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Grand Challenges for Computing Research Conference Announcement

Conference on Grand Challenges for Computing Research

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Sponsored by the British Computer Society, in association with the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing, and the UK Committee for Computing Research (UKCRC).

Venue and date: Marriott Hotel, Gosforth Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 29-31 March 2004.

Programme Committee: Tony Hoare (Chair);
Jon Crowcroft, Mike Denham, Ian Horrocks, David May, John McDermid, Robin Milner, Vic Rayward-Smith, Tom Rodden, Martyn Thomas.



A recent example of a successful project with ambitious scientific goals was the fifteen-year international Human Genome project. This Grand Challenge was the model adopted by the UKCRC in the search for possible similar Grand Challenge projects in computing. It was used to develop a set of criteria which distinguish a Grand Challenge from other more familiar kinds of research initiative. To initiate the search, in November 2003 the UKCRC sponsored a Workshop at the National eScience Centre in Edinburgh. For the list of criteria, and details of the Workshop, visit the website

The outcome of the Workshop was summarised in seven reports entitled

Since the end of the Workshop, these reports have been refined in the light of an extended public web discussion, and meetings between interested parties: the discussion and the current drafts are accessible on the website. The time has now come to present the results achieved so far, and to widen the discussion still further, thereby ensuring that ideas from all sources have been fully explained, explored and exploited, and that the eventual conclusions of the exercise will have the broad support of the UK Computing Research Community.


Contributors and attendants at the Conference are invited to participate in these discussions, or to initiate discussion of other worthy challenges that do not fall under the seven headings. It is hoped that personal and professional contacts established at the Conference will lead to the identification of UK teams with the requisite mix of computing research skills to pursue some ambitious Grand Challenge project that they themselves have chosen and specified. They must share the enthusiasm and idealism that will enable them to make the necessary commitment to the goals of each project, and to co-operate with the international research community in their achievement over an extended period. Their reward will be some ambitious scientific or engineering achievement that would otherwise be impossible, or even at present unthinkable. Achievement of each Grand Challenge should be widely recognised as a worthy milestone in the progress of the scientific field as a whole, and its associated technology.

Registration details: The conference is held in parallel with a sister conference Grand Challenges in Computing Education. To register for either conference please visit the website . Note that registration is first-come first-served.


The keynote speakers at the Conference will address general issues of the selection, initiation, and implementation of a Grand Challenge in the context of the UK. The keynote speaker for the Research Conference will be Dr John Taylor OBE FRS FREng, formerly Director General of the Research Councils.

There will be an invited speaker for each of the Grand Challenge Proposals that have already been listed. They will be drawn from the Moderators, who are as follows:

Their goals will be two-fold: to attract recruits to participate in research that promotes their own Challenge, and to enlist the general support of the computing research community for its success.


Submissions should be directed towards the objectives of the Conference. Submitters are therefore requested to study the criteria for a Grand Challenge, to scan the reports and discussions recorded so far, and to select the one of the seven reports listed above that is closest to their own research interests. Submitters are asked to register for the conference in good time, if they wish to attend, as registration will be on a first-come first-served basis.

A submission should preferably be drafted as a contribution to the direct improvement of the chosen report. Here is a list of more specific suggestions:

Submissions which fall outside these categories are also welcome. Such submissions may suggest new areas for grand challenges, or new ways of classifying them. They may address the concept of a Grand Challenge itself, and the way it has been defined. Or they may attack the whole concept of a Grand Challenge as a possibly negative contribution to scientific progress.

Submission details: Submissions should be in pdf format, and at most 2000 words in length. In addition they may contain up to 20 references to published work. Please label each submission clearly with the number of the Grand Challenge proposal to which it relates (GC1, GC2, ). A submission that relates two or more proposals should be marked with the relevant numbers. A submission that falls outside this range of topics should be should be labelled GC0. Submissions should be emailed to Mrs Peta Walmisley at the British Computer Society (, to arrive no later than 1 February 2004.

Conduct and outcome

The submissions will be discussed at the Conference by Panels meeting in parallel sessions. The Programme Committee will suggest the topics to be discussed by each Panel, in the light of the interest shown by the submissions. The submissions will be made available on the Grand Challenges website from about four weeks before the Conference, to enable attendees to focus their discussion in the Panel meetings. The objective of each Panel will be to work on improving and integrating ideas from the submissions into a generally approved report. For the Panels GC1 GC7 this will be an extended and refined version of an existing report; in the case of another Panel it may be of a different nature. We hope that, within three months following the Conference, these reports will be published as a collective and stable record of the Grand Challenges Exercise so far.