As part of that SIGACT committee, I think this is a good rough description of what we've been doing. Now that there's money going into the CDI program, theory people need to be sure to apply to get their share. Start thinking now, and there will be more on CDI in this blog coming up.
1. Algorithms as a lens on the sciences: Beginning in the mid-1990s, several individual theorists became concerned about the field, where it was going, and how it was funded. There was considerable dissension, with the claims that the field was too inward-looking and too hung up on mathematical elegance as opposed to relevance. Events overtook discussion as theory became highly relevant to web-based applications, protocols, and other areas. Simultaneously, theory funding was dwindling so SIGACT set up a committee to look at these issues. It concluded that new directions that connected theory to other intellectually challenging areas would take funding pressure off the core (since folks have more sources to go to, leaving the core for folks who were uninterested in application areas). A workshop series on network computation led to NSF’s SING program, but SING had no money of its own and actually resulted in a decrease in theory funding. The SIGACT committee went back to work and developed the idea of algorithms as a lens on science. This idea went forward as a White Paper to appropriate folks within NSF. Eventually, after working its way through the internal NSF budget process, it resulted in a large new FY08 request—Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation (a foundation-wide program beginning at $52 million in FY08 and intended to grow to $250 million in FY12).
This is an example of an idea begun by a few individuals, nurtured within a professional guild, supported by a federal agency, and turned into a major funded program—but not without a few bumps.
Also in the May issue is the Taulbee Survey. As far as I know, the primary use of the survey is for faculty to look up how much they should be paid. But there's other interesting data too!
The total Ph.D. production between July 2005 and June 2006 of 1,499 represents a phenomenal 26% increase.And another nugget:
I'm hoping they're right and that the number of new majors will start going up again...
Actual Bachelor’s degree production in departments reporting this year was only 3.1% lower than the projection from last year’s reporting departments. From this year’s estimates, it would appear that another 16% decline is looming. If this holds true, it would represent a drop of more than 40% over a three-year period.The news is much better when looking at new Bachelor’s degree students. For the first time in four years, the number of new undergraduate majors is slightly higher than the corresponding number last year.