Monday, February 22, 2010

Emerging Computing Models and Technologies

Dear Colleagues,


Many positive changes in the last two years at NSF and CISE have led to increased funding opportunities for researchers in the areas of emerging computing models and technologies.  These changes also serve to align better the intellectual agenda of these research areas with programs in the CISE Division of Computing and Communications Foundations (CCF).


First, widespread recognition that the era of continuous performance improvements in computing hardware is coming to an end led NSF to initiate a multi-directorate investment in Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's Law (SEBML).  SEBML challenged the community not only to address how to exploit and manage parallelism in the multi- and many-core architectures of today, but also to explore non-silicon substrates of tomorrow, e.g., bio, nano, and quantum.  The FY11 President's Request to Congress for SEBML is over $70 million, an increase of 50% over the FY10 level.  FY11 funding will continue to support all areas in SEBML as before, with a specific spotlight on quantum information science.


Second, programmatic changes within CCF meant that research areas funded within the single former Emerging Models and Technologies (EMT) program are now funded by multiple CCF programs, to reflect a better alignment of shared research sensibilities and interests in the different communities.  The realignment also enables former EMT researchers increased funding opportunities.


In the interests of transparency, we provide you with the details of this realignment.  The core programs in CCF are now Algorithmic Foundations (AF), Communication and Information Foundations (CIF), and Software and Hardware Foundations (SHF).  The former EMT program grouped together three different research areas: quantum computing and communication; nanocomputing, bionanocomputing and biocomputing; and computational biology. While the unifying theme for all areas (except computational biology) was that they had the goal of building computers with non-silicon substrates, we felt that in terms of research techniques and approaches these areas were not so closely related.  The main criterion for our programmatic changes was to group together areas that had close intellectual affinity into the same programs.


Thus, quantum computing (where the major research emphasis is on algorithms and complexity) was put in the Algorithmic Foundations (AF) program and quantum communication (with its focus on topics like channel capacity) was put in the Communication and Information Foundations (CIF) program.


Since much of the CISE research on nanocomputing seeks to engineer nano "hardware" it was put in the Software and Hardware Foundations (SHF) program alongside other program areas focused on nanotechnology and design automation for nanotechnology. Similarly, bionanocomputing and biocomputing, which also explore building computing devices possibly out of biological molecules and/or inspired by living systems were placed in the SHF program. 


Computational biology based on algorithmic research for biological problems naturally fit in with AF. Applications of formal methods to biology, along with other formal methods research falls within SHF. Research on communication and signal processing in biological systems naturally fit in CIF.


In summary, research in emerging models and technologies is classified into AF, CIF, and SHF by the CISE techniques and concepts used.


While we feel that this taxonomy makes scientific sense, the research community does not really need to remember the details of the changes. A small group of CCF Program Directors spanning the three core programs—AF, CIF, and SHF—handle all proposals in the former EMT. There is a lot of communication within this group to effect the optimal programmatic placement of proposals received. There is also a lot of communication with PDs in allied areas such as bioinformatics in CISE's Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS).  With the synchronized deadlines for all CISE core and cross-cutting programs, we make a concerted effort to ensure that your proposal will be managed by the most appropriate Program Director and get assigned reviewers with the relevant expertise.


Perhaps surprisingly, the former EMT did not jointly fund many proposals with other directorates or divisions within CISE.  This new structure creates more opportunities for individual areas to build such bridges.  In this past year, we have made concrete progress on two fronts.  First, we work closely with the Directorates for Engineering, and Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and the Office for Cyberinfrastucture on research in quantum information science; indeed, NSF, with CISE leadership, also works with other federal agencies on QIS.   Second, a team of Program Directors in CISE and the Directorate for the Biological Sciences (BIO) work closely to highlight the deep connections between fundamental concepts in the two fields; their aim is to encourage a new kind of partnership to jointly investigate these concepts.   Overall, CISE and CCF continue to make a significant investment in the areas of the former EMT program and expect to support research in these areas at a level more than in previous years.         




Sampath Kannan                                     

Director, Division of Computing and Communication Foundations


Jeannette M. Wing

Assistant Director, Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate


National Science Foundation