CS&E expertise to all endeavors in society whose com- puting applications stress the existing state of the art. However, the primary vehicle for such diffusion-undergraduate CS&E programs is highly variable in content and quality, largely due to rapid ad- vancements in the field. It is imperative that undergraduate CS&E education reflect the best knowledge and insight that the field has to offer if computing is to reach its full potential within society. These judgments led to the committee's formulation of a set of corresponding overall priorities. The first priority is to sustain the core effort in CS&E, i.e., the effort that creates the theoretical and experimental science base on which computing applications build. This core effort has been deep, rich, and intellectually productive and has been indispensable for its impact on practice in the last couple of decades. The second priority is to broaden the field. Given the many intellectual opportunities available at the intersection of CS&E and other problem domains and a solid and Rigorous core effort in CS&E, the committee believes that academic CS&E is well positioned to broad- en its self-concept. Such broadening will also result in new insights with wide applicability, thereby enriching the core. Furthermore, given the pressing economic and social needs of the nation and the changing environment for industry and academia, the committee be- liexres that academic CS&E must broaden its self-concept or risk be- coming increasingly irrelevant to computing practice. The third priority is to improve undergraduate education in CS&E. The quality of undergraduate CS&E education is inextricably tied to the state of computing practice in all sectors of society. More- over, better undergraduate education is necessary for better research, since it is necessary for transmitting recently developed core knowl- edge to the next generation and for providing the intellectual basis in CS&E for individuals pursuing a broader research agenda.

OCR for page 1
6 COMPUTING THE FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS (A SUMMARY) In the interests of brevity, this summary of recommendations omits many substantive details. Readers are urged to read the full text of the recommendations in Chapter 5. To Federal Policy Makers Regarding Research Recommendation 1. The High Performance Computing and Com- munications (HPCC) Program should be fully supported through- out the planned fire-year program. The HPCC Program is of utmost importance for three reasons. The first is that high-performance computing and communication are essential to the nation's future economic strength and competi- tiveness, especially in light of the growing need and demand for ever more advanced computing tools in all sectors of society. The second reason is that the program is framed in the context of scientific and engineering grand challenges. Thus the program is a strong signal to the CS&E community that good CS&E research can flourish in an applications context and that the demand for interdisciplinary and applications-oriented CS&E research is on the rise. Arid finally, a fully funded HPCC Program will have a major impact on relieving the funding stress affecting the academic CS&E community. Consis- tent with Priority 1, the committee believes that the basic research and human resources component of the HPCC program is critical, because it is the component most likely to support the research that will allow us to exploit anticipated technologies as well as those yet to be discovered through such research. The committee is concerned about the future of the HPCC Pro- gram after FY 1996 (the outer limit on current plans). If the effort is not sustained after FY 1996 at a level much closer to its planned FY 1996 level than to its FY 1991 level of $489 million, efforts to exploit fully the advances made in the preceding five years will almost cer- tainly be crippled. In view of the long lead times needed for the administration's planning of major initiatives, the committee recom- mends that funding necessary for exploitation of recently performed research and the investigation of new research topics be fully as- sessed sometime during FY 1994 with an eye toward a follow-on HPCC Program. Recommendation 2. The federal government should initiate an effort to support interdisciplinary and applications-oriented CS&E research in academia that is related to the missions of the mission

OCR for page 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY oriented federal agencies and departments that are not now major participants in the HPCC Program. Collectively, this effort would cost an additional $100 million per fiscal year in steady state above amounts currently planned. Many federal agencies are not currently participating in the HPCC Program, despite the utility of computing to their missions, and they should be brought into the program. Those agencies that support substantial research efforts, though not in CS&E, should support in- terdisciplinary CS&E research, i.e., CS&E research undertaken jointly with research in other fields. Problems in these other fields often include an important computational component whose effectiveness could be enhanced substantially by the active involvement of researchers working at the cutting edge of CS&E. Those agencies that do not now support substantial research efforts of any kind, i.e., operationally oriented agencies, should consider supporting applications-oriented CS&E research because of the po- tential that the efficiency of their operations would be substantially improved by some research advance that could deliver a better tech- nology for their purposes. Such research could also have consider- able "spin-off" benefit to the private sector as well. To Universities Regarding Research Recommendation 3. Academic CS&E should broaden its research horizons, embracing as legitimate and cogent not just research in core areas (where it has been and continues to be strong) but also research in problem domains that derive from nonroutine comput- er applications in other fields and areas or from technology-trans- [er activities. The academic CS&E community should regard as schol- arship any activity that results in significant new knowledge and demonstrable intellectual achievement, without regard for whether that activity is related to a particular application or whether it falls into the traditional categories of basic research, applied research, or development. Chapter 5 describes appropriate actions to implement this recommendation. Recommendation 4. Universities should support CS&E as a labo- ratory discipline (i.e., one with both theoretical and experimental components). CS&E departments need adequate research and teach- ing laboratory space; staff support (e.g., technicians, programmers, staff scientists); funding for hardware and software acquisition, main- tenance, and upgrade (especially important on systems that retain

OCR for page 1
8 COMPUTING THE FUTURE their cutting edge for just a few years); and network connections. New faculty should be capitalized at levels comparable to those in other science or engineering disciplines. To Federal Policy Makers Regarding Education Recommendation 5. The basic research and human resources com- ponent of the High Performance Computing and Communications Program should be expanded to address educational needs of cer- tain faculty. The program described in Chapter 5 to address these needs is estimated to cost DO million over a four-year period. Of particular concern are two groups: CS&E faculty who are not themselves involved in CS&E research and researchers from other scientific and engineering disciplines that depend on computation. Many of these individuals received their education in computing many years ago and are unfamiliar with new paradigms in CS&E devel- oped over the last decade or so. They would benefit from exposure to these paradigms, and such exposure could well have a major impact on the quality of undergraduate CS&E education in the United States, as well as on the nation's ability to use computing in support of other . . . science ant ~ englneerlng. The committee believes that senior academic CS&E researchers have an obligation to participate actively in providing such continu- ing education efforts. Mechanisms to encourage their attention to these matters need to be developed; one example is that research funding could be used to some extent to encourage participation in these efforts. To Universities Regarding Education Recommendation 6. So that their educational programs will re- flect a broader concept of the field, CS&E departments should take the following actions: (a) Require Ph.D. students either to take a graduate minor in a non-CS&E field or to enter the Ph.D. program with an undergraduate degree in a non-CS&E field, (b) encourage Ph.D. students in CS&E to perform dissertation research in nontradi- tional areas, (c) offer undergraduate students not majoring in CS&E a wide range of CS&E courses and programs, and (d) provide mecha- nisms to recognize and reward faculty for developing innovative and challenging new curricula that keep up with technological change and make substantive contact with applications in other domains.

OCR for page 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 9 Recommendation 7. The academic CS&E community must reach out to women and to minorities that are underrepresented in the field (particularly as incoming undergraduates) to broaden and en- rich the talent pool. Such outreach is necessary if CS&E is to fulfill the potential for inclusion of such groups that might be expected given the youth of the field. CONCLUSIONS Since the invention of the electronic stored-program digital com- puter less than 50 years ago, CS&E has blossomed into a new intel- lectual discipline with broad principles and substantial technical depth. By embracing the computing challenges that arise in many specific problem domains, computer scientists and engineers can build ore this legacy, guiding and shaping the course of the information revo- lution. This expansive view of CS&E will require a commensurately broader educational agenda for academic CS&E, as well as under- graduate education of higher quality. Adequate funding from the federal government and greater interactions between academia and industry and commerce will help immeasurably to promote the broad- ening and strengthening of the discipline. If the major thrusts of this report sustaining the CS&E core at currently planned levels, broad- ening the CS&E discipline, and upgrading undergraduate CS&E edu- cation to reflect the best of current knowledge-are widely accepted in the CS&E community, the community as well as government, industry, and commerce will be well positioned to meet the coming intellectual challenges as well as to make substantial and identifiable contributions to the national well-being and interest. NOTE 1. Office of Science and Technology Policy, The Federal High Performance Computing Program, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C., September 8, 1989, p. 8.

OCR for page 1