White House blog cites CCC as model for other communities, what about HPC?

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Ed Lazowska of the Computing Community Consortium pointed to a blog post late last week by Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In his post Kalil praises the CCC model as an excellent way to engage with the administration in advancing important new research agendas

US Capitol DomeThere is a variety of mechanisms through which the research community can participate in agenda-setting. One model I have found to be very valuable is exemplified by the Computing Community Consortium (CCC). Launched in 2007 with funding from the National Science Foundation and consisting of researchers from more than 200 universities and research institutes across the country, the CCC has played an important role in identifying and promoting exciting “visions” for the future of Information Technology (IT) research—ideas that have the potential to attract the best and brightest to the field, drive economic growth, and address national challenges in areas such as health, energy, and education.

In late 2008, for example, the CCC mobilized some of the top researchers in the IT field to write (in less than two weeks!) short papers for the Obama transition team on topics such as e-Science, quantum computing, and the future of DARPA. The CCC has also organized workshops to develop detailed research roadmaps in areas such as robotics, data-intensive computing, and health information technology. These papers and workshop reports have had a clear influence on Administration budget and recruiting decisions and have already sparked collaborations between government, industry, and academia. The agility and flexibility of the CCC is particularly important for a field like IT, which changes rapidly and has such a profound impact on science and engineering, the economy, and our society.

Whither the HPC agenda?

Kalil goes on to encourage researchers in other areas, from clean energy to biology and engineering to consider adopting a similar model. It seems to me that a primary value of the CCC is its willingness and ability to engage politically. The HPC community has tended in recent years to avoid this engagement as a whole, preferring instead to pursue targeted activities by individual centers to get individual earmarks, or just to focus on the technical pursuit of getting to a new level of computation. The CCC has a big data effort that appears to include HPC, but its last activities where held over 2 years ago and it seems largely dormant at this point.

It would be valuable for the entire scientific and engineering establishment if our community could create and maintain an interface of this kind with the national science infrastructure, but we are so fractured right now that it almost seems a Sisyphean effort to even contemplate.