Thursday, July 05, 2007

More on Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation

SIGACT chair Richard Ladner asked me to continue spreading the word about the Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation (CDI) initiative from the NSF. In particular, he asked me to point to Sanjeev Arora's article in the last SIGACT News (which seem to require an ACM password) and an article in the last Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

You might wonder why this is something that I (and many others) are pushing so hard. I think it's because we've seen the writing on the wall. When you look at the available theory funding available from the Computing and Communication Foundations Division (and the Theoretical Foundations Cluster within), it's pretty small. This is odd and frustrating, as theory seems to be thriving quite healthily, and to continue building on our successes, we need adequate funding.

The good news is that theoretical research often does well with these cross-cutting programs. When the SIGACT committee looked at the numbers, we found that back in the days of ITR, theorists were getting substantially more (something like 2 times) as much funding from ITR grants as from Theoretical Foundations grants! We've also had a lot of success with Cybertrust. These other pools of money are funding a lot of theory research, because we've been diligent in applying.

Long-term, this is something that we as a community need to try to fix. The baseline funding for theory needs improvement, and we have to keep letting the NSF know why. But for the foreseeable future, we have to take advantage of these kinds of funding opportunities as they arise. And the best way to take advantage of the CDI opportunity is for lots of theorists to send in lots of great grants.


Jonathan Katz said...

You have to be a little careful when you talk about funding from ITR and cybertrust. While some of the money may have gone to theorists, I suspect that much, if not most, of this money was for "non-theory" research. (Of course, this is hard to make precise and as you know there is no explicit dividing line between the two. But this was my personal experience and I did not see a lot of "foundational" research being supported by ITR and cybertrust, though there was some.)

Suresh Venkatasubramanian said...

which raises an interesting point. If, through the efforts of the CCC, the NSF starts funding theoreticians, is this fundamentally worse than funding theory, in the short term ?
(in the long term, this is probably not good)