[Published originally in the May 2002 edition of Computing Research News, p. 3.]
Computing is Changing--and so is CRA
By Jim Foley, CRA Board Chair
We all know how dramatically and rapidly computing is changing. Moore's law. Metcalfe's Law. Disk capacity cost per byte decreases at least as fast as Moore's law. We have gone from one computer for many users, to one computer per user, to many computers per person. I just counted 48 microprocessors in my home, ranging from the three thermostats and range and washer up to the Macintosh Cube and G4 Powerbook. That totals 24 for my wife and 24 for me. New cars have dozens of chips. Last year, about 200M PC chips and 8.5B embedded chips were sold. We are ubiquitous, we are off the desktop, we are embedded. We are wired. We all know this.
Less well known are the ways in which CRA has been changing and evolving. The organization was originally founded in 1972 as the Computer Science Board. In 1986, we became the Computing Research Board--in recognition of increasing activity in computer research in fields beyond computer science. To further emphasize our embracing of the many different facets of computing research, our name was changed in 1990 to the Computing Research Association.
The change from a name containing computer science to a name containing computing is ripe with significance, and was certainly responsive to new emphases in the 80s on areas such as computational science and human-computer interaction. CRA has always been concerned about human resources. Many of us recall the Denning CACM "Eating our Seed Corn" article of 1981--driven by data from our Taulbee survey--that predicted a decrease in production of Ph.Ds because so many new Ph.D. graduates were going to industry rather than to academia.
In 1990, the CRA Women's committee (CRA-W) was formed to help bring more women into computing research, and to provide a support network for those already in academics. More recently, when dramatic shortages in the Information Technology workforce were developing, CRA prepared the widely referenced IT Workforce Study that described the nature of the workforce and the areas of shortage [Peter Freeman and William Aspray, The Supply of Information Technology Workers in the United States, 1999].
Another dimension of change in CRA is the effort to define our constituency more broadly. Our organizational members include the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and USENIX, along with ACM, IEEE-CS, AAAI, and our new Canadian affiliate, CACS/AIC. We have worked with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads' Association (ECEDHA, formerly the NEEDHA, National Electrical Engineering Department Heads Association) to improve communications and ensure that CRA's Conference at Snowbird includes topics of interest to computer engineering department heads. In the Information Technology arena, CRA has hosted and supported the new IT Deans group (initiated by Peter Freeman, now chaired by Bobby Schnabel) that includes more than 40 participating institutions. As well, Bobby Schabel chaired a special task force to examine how CRA can embrace the new academic structures, such as IT schools. Future CRA articles will tell you more about the IT Deans and the Academic Structures Task Force.
What's the bottom line here? Simple. CRA is constantly changing and responding to new needs and opportunities, just as computing in general is doing. But, there's another aspect as well. Each of the changes has occurred because one or several members of the CRA board have taken the initiative to make something happen, to address an issue, to lead a study, to make and execute recommendations. We owe each of them a "thank you." And we look to current and future board members to be similarly innovative and creative in addressing future needs and opportunities. Finally, we welcome ideas and suggestions from the computing research community to help us continue to change and adapt.
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