October 16, 2006

Two on Computer Science

Are there going to be any computer scientists in the future? And if so, how are they going to communicate their research?

  • Universities see sharp drop in computer science majors.via Topix.
    Computer science majors make some of the country's highest starting salaries for college graduates, at nearly $50,000 a year. Computer science and computer engineering jobs are some of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Despite that, universities all across the country are watching enrollments drop in their computer science programs - at almost the exact time employers are saying they can't find enough qualified candidates.

  • What Happened to Departmental Tech Reports?
    Imagine back to the early 90's before we had a world-wide web. You had a new result, a nice result but not so important that you would do a mass email. You wanted to mark the result with a time-stamp and make it available to the public so you created a departmental technical report, basically handing a copy of the paper to a secretary. You would get a report number and every now and then a list of reports was sent out to other universities who could request a copy of any or all of the reports. Eventually the paper would go to some conference and journal but the technical report made the paper "official" right away.

    As the web developed CS departments started putting their tech reports online. But why should you have to go to individual department web sites to track down each report? So people developed aggregators like NCSTRL that collected pointers to the individual paper and let you search among all of them. CiteSeer went a step further, automatically searching and parsing technical reports and matching citations.

    But why have technical reports divided by departments? We each live in two communities—our university and our research field. It's the latter that cares about the content of our papers. So now we see tech report systems by research area, either area specific systems like ECCC or very broad report systems like arXiv that maintain specific lists in individual subareas that bypass the department completely.

    What's next? Maybe I won't submit a tech report at all letting search engines like Google Scholar or tagging systems like CiteULike organize the papers. Departmental tech reports still exist but don't play the role they once did and who can predict how we will publish our new results even five or ten years down the road.
    Interesting that he blows off the whole concept of institutional repositories in one sentence. Probably too harsh on Fortnow's part, but perhaps an insight into why it's hard to get profs to deposit into IRs.

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