Symposium on the Future of Computing Research

John Wroclawski | August 23, 2022

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of USC’s Information Sciences Institute, the symposium will look at how computing research must evolve in the decades to come.

Photo credit: iStock

Photo credit: iStock

Videos of the symposium sessions are now available.

With this symposium we ask a single, yet sweeping, question: how will, and how must, the field of computing research evolve over the next twenty years?

Forces as disparate as the increasing centrality of computing to modern society, the intellectual and technical maturing of the discipline itself, changing conceptions of the meaning of research success and the role of research in the larger national landscape, and the emergence of rich, multidisciplinary explorations as fundamental tools for progress all drive us to ask how our field will grow and change in response. Taken together, these forces are motivating a dramatic, qualitative shift in viewpoint about the expectations and demands placed on computing research in upcoming years.

With this symposium, we aim to snapshot a moment in time in this transformation, capture and clarify the fundamental forces driving it, and discuss key strategies and approaches available to the computing research community to shape both its own and society’s future. Our symposium brings together informed, thought-provoking computing researchers, research policy setters and research sponsors from academia, industry, and government for a series of open discussions, explorations, and roundtables on topics of importance to future computing research, each with the opportunity for symposium participants to join and guide the conversation.  

The symposium will be uniquely interactive. Options are available to participate online, or from an in-person pod in of several locations. Before, during, and after the symposium, we provide opportunities for you to shape the discussion, contribute directly to the program, and meet other participants that share your specific interests. At the conclusion of the symposium, we plan to create a sequence of reports and ongoing discussion opportunities addressing different audiences – the technical community, research policy professionals, and the general public – addressing the symposium’s discussions and conclusions. 

Symposium Program 

Keynote Address by Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director of the US National Science Foundation
Dr. Panchanathan will discuss the NSF’s vision for the future of computing research, emerging efforts to encourage and enable interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research that drives understanding of the interplay between computing, science, and society, and the mission and objectives of the NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships, which aims to drive progress by reshaping and expanding the range of research models, collaborations, and partnerships supported by the Foundation. 

Fireside Chat with Dr. Eric Horvitz, Chief Scientific Officer of Microsoft
Dr. Horvitz will discuss his vision of computing research as a powerful vehicle and path to enhance the quality of people’s lives. Speaking from his perspective as the Microsoft’s CSO, his prior role as director at Microsoft Research, and his service with key external advisory groups and organizations including the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Eric will examine the future of computing research in a conversation shaped by questions from colleagues and symposium participants. 

Participant/Speaker Discussion Sessions covering three topics central to the future of computing research
Each of these sessions will feature three framing presentations from research community members with deep expertise in the area of interest, followed by an open discussion among the speakers and symposium participants, guided by a discussant. Symposium participants will have the opportunity to pose questions for the speakers to consider both before and during the session. 

Discussion Session 1 – Identifying and Emphasizing Emerging Technical Directions will examine the process of how the computing research community chooses its research directions, and how this might change to meet our community’s and society’s future. 

The session will consider such questions as:

  • How should we as a community identify emerging technical directions early and encourage researchers to pay attention? Can we do this more effectively in the future (and what would it mean to be “more effective”?) What new community structures, tools, collaborations, and activities might support this? 
  • How should the computing research community better balance “new exploratory research” and “systematization of knowledge”, creating incentives and motivations to do both? 
  • Can we identify specific technical directions that serve as exemplars or motivators? Are there developing or recently developed research areas that can teach us useful lessons about evangelizing important new research areas in general, about integrating computing research into larger societal concerns and other technical disciplines, about systematizing knowledge and making it more accessible?  

Discussion Session 2 – Recruiting Talent and Fostering Research Careers
will examine the nature of future computing research careers, new strategies for drawing talented people to computing research, and new concepts and approaches for preparing for a computing research career.  

The session will consider such questions as: 

  • What steps might the computing community take to strengthen interest in research careers? Can we address negative cultural perceptions about research as a career? About computing research in particular? 
  • How does the changing landscape of “computing research” as a field affect the recruiting landscape? The nature of desirable educational background and preparation? 
  • What new and emerging strategies for “early” (i.e., pre-grad-school) learning would lead to stronger interest and capability in research fundamentals? How might our community best support and evangelize these strategies across a broad educational landscape? 
  • Broader participation and diversity (including national origin) as a strategic imperative.  

Discussion Session 3 – New Models for Research and Research Support
will examine the rapidly changing landscape of both research strategies and models and research funding and support. 

This session will consider such questions as: 

  • How might the computing research community make collaborative and multidisciplinary research efforts more the norm, as and when appropriate, more effective, and easier to carry out? 
  • How can traditional computing researchers work more closely and build career bridges to disciplines such as economics and the social sciences that operate with fundamentally different structural assumptions about what constitutes valid or “good” research? 
  • How might our community best advance and support community-wide research infrastructure writ large – high end computing for the research community, data sharing and management, model validation, etc.  
  • What funding models are available, effective, and appropriate for a computinig research landscape that is a critical underpinning of modern society in general? How might the broadening nature of future computing research change these models? 

Student Roundtable Conversation with students planning to pursue a computing research career

Your chance to probe and understand this group’s desires, ambitions, hopes, and concerns about their place in the future computing research landscape. An in-depth conversation with a group that is the future of computing research. 

Roundtable participants will be early career researchers – new PhD graduates or near-graduates – considering a career in computing research. The group will be selected to represent a range of perspectives and experiences, and a discussant will be available to drive and draw out conversation. Symposium participants will have the opportunity to pose questions and suggest discussion topics both before and during the session. 

Small Group Discussion Time
An opportunity to meet informally with other symposium participants that share your interests, concerns, or challenges. Prior to the opening of the symposium, and continuing until the start of this session, the symposium’s meeting platform will provide a mechanism for you to express your interests, raise questions, or otherwise indicate topics you’d like to discuss, and will help you match with others that share these interests to join a discussion.

Published on August 23rd, 2022

Last updated on May 16th, 2024

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