[Published originally in the September 2003 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 15/No. 4, pp. 4, 10]
CISE FY2004 Update
By Sean Jackson, National Science Foundation
This column will serve as an update on some of the changes in CISE as we start a new fiscal and academic year.
Changes in CISE
The CISE Directorate is approaching the end of its second decade as a major organizational unit within NSF. CISE is unique among NSF directorates in its dual responsibility for the health of the CISE research communities and for the support of a national computation and communication infrastructure for all of NSF's research and educational disciplines. The past few years have seen unprecedented growth in the CISE budget, a continuing diversification of CISE research, education and infrastructure programs, and an attendant, dramatic increase in proposal pressure and staff workload. Today, CISE is a primary source for the funding of fundamental academic research in computing, communication, and information, and of research at the interface of information technology and other disciplines. Since the last CISE reorganization in 1997, the directorate's budget has grown by 113 percent (60% for NSF) and the number of proposals received has grown by more than 125 percent (16% for NSF).
While the opportunities for our community have increased with the introduction of NSF-wide priority areas, such as the CISE-led Information Technology Research program and a growing number of program announcements and solicitations for traditional programs and areas of special emphasis, success rates have diminished dramatically. We believe investigators have responded to these opportunities and the falling success rates by submitting more proposals. This is counterproductive, as it raises the workload in CISE and in the research community. We want the community involved in research and teaching, not proposal-writing, and CISE staff with the time and resources to effectively manage grant selection and oversight.
The proposed new CISE will have four divisions, working as highly integrated units, coordinating to manage the broad research portfolio for which CISE is responsible. The four divisions are: Computing & Communication Foundations (CCF); Computer and Network Systems (CNS); Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS); and Deployed Infrastructure (DDI). The slides from the announcement of the reorganization provide a good introduction and can be found at: http://www.cise.nsf.gov/news/cise_all_hands_meeting_files/frame.htm
The new divisional structure will be more closely aligned with the demands of the science. CCF, CNS, and IIS are principally "research" divisions, which represent a natural progression from core foundations through systems to basic and focused research in the context of complex information and intelligent systems. We believe this organization reflects a common grouping of the research communities served by CISE, and that individual investigators will easily find a "home" for their research interests. We also recognize the high degree of interactivity across these delineations and will work to ensure a strong, collaborative environment.
DDI represents the next logical step in the progression with management responsibility for national cyberinfrastructure activities. This division merges the national infrastructure programs currently managed by Advanced Computational Infrastructure and Research (ACIR) and Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research (ANIR), and expands the scope of CISE cyberinfrastructure to include computation, communication, information, distributed sensing, instrumentation, and middleware. DDI will also be responsible for the education, outreach, and training (EOT) activities related to the national cyberinfrastructure. In choosing to put all of the planning, design, construction, operation, and upgrading of centers and facilities into one division, we are recognizing the highly integrated and diverse resources in modern cyberinfrastructure, the need for coordinating these activities with all NSF directorates, and the unique management challenges associated with large and distributed facilities. In addition, each of the other three CISE divisions will support fundamental and focused research that will enable future generations of cyberinfrastructure.
Within each division there will be a small number of clusters of technical and administrative staff, each responsible for a single program or a small group of programs. Individual program managers may be designated as the point of contact for specific sub-disciplines within a cluster, but each manager will be part of a team. This will add breadth to the narrow confines of current programs, and allow investigators to seek support alone or as collaborators for research with a broader scope.
CISE will introduce a series of themes in order to address national priorities and broadly applied CS&E research priorities. Individuals from each of the divisions will develop, manage, and integrate the portfolio of projects that address these multidisciplinary topics. Initial themes are expected to include cyber trust, science of design, information integration, and education and workforce. Information Technology Research (ITR) funds for FY2004 will include CISE investments in these thematic areas.
Cybersecurity is a clear example of a national priority to which the CISE
themes are designed to respond. Congress expects NSF leadership on cybersecurity
research and education. Fiscal year 2003 research activities in cybersecurity
were handled through four different program announcements. In 2004, these four
programs will be handled by the four program managers working as a team under
one program solicitation called "Cyber Trust." The title reflects our
understanding that the public not only wants their information systems to be
secure, they want to trust them in all kinds of situations. As a simple example,
they need to be able to trust that data will be kept private.
By centralizing the research in cyber trust around a key theme, CISE will ensure that the area of cybersecurity receives increased, concerted attention that builds on the significant work that has already been devoted to it. In addition to restructuring the program, we expect to allocate more funds to research and education in this area, which is such a vital part of national security. Cyber Trust is an example of how the new CISE structure and processes will address important themes, while reducing duplication and staff workload, increasing the opportunities for collaboration and innovative research, and providing the budget flexibility to make available appropriate duration and levels of funding.
Evolution of ITR
The community has long known that fiscal year 2004 would be the final year of the five-year Information Technology Research (ITR) program as a designated "NSF Priority Area," and has expressed a lot of interest in how it will evolve. The success of the previous four years indicates that ITR should remain an important part of CISE activities. Fiscal year 2004 will be a transition year for the ITR program as we begin to make changes that: 1) focus the research in its last year, and 2) move toward the future. The format for the solicitation is still under development.
As mentioned above, ITR funds will include CISE investments in these thematic areas. In addition, it is likely that rather than inviting a broad range of proposals in three (small, medium, and large) size classes, proposals will be solicited by focus areas.
While details of the solicitation were not available at the time this article was written, we can offer some insight into possible focus areas. Since each of the NSF directorates provides ITR funding, one likely area of focus will be research on domain-specific "cybertools" or the front-end software, data-resources, and other tools that domain scientists use, in conjunction with broadly available computational resources, to accomplish their specific research and education activities. All NSF directorates would engage in this activity.
In addition to the cybertools focus, there will be another focus area central to the CISE research mission. In fiscal year 2005 and beyond, Information Technology Research will remain a critical component of the CISE portfolio. A number of modalities for funding are currently being examined; however, our plan is to use CISE ITR funds this year and in coming years to create new initiatives and to strengthen the core research and education missions. An ITR FY 2004 program announcement is anticipated in October with an earliest due date in January.
The envisioned cyberinfrastructure presents a series of research challenges for the CS&E community. The column in the May 2003 issue of Computing Research News ("Cyberinfrastructure: Challenges for Computer Science and Engineering Research") described the ultimate goal of cyberinfrastructure: "a transparent and seamless computation and resource-sharing execution environment for user-centric applications." The complexity of managing the massive scale of heterogeneous computation, communication, and storage resources needed to achieve this future networked environment will require significant, sustained innovation at the frontier.
Most of the community is aware of the importance that CISE is placing on cyberinfrastructure. Just as supercomputing promised to revolutionize the conduct of science and engineering research several decades ago, an advanced cyberinfrastructure promises to revolutionize the conduct of science and engineering research and education in the 21st century.
NSF continues to enjoy broad support from both the administration and Congress. CISE received a very generous increase in appropriations from Congress in 2003. The doubling of the NSF budget by 2007 has been authorized, and we will need annual increases in our appropriations to meet that target.
The fiscal/academic year 2004 is shaping up to be a year of change and great
opportunity. The CISE staff looks forward to working with its communities of
researchers and educators to seize those opportunities.
Sean Jackson (sjackson [at] nsf.gov) is a Research Specialist in the CISE Directorate of the National Science Foundation.
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