The Community for Technology Leaders

From the Editors: This Is the Year that Was


Pages: p. 6

The first year of my tenure as editor in chief has concluded, so I think it's appropriate to reflect on what has transpired over the past six issues in light of what I originally envisioned. Several points from my first EIC message summarize what I had in mind:

  • Technology either evolves or disappears, so CiSE will evolve in terms of its community, content, and approach.
  • Our community spans two major groups—those who develop new methods and tools for computing in science and engineering and those whose practices are enabled by computing applications. Our position is at their intersection.
  • As more problems become accessible to computational techniques and as the interconnectedness of science and engineering practice and instruction continues to grow, CiSE must become a forum for building a community that transcends various fields and perspectives.
  • Learning from each other, especially across differences, happens best with approaches that combine discourse and inquiry, generality and detail, and theory and praxis.

I've spent considerable time and effort this year researching the issues associated with these major points. In addition to meeting with the editorial board, I've attended many major professional conferences and participated in several meetings at these conferences. Mostly, I've listened, but I've also asked questions, and I've learned a few things.

First, my original vision of two separate groups—builders and practitioners—might have been somewhat premature. There's a strong feeling that the "age of amateurs" is over and that practitioners no longer develop applications. Although I still believe this is the field's general evolutional direction, I've also learned that many scientists develop their own algorithms and programs, albeit with tools built by specialists. Evidently, the evolutionary time scale here is generational. A more convincing case might be made for grouping the community by differences in "sophistication." This isn't the word I prefer, but it's the best I can offer right now.

On one end of the spectrum, for example, we find "heroic" computing—the largest, fastest, latest—by computational scientists and computer engineers on major challenges such as large-scale simulations and the machinery for them. Here, the work is in producing predictive results: the theoretical, not experimental, world. On the other end of the spectrum are the bench scientists and engineers using computing to measure in formerly inaccessible regimes, attempting to understand experimental results, and designing systems. To varying degrees, those within this full spectrum of computing scientists and engineers can potentially learn from each other.

Second, although CiSE's content has, arguably, always been diverse with respect to topic, I've learned that its content hasn't always been equally diverse with respect to accessibility. One repeated complaint is that the material isn't "useful," meaning as "usable" as formerly. The question is whether this is an insurmountable problem, given the broad spectrum of our community's needs.

This problem is essentially one of learning across differences, so maybe we should take a lesson from educators. From a lifetime of educating students and professionals of every stripe and level, I've learned that successful approaches share a common feature—a wide spectrum of methods tied together by topic coherence. To follow a traditional dictum that writers "write to your audience," an implication is that CiSE's contributors must be made aware of our audience's breadth. This isn't a trivial task to undertake with those used to publishing their work in traditional journals of a narrower scope.

So, what have the editorial board and I been doing this year besides learning? Well, I'll tell you next time. For now, I invite you to tell us how well you think we're doing to address these issues. Send your evaluations to

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