Friday, September 28, 2007

New NSF Program: Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation (CDI)

The NSF today announced a very exciting -- at least to me and my research colleagues -- program:

CDI seeks ambitious, transformative, multidisciplinary research proposals within or across the following three thematic areas:

  • From Data to Knowledge: enhancing human cognition and generating new knowledge from a wealth of heterogeneous digital data;
  • Understanding Complexity in Natural, Built, and Social Systems: deriving fundamental insights on systems comprising multiple interacting elements; and
  • Building Virtual Organizations: enhancing discovery and innovation bybringing people and resources together across institutional, geographical and cultural boundaries.
Congruent with the three thematic areas, CDI projects will enable transformative discovery to identify patterns and structures in massive datasets; exploit computation as a means of achieving deeper understanding in the natural and social sciences and engineering; simulate and predict complex stochastic or chaotic systems; explore and model nature’s interactions, connections, complex relations, and interdependencies, scaling from sub-particles to galactic, from subcellular to biosphere, and from the individual to the societal; train future generations of scientists and engineers to enhance and use cyber resources; and facilitate creative, cyber-enabled boundary-crossing collaborations, including those with industry and international dimensions, to advance the frontiers of science and engineering and broaden participation in STEM fields.

My own research work fits very well into this program. It is an area that will alter the nature of how science is done, and promises to -- as I said earlier today in an email -- radically increase the usefulness and value of the research ecosystem, both to those inside and outside of research. But more important, it will change many aspects of the dominant way in which science is done, including researchers being restricted to narrow and deep knowledge in a particular research area, sometimes comically (and somewhat unaccurately) illustrated by this limerick:

There once was an old man from Esser,
Who's knowledge grew lesser and lesser.
It at last grew so small,
He knew nothing at all,
And now he's a college professor.

The tools that this program suggests, along with the research programs at other organizations (including CISTI Research here at CISTI) allow for rich, productive and integrative inter-disciplinary approaches. Some of these tools which in themselves will grow towards being a researcher's de facto collaborator(s), in how they can represent expert knowledge external to the researcher's own focus, that can flag important external and out-of-band connections to the researcher. Who wouldn't want to have 30-40 (friendly!) experts in domains -- in which you are not an expert -- monitoring every thing you write, everything you search, everything you read, having an understanding of your core research interests, ready to identify and flag important external connections, collaborators, publications, initiatives, datasets, claims. knowledge?

Notice I never used the phrase "paradigm-shift". :-)

Thanks Teaching Ideas for Primary Teachers for the limerick!

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