Feature Slides

NITRD 20th Anniversary Symposium

NITRD 20th Anniversary Symposium

The Knight Conference Center, Newseum, Washington D.C.

February 16, 2012



The past 20 years — the 20 years of the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program — have seen a revolution in how we live, work, play, and discover. A revolution brought about by breathtaking advances in computer science.

Twenty years ago, integrated circuits had four million transistors; today they have four billion. Twenty years ago, the Internet had one million users; today there are one billion. Twenty years ago, only 15 percent of families owned a personal computer; today, nearly everyone owns a mobile phone, and in the most recent quarter, nearly 60 percent of those who purchased a mobile phone chose a smart phone, putting the Internet — the world — in their pocket. Smart phones, electronic books, digital media, the Web, eCommerce, the Cloud, social networking, crowd sourcing — all of these are new in the past 20 years, many in the past 10 years. The pace of change is extraordinary!

In addition to changing our lives, advances in computer science have driven our economy — through growth in productivity, and through growth in our ability to innovate. And this has taken place not only in what you'd think of as high tech industries: we learned today that disposable diapers are better because of the engagement of computational rocket scientists!

At today's Symposium, we've been treated to extraordinary presentations describing both the progress and the promise of our field. We've heard about human language technology; autonomous vehicles; sensing; privacy; security; software; scientific discovery; data-driven approaches to health, to science, to reasoning. We've learned that advances in computer science have an extremely broad role. In medicine, that role certainly includes electronic health records, but it also includes evidence-based medicine, automated diagnosis, and the complete instrumentation of the body. In energy and sustainability, that role certainly includes high performance computing as utilized by the Department of Energy's Office of Science, but also sensors in homes for energy management: smart homes and smart offices as the leaf notes of the smart grid, a focus of DoE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In transportation, we will eventually see the widespread use of autonomous vehicles, but we are already benefiting from capabilities such as adaptive cruise control, anti-lock brakes, and automated stay-in-lane systems that can increase the utilization of existing highways, and continued advances in logistics that allow companies such as Zipcar to increase the utilization of vehicles, better amortizing the economic and environmental costs of their production.

Vice President Gore spoke to us about the role of technology in democracy and civic discourse. The good news: the Internet has shown its power to facilitate disruptive change around the globe. The bad news: in many nations, including our own, the role of the Internet in lowering the barrier-to-entry to the public square where discourse takes place has just begun. There is a great deal more that must be accomplished.

That is a summary of the entire day. The achievements of our field have been extraordinary. The potential for the future, though, and the need to realize this potential, are even more extraordinary.

Perhaps most importantly, today's event has further deepened our already great appreciation for the role played by a large number of Federal agencies, working together under NITRD coordination, in ensuring that America is, and will remain, the world leader in this most important field. The NITRD Program truly is one of the very best investments that our nation has made.

Edward Lazowska

Edward Lazowska holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. Dr. Lazowska received his A.B. from Brown University in 1972 and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1977, when he joined the University of Washington faculty. His research and teaching concern the design, implementation, and analysis of high performance computing and communication systems, and, more recently, the techniques and technologies of data-intensive science. Dr. Lazowska is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He recently co-chaired (with David E. Shaw) the Working Group of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology charged with reviewing the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program. He is the chair of the Computing Community Consortium.

Susan Graham

Susan Graham is the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. She received the A.B. in mathematics from Harvard University and the Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University. Her research spans many aspects of programming language implementation, software tools, software development environments, and high-performance computing. Dr. Graham is a member the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Among her awards are the ACM SIGPLAN Career Programming Language Achievement Award (2000), the ACM Distinguished Service Award (2006), the Harvard Medal (2008), the IEEE von Neumann Medal (2009), the Berkeley Citation (2009), and the ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy award (2011). She serves on the Harvard Corporation, the Board of Trustees of Cal Performances, and the Board of Overseers of the Curtis School of Music. Dr. Graham is the vice-Chair of the Computing Community Consortium.