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June 23, 2005

CNSF Exhibition: Science on Capitol Hill

Tuesday marked the 11th annual Coalition for National Science Funding science exhibition and reception on Capitol Hill, an event that brings together 31 universities and scientific associations (including CRA) to highlight for Members of Congress and staff some of the interesting and important research supported by the National Science Foundation. This year CRA was ably represented by Professor James Hendler and his colleagues and students from the Mind Lab of the University of Maryland, who demonstrated their research into the Semantic Web.

IMG_0019_tn.jpgDr. Hendler's group put together a great exhibit featuring some examples of semantic web applications in science and in anti-terrorism efforts. Group member and terrorism expert Aaron Mannes demonstrated how the semantic web app has helped him explore links between terrorists operating in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe -- including an eye-catching web of links between leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden.

To demonstrate the power of structured data, the group members snapped photos of visitors to the booth, uploaded the shots to their web app running on a server under the display table, plugged in some metadata about the individual and demonstrated how the application could dynamically link their information to a variety of other sources. Visitors to the booth -- including the Chairman of the House Science Committee's Research Subcommittee Bob Inglis (R-SC) and a number of key committee staffers -- seemed to grasp the import of what they were seeing. Indeed, as Inglis watched the terrorism web demonstration dynamically create new linkages between persons in the database as new information was entered, he recognized another potential use of the technology. "This would be really useful for my campaign database," he said. Which led to a brief discussion of the open-source nature of the tools....
The exhibition was remarkably well-attended -- there was barely enough room to stand at points during the event -- and there were a fair number of "key" attendees besides Rep. Inglis, including House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC), NSF Deputy Director Appointee Kathie Olson, and a large number of interested congressional staffers.
Thanks to Dr. Hendler and the members of his research group -- Jennifer Golbeck, Chris Halaschek-Wiener, Ron Alford, Daniel Krech, Aaron Mannes, Aditya Kalyanpur, Evren Sirin, and Amy Alford -- for their willingness to take time out of their schedules and fight through DC traffic and Capitol Hill security to make sure the computing research community was well-represented among the exhibits this year.

If you're at a CRA member institution, interested in showing off your NSF-supported research and representing your colleagues in the computing research community at a future Hill event, drop me a line! Recent participants have included DK Panda and his students at Ohio State University in 2004; Tim Finin and his colleagues and students at University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2003; and Thad Starner and Janet Kolodner of Georgia Tech in 2002.

Posted by PeterHarsha at June 23, 2005 05:22 PM | TrackBack
Posted to CRA