The Community for Technology Leaders

From the Editors: An Evolving Mission


Pages: pp. 3-4

It is my privilege, as the incoming editor in chief, to extend a sincere thanks to Francis Sullivan for the excellent job he has done over the past four years at CiSE's helm. As part of my transitional education, Francis shared his wisdom concerning the magazine's strengths and needs. I then went back into CiSE history and met with George Cybenko, the magazine's first editor in chief, to drill even deeper into the experience lode.

Starting from this point of inherited wisdom, I'm prepared to apply my own experience and imagination to the task of carrying CiSE to the next level in service to our mission, which is briefly:

"… supporting and promoting the emerging discipline of computational science and engineering, and fostering the use of computers and computational techniques in scientific research and education … among physical scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and others who would benefit from computational methodologies."

If I've drawn any lesson from the information technology culture over the past few decades, it is that nothing stays the same: things either evolve or disappear. During the six years since its birth from the merger of the American Institute of Physics' Computers in Physics and the IEEE Computer Society's Computational Science and Engineering, CiSE has served thousands of scientists and engineers. Many are in computational fields, but many are not. In fact, it is precisely because the magazine serves two communities—computational scientists/engineers and scientists/engineers who use computation—that the merger of these two publications to form CiSE was so propitious. Our niche is at this intersection and, with our help, both groups stand to improve their respective abilities and products by learning from each other.

How fully have we realized our promise? How might CiSE evolve to stimulate and support this synergy? These are the questions I am committed to addressing. One key to this task is to examine the degree to which our content and approach respect our mission and serve our community. Another is to closely follow developments in those realms of computing that relate to our professional work.

Both computational science and the use of computer technology in science and engineering are rapidly expanding in variety, sophistication, and power. As global climate modelers, experimental bench scientists, industrial engineers, college instructors, and various combinations of these, we depend more deeply on computing than ever before. As the landscape of the scientific and engineering computing world changes, CiSE must evolve by widening its scope and shifting its focus to follow current trends.

What to do, then? Three components describe the shape of my vision: community, content, and approach. Despite differences in fields of expertise, manners of employing computation in our work, and locations on the research and teaching continuum, our broad community is bound by computation. We all stand to gain much from awareness and understanding of what others do and how they do it across this landscape. As more kinds of scientific and engineering problems become accessible to computational techniques, and as the interconnectedness of science and engineering practice and instruction grows, I see a need for CiSE to become a forum for building a community that transcends our differences.

Our content must include those developments in computing machinery, systems, and methodologies that have the greatest implications for science and engineering, and those computing applications that best illustrate how these practitioners use computing power. The most exciting and productive areas of science and engineering these days are those that are "interdisciplinary" in the broadest sense—across expertise, scale, and role in the science and engineering enterprise. What better insight could the engineers of high-performance computing techniques achieve than those gained from learning about the scientific work to which the techniques are applied? What more helpful guide might there be in designing undergraduate curricula than for an instructor of science or engineering to learn how practitioners use computational techniques in their work? CiSE must seek content that bridges these domains and that articulates and addresses our interdependence.

Finally, our approach to communication should support and promote both the developments in computational science and engineering and the practices enabled by computing applications. Working across this divide, as well as across disciplines, implies that people must learn from each other. Modern instructional practice, based on learning research, recommends methods that combine discourse and inquiry, generality and detail, theory and praxis. Because our community must be able to combine practical understanding of scientific and engineering problems with methodologies based on computational research and development, I see a need for CiSE to assume a tutorial voice that mediates the process of achieving such integration.

These are the intellectual and practical challenges for CiSE and its EIC over the coming years. Particularly during the next year, I will work with the editorial board and staff to examine and consider how we might reshape the magazine to better develop and serve our community. We definitely want to reengage bench scientists and engineers as well as educators with their counterparts in computational science. We need input from current and new readers alike to guide us. During the coming months, I thus invite you to serve as witnesses to and helpmates in this publication's evolution.

My Vision? Now It's Your Turn …

In the main text, I've stressed CiSE's responsibility to articulate connections between computational science/engineering and engineering/science that uses some computation.

During the past few years, we've given a high profile to high-performance computing and the associated computational sciences, but now we must reassert our commitment to helping the full spectrum of scientists, engineers, and educators who use computers to work across their differences toward common goals. I ask all those reading this essay who recognize that CiSE has the potential to improve their professional lives to add their voices now by telling us how to realize this potential.

Email your comments, suggestions, or ideas to me at

About the Authors

Norman Chonacky has recently been a senior research scientist in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University. He is currently a research fellow in the Center for United Nations Studies at Yale University. His research interests include cognitive processes in research and education, environmental sensor arrays and data management, material processes in environmental systems, and applied optics. Chonacky received a PhD in physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a member of the IEEE Computer Society, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Society for Engineering Education. Contact him at
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