DARPA Proposer’s Day on Privacy this Thursday (registration deadline tomorrow!)

DARPA is planning to start a new program to fund privacy research.  They are holding a “proposer’s day” this Thursday to share information about the program.  If you wish to attend, the registration deadline is tomorrow (Monday 3/9) 8am!

Good year to hire in CS theory

It’s hiring season and many departments are in the midst of deciding who to bring in for interviews.   When discussing the possibility of hiring theorists, here are a couple of reasons why this might be a particularly good year to do so:

1) This year there is an exceptionally strong and deep pool of theorists on the job market, due in part to the closing of the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley lab.  Many departments should be able to hire strong candidates (including ones not from MSR SV) who would be hard to get in a typical year.

2) Theory has a large role to play in many of the current priority areas for hiring, such as big data, machine learning, privacy, and security.  Many theorists can also serve as bridges to other departments, such as math, physics, economics, OR, EE, and more.

Simons Graduate Fellowships in Theoretical Computer Science

The Simons Foundation has put out a call for applications for the Simons Award for Graduate Students in Theoretical Computer Science program. From the solicitation: “These awards will be made to graduate students with an outstanding track record of research accomplishments.” “…the foundation seeks to identify and support these emerging stars by providing additional support to enable them to freely pursue their research interests.” “The award is not intended to replace the regular academic-year support of these outstanding students.”

The awards are for a period of two years (June 2015 to May 2017) for up to $24,000 per year.

Application deadline: February 12, 2015.

NSF Brain Initiative Opportunities

As part of the Brain Initiative, there is a new NSF program on Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems  (NSF-NCS) that can provide opportunities for some CS theory research.  For “Integrative Foundations” proposals submitted direclty to the NSF-NCS program ($500k-$1m over 2-4 years), letters of intent need to be submitted by tomorrow (December 10).  But it is also possible to submit a “Core+Extensions” project as a supplement (up to $100k) to a proposal to another NSF program (such as the Algorithmic Foundations program, deadline January 14 for small proposals).

Bala Kalyanasundaram (bkalyana@nsf.gov) is a good program officer to contact with questions about submitting proposals related to CS theory.

New NSF program: Algorithms in the Field

Research Opportunity from NSF for Algorithms in the Field

Guest post from Tracy Kimbrel, NSF Program Director for Computing and Communication Foundations

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer Science and Engineering (CISE) recently announced a new program solicitation, Algorithms in the Field (AitF), which aims to promote collaboration between theory researchers and those in more applied areas.

The program originated from interest and excitement among the theory community and researchers in many applied fields during a well-attended workshop held in May 2011.

Bridging the gap between theory and practice in the design, analysis, implementation, and evaluation of algorithms can lead to new fields as well as broader cutting-edge applications. The premise is that by working jointly “in the field” researchers from these different communities will continually inform each other, innovate in their respective areas, and forge algorithms that are simultaneously validated by theory, systems, and applied communities.

The program synopsis reads as follows:

Algorithms in the Field encourages closer collaboration between two groups of researchers: (i) theoretical computer science researchers, who focus on the design and analysis of provably efficient and provably accurate algorithms for various computational models; and (ii) applied researchers including a combination of systems and domain experts (very broadly construed – including but not limited to researchers in computer architecture, programming languages and systems, computer networks, cyber-physical systems, cyber-human systems, machine learning, database and data analytics, etc.) who focus on the particular design constraints of applications and/or computing devices. Each proposal must have at least one co-PI interested in theoretical computer science and one interested in any of the other areas typically supported by CISE. Proposals are expected to address the dissemination of the algorithmic contributions and resulting applications, tools, languages, compilers, libraries, architectures, systems, data, etc.

I want to emphasize that lists of possible “field areas” such as those in the synopsis and other parts of the solicitation are not exhaustive and do not imply any limitation on scope.

NSF looks forward to the new research that will be supported through this endeavor.  The deadline for submissions is February 9, 2015.  Please read the full program solicitation for more information. A webinar will be held December 18, 2014 at 3 pm ET; details will be provided soon on the AitF page.

New theory jobs website

The CATCS setup a new website to post information on positions such as postdoc, faculty, teaching fellows for theoretical computer scientists, the website is http://cstheory-jobs.org/ (this replaces the old webpage at the center for Computational Intractability that was hacked over the summer). It is rather rudimentary, but hopefully it still gets the job done, and it is connected to the Theory of Computing Blog Aggregator.

I encourage people to use this to post information about availability for academic positions. I think this should be particularly useful for postdoc positions. I think oftentimes graduating students are not aware of which universities have postdoc positions, especially since in most institutions availability tends to change from year to year. So, if you are looking for postdocs in theoretical CS, please do post that information on the website. Posts should be short but describe the duration of the position and the deadline to apply, together with a link that points out to additional information.

Salil, Moses and Boaz

US-Israel BSF travel grants for PhD students

The US-Israel Binational Science Foundation Prof. Rahamimoff Travel Grants Program for young Scientists is open for submissions. The current deadline is Dec. 3, 2014 and the next deadline will be in the spring of 2015. The program supports research-related travel of PhD students (only) between the U.S. and Israel.

The Call for Proposals and Instructions can be found in the following BSF website page:    http://www.bsf.org.il/ElectronicSubmission/GatewayFormsAndGuidelines.aspx?PageId=7&innerTextID=0

CCC Call for Visioning Proposals

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) invites proposals for visioning workshops that will catalyze and enable innovative research at the frontiers of computing.  Successful activities will articulate new research visions, galvanize community interest in those visions, mobilize support for those visions from the computing research community, government leaders, and funding agencies, and encourage broader segments of society to participate in computing research and education.  Past examples can be found at www.cra.org/ccc/visioning/visioning-activities.

Workshop organizers are expected to bring together a group of scientists and practitioners in the area of interest, and to formulate a program that encourages new ideas, innovative thinking, and broad discussion. Workshops can be of varying sizes, typically ranging from 20 to 100 participants.  It is important that the participants cover a broad spectrum to ensure full coverage of the area, both in terms of content area representation and employment (academia, industry, research labs, and policy and funding organizations).

Workshops are expected to have a tangible output – for example, a whitepaper (or set thereof) or a workshop report. Workshop outcomes should be targeted to multiple audiences (the research community, science policy groups or funding agencies, the general public), and the deliverables should be tailored for easy dissemination.  CCC will help to support both workshop organization and the subsequent generation and communication of the output.

The CCC encourages creative ideas from all segments of the computing research community on topics ranging from the formulation of new basic research areas and technologies to the use of new or existing research ideas and technologies to address important scientific or societal challenges.

For CCC planning purposes, proposals with start dates prior to September 2015 should be submitted by December 1, 2014.

Microsoft Research Response to Open Letter

—–Original Message—–
From: Peter Lee (MSR) [mailto:petelee@microsoft.com]
To: Vadhan, Salil P.
Sent: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 6:24 PM
Cc: Harry Shum; Jeannette Wing

Dear Salil, SIGACT Community, and Colleagues:

Thank you for your letter. We are grateful for the obvious thought and care you have put into expressing the concerns of the research community. It helps all of us in MSR and Microsoft to know that people care deeply about what we do and the health of our organization.

We welcome the invitation to respond. Toward this end, we have posted a note on the MSR Connections Blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/msr_er/archive/2014/10/21/harry-shum-open-letter-to-academic-research-community.aspx. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain that we share your concerns, and also to state clearly that Microsoft and MSR remain committed to fundamental research, now and into the future. We look forward to continuing the deep partnership between the research community and MSR.


Harry Shum, Peter Lee, and Jeannette Wing

Letter re closing of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley

The following letter has just been sent to the leadership of Microsoft Research.  Others who wish to express support for the sentiments expressed in the letter may do so by commenting on this blog post.

October 14, 2014

Harry Shum, Executive Vice President, Technology and Research
Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President, Head of Microsoft Research
Jeannette Wing, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research
Microsoft Corporation

Dear Harry, Peter, and Jeannette:

By now, you are no doubt aware of the research community’s shock and disappointment at the sudden and harsh way in which the members of the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley lab were dismissed a few weeks ago.  We are writing to share our perspective on the negative impacts of the shutdown and to open a dialogue about the ways in which Microsoft can try to restore the environment that enabled MSR to produce such great research in the past, benefiting both the company and the world.

While layoffs are always unpleasant, the impact of this one has been exacerbated by the fact that many researchers at the Silicon Valley lab worked on long-term, fundamental research of the kind that can be done at very few places outside of academia.  As you know, the academic calendar is such that many of these researchers, including very junior ones who recently completed their PhDs, could be jobless for nearly an entire year. We feel that there should have been a better way to close down this lab, one that would have allowed them to have continuous employment until academic jobs are available again in September 2015. Given that this lab was continuing to produce exceptional — indeed revolutionary — research, we fail to understand why closing it had to be done so suddenly.

Over the past two decades, MSR, and indeed all of Microsoft, earned an excellent reputation in academia as an organization that not only valued basic research but also supported the career development of the many researchers that worked in or visited the labs.  That reputation has been significantly damaged, threatening Microsoft’s ability to recruit and retain world-class researchers.  As faculty members, we can no longer recommend it as highly to our students as a place to start their careers.  In the long term, this move seems likely to adversely affect Microsoft Research (and the positive contributions it makes to Microsoft as a whole) in more ways than any benefit it may have had.

Nevertheless, we believe that Microsoft can reduce the damage that has been caused by the shutdown of the Silicon Valley lab.  We understand that Microsoft is considering ways to help care for the researchers who were dismissed, such as defraying the additional costs of the academic organizations who are trying to provide these researchers with temporary homes. This would be an excellent, and highly appreciated, first step.  Looking forward, we hope that you will open a discussion with us and the community about Microsoft’s vision for industrial research (which has become less clear after the closing of what appeared to be an extremely valuable and successful lab) and concrete commitments MSR can make regarding the career development of its remaining and future researchers.  Steps like these are essential to rebuilding the relationship between Microsoft and the academic community, along with all the mutual benefits that it brings.


Rajeev Alur, University of Pennsylvania
Paul Beame, University of Washington
Avrim Blum, Carnegie Mellon University
Moses Charikar, Princeton University
Petros Drineas, Rochester Polytechnic Institute
Jeff Erickson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Joan Feigenbaum, Yale University
Lance Fortnow, Georgia Institute of Technology
Piotr Indyk, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David Johnson, Columbia University
Sampath Kannan, University of Pennsylvania
Phokion Kolaitis, University of California, Santa Cruz
Vipin Kumar, University of Minnesota
Richard Lipton, Georgia Institute of Technology
Silvio Micali, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ramamohan Paturi, University of California, San Diego
Dana Randall, Georgia Institute of Technology
Jennifer Rexford, Princeton University
Tim Roughgarden, Stanford University
Holly Rushmeier, Yale University
David Shmoys, Cornell University
Robert Sloan, University of Illinois at Chicago
Diane Souvaine, Tufts University
William Steiger, Rutgers University
Eva Tardos, Cornell University
Luca Trevisan, University of California, Berkeley
Salil Vadhan, Harvard University
Avi Wigderson, Institute for Advanced Study

The drafting of this letter was led by the ACM SIGACT Committee for the Advancement of Theoretical Computer Science, but the letter is signed by a number of people outside that committee and indeed even outside the SIGACT community.  The chair of the committee, Salil Vadhan (salil@seas.harvard.edu), is the contact person for responses to the letter.


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