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Back to September 2002 CRN Table of Contents

[Published originally in the September 2002 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 14/No. 4, pp. 1, 7.]

Examples of Leadership - Are You Included?

By Peter A. Freeman

At CRA's biennial Snowbird conference in July, I had the opportunity to address the attendees on the subject of "Leadership in Computing." My basic theme (one that Bob Kahn also addressed in his remarks at Snowbird) was that there is a great opportunity and a strong responsibility for computing people to provide all kinds of leadership--in research, in shaping national policy, in education, and in helping advance our society through diversity of all kinds. I encourage you to read my full talk at:

In this short column, for which CRA has graciously provided space, I want to continue that theme and help to bring it home to everyone in our field through some examples. I trust that the hundreds of people not mentioned here who provide fine examples of leadership will not be offended, but will continue to lead and to encourage others to lead.

Let me begin by noting the outstanding service given to our community by Valerie Taylor, winner of this year's CRA A. Nico Habermann Award ( and Andy Van Dam, winner of this year's CRA Distinguished Service Award ( In addition to substantial scholarly contributions, Valerie and Andy have each, in their own way, provided great leadership to our community--and continue to do so.

Two people who may not be quite as visible in the community are the outgoing CRA Executive Director, Bill Aspray, and his successor at CRA, Andy Bernat. Both are excellent scholars and have also performed admirably as administrative leaders. But both share another quality that is worth emulating in many situations--the ability to move from one sphere to another, using what they have learned in one phase of their careers to lead more effectively in the next. Each has already done this at least a couple of times, and I know that their current transitions will again display this leadership characteristic.

My next example is the CISE Advisory Committee. This group of approximately 30 people from all corners of our field ( serve one or more two-year terms, donating at least five days a year to advising CISE and NSF, serving on special review panels, and generally providing a very important link between CISE and you, the researchers in the field. We depend on them to give us a balanced, comprehensive, and coherent view of what is going on, so I strongly encourage you to make sure they are fully informed. The service they selflessly provide to the Nation is an extremely important form of leadership, over and above the leadership each provides in their own spheres.

My last example is one of innovative research leadership. This year's ITR Large awards will be announced before September 30, and I encourage you to learn more about them. (The CISE website,, will have links to them). Each in its own way provides a good example of something that we need more of--strong, innovative, and forward-looking research efforts that have the potential of changing things for many years to come. (By the way, the announcement of the '03 ITR Program should have been released by the time this is published).

Let me end by restating something that I said in my Snowbird talk. Every one of you can lead in some way. As researchers, educators, and administrators you are, by definition, in a role that in some way should be influencing others. So, at least nominally, the answer to my question "Are you included?" is "yes." The challenge for each of us, every day, is to make the answer a resounding "YES!"

In future columns, I will address general directions and issues at NSF and CISE, discuss some specifics, and comment on general issues in the field. Your feedback will be most appreciated.

Peter Freeman ( is the Assistant Director of CISE at the National Science Foundation.

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