Three new $10 million awards continue NSF program pursuing ambitious, fundamental research agendas that promise to define the future of computing and information
Aug. 28, 2010 – The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced three new Expeditions in Computing awards today. The awards will provide up to $10 million in funding over five years to each of the selected projects, representing the single largest investments made by the directorate in basic computer science research.
"There is a great deal of creativity in the computer science research community today," said Deborah Crawford, acting assistant director for CISE at NSF. "Our intentions with the Expeditions in Computing program are to stimulate and use that creativity to expand the horizons of computing," she said. "For example, several of the projects will be exploring new computational approaches to some of the most vexing problems we face in the science and engineering enterprise as well as in the larger society."
The Expeditions in Computing program made its debut in 2008 with four awards. With funding appropriated to NSF in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the agency was able to support three new trailblazer Expeditions. Today’s announcement brings the total number of Expeditions projects currently receiving NSF support to ten. In the future, NSF will make Expeditions awards following an 18-month cycle.
Each award features a top-notch team working on one of the most challenging computing and information science and engineering issues today.
Computational Behavioral Science: Modeling, Analysis, and Visualization
of Social and Communicative Behavior
Lead PI: James Rehg, Georgia Tech
Collaborators: USC, Boston University, UIUC, CMU, MIT
It is well-known that the social and communicative behavior of children as young as 12-24 months contains important clues about their risk for a variety of developmental disorders, such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Moreover, the ability to identify and treat such disorders at an early age has been shown to significantly improve outcomes. Autism represents a particularly compelling need in the US, since it affects one child in 110 with a lifetime cost of care at $3.2 million per person. This Expeditions project aims to develop novel techniques for measuring and analyzing the behavior exhibited by children and adults during face-to-face social interactions, including interactions between caregivers and children, children playing and socializing in a daycare environment, and clinicians interacting with children during individual therapy sessions. By developing methods to automatically collect fine-grained behavioral data, this project will enable large-scale objective screening and more effective therapy delivery and assessment to those in need, including socio-economically disadvantaged populations. More generally, this new computational technology will make it possible to automatically measure the behavior of large numbers of individuals in a wide range of settings over long periods of time. Other disciplines, such as education, marketing, and customer relations, could benefit from a more objective data-driven approach to behavioral assessment. The long-term goal of this project is the creation of a new scientific discipline of computational behavioral science, which draws equally from computer science and psychology in order to transform the study of human behavior.
Understanding Climate Change: A Data Driven Approach
Lead PI: Vipin Kumar, University of Minnesota
Collaborators: North Carolina A & T University, North Carolina State University, Northwestern University, University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Climate change is the defining environmental challenge now facing our planet. Yet there is considerable uncertainty as to the wide-spread social and environmental impacts because the predictive potential of numerical models is limited at the scale of the entire earth system. Critical issues such as the impact of climate change on food security, water resources, biodiversity, mortality, and other socio-economic issues over relevant time and spatial scales have yet to be addressed. This Expeditions project will generate new knowledge in climate change science by developing novel and innovative data driven approaches that take advantage of the wealth of climate and ecosystem data now available from various sources around the globe. It will improve the prediction of climate change on human welfare through the development of new methodologies in four broad areas of data-intensive computer science: relationship mining, complex networks, predictive modeling, and high performance computing. This research will be conducted in close collaboration with the climate science community and will complement insights obtained from physics-based climate models. The project will contribute to efforts in education, diversity, community engagement, and the dissemination of new tools and computer and atmospheric science findings.
Variability-Aware Software for Efficient Computing with Nanoscale Devices
Lead PI: Rajesh Gupta, University of California, San Diego
Collaborators: Stanford, UC Irvine, UCLA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan
As semiconductor manufacturers build ever smaller circuits and chips, they become less reliable and more expensive to produce – no longer behaving like precisely chiseled machines with tight tolerances. Understanding the variability in their behavior from device-to-device and over their lifetimes – due to manufacturing, aging, and different operating environments – becomes increasingly critical. This project fundamentally rethinks the hardware-software interface and proposes a new class of computing machines that are not only adaptive but also highly energy efficient. It envisions a computing system where components -- led by proactive software -- routinely monitor, predict and adapt to the variability of the manufactured systems in which they are placed. These machines will be able to discover the nature and extent of variation in hardware, develop abstractions to capture these variations, and drive adaptations in the software stack from compilers to runtime to applications. The resulting computer systems will work while using components that vary in performance or grow less reliable over time and across technology generations. A fluid software-hardware interface will thus mitigate the variability of manufactured systems and make machines robust, reliable and responsive to the changing operating conditions. Changing the way software interacts with hardware offers the best hope for perpetuating the fundamental gains of the past 40 years in computing performance at a lower cost. In addition to plans for involving graduate and undergraduate students in the research, the team has built strong industrial ties and is committed to outreach to community high-school students through a combination of tutoring and summer school programs.
"Past Expeditions awards are beginning to show exciting results in a variety of applications and fields," said Mitra Basu, program director for the Expeditions program. "We’re confident that this latest group of projects will continue to push the frontiers of computing."