NSF III Workshop: Good Workshop but will it change anything?

I attended NSF Information Integration and Informatics workshop. This workshop was for principal investigators funded by III division of NSF. Ironically, I am not funded and in fact my proposal was declined, but I was invited to give a Key Note talk at this meeting to provide my perspective on important research directions in this area. This shows an interesting situation in current funding where decisions are made using some criteria that is not necessarily what the system really wants. The same can be said about the ‘high level’ conferences in computer science (because I don’t know about other fields). More on this trend which encourages incremental mediocre research some other time later.

This workshop was very well organized. There were 3 key note talks, two panels (one by multiple funding agencies, and one by the steering comm), two breakout sessions to discuss research issues and a poster session in which some of the funded research was displayed/demonstrated. I enjoyed these two very busy days because I got a good idea of how the current III academic community is thinking about problems.

It is very interesting to see that academic community (most attendees were academic, except 3 out of about 65 from academia and those 3 also more academic oriented than an average academician!) is wants to address ambitious problems but wants to remain conservative. They really want to get deeper and deeper in their research area while knowing (not addressing) emerging problems. Of course, they want the community to address these emerging problems, but want to be sure that their own traditional research area remains funded. Sometimes it is surprising that people are so unaware of the emerging problems in industry and society. Of course, as usual exceptions prove the rule.

My talk was on Events and Experiences — emphasizing role of experiences and use of events as a strong model for representing, organizing, and accessing multimedia information. It also addressed importance of creating EventWeb technology. I believe it was received well — based on the comments that I heard. But it is also clear to me that the community does not pay much attention to ideas that are very different from their own. I did see some discussions about need to pay attention to multimedia and events. And I do hope that this will change at least some minds. My presentation is here.

Overall, I enjoyed the workshop, did notice some good signs, but also felt that changes in academic thinking are only slightly faster than glacial pace.

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