NSF Workshop Report on Interdisciplinary Research Challenges in Computer Systems

The community of computer systems researchers is working on an unprecedentedly broad range of topics, ranging from the small (energy-independent embedded devices) to the large (brain-scale deep learning), simultaneously addressing technology discontinuities (End of Moore’s Law and Energy Wall), new challenges in security and privacy, and the rise of artificial intelligence.  In this new era, breakthroughs will come from groups that can master interdisciplinary research.

To catalyze the community, NSF commissioned a few researchers from multiple areas to organize a workshop last spring (https://www.asplos2018.org/grandchallenges/) to identify important interdisciplinary research challenges for the 2020s. A community-wide call for white papers was issued, and about fifty of the most exciting interdisciplinary visions were selected for discussion. The workshop was organized as a one day of talks open to everyone, which attracted about 150 researchers, and a second day of brainstorming and writing by the invitees. A report (https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3297279) has been recently issued.

Participants outlined four challenges:

  • Developing the components for a usable planet-scale Internet of Things (IoT), with provably energy-efficient devices.
  • Rethinking the hardware-software security contract in the age of AI.
  • Making AI a truly dependable technology that is usable by all the citizens in all settings. 
  • Developing solutions to tackle extreme complexity, possibly based on formal methods.

The report was presented at the NSF CSR PI meeting in October 2018.

To lean more, consider reading the report.  The report authors would value any feedback you might have at research_challenges@cs.illinois.edu.

Albert Cohen, Xipeng Shen, Josep Torrellas, James Tuck, and Yuanyuan Zhou

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