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Grand Challenges for Computing Research

Sponsored by the UK Computing Research Committee, with support from EPSRC and NeSC

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Conference Preview
Including submissions received
& expressions of interest

Grand Challenges for Computing Research CONFERENCE
29-31 March 04, Newcastle
Quick Links
  • Background
  • Criteria for a Grand Challenge
  • Proposals
  • What is happening now
  • The website for the UK Grand Challenges exercise moved in January 2005. These pages remain as an archive. You can visit the new site at

    Welcome to the home page of the Grand Challenges Exercise, an enterprise of the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) to discuss possibilities and opportunities for the advancement of computing research, particularly in the UK. Its method is to solicit submissions from the UK computing research community, identifying ambitious, long-term research initiatives that might benefit from some degree of national and international coordination. The background to the Exercise appears on another page.

    In preparation, a set of Criteria of Maturity for a Grand Challenge was established. These are criteria against which all proposals may be measured, but there is no suggestion that they would all be met in each case.

    The Exercise is ongoing. A key part of it is a set of proposals for Grand Challenges; in the list you will find links to each current proposal and to its discussion group. There are also Quick Links from this page.

    This home page is updated from time to time. It summarises the steps taken so far, with links to detailed pages, and also describes what is happening now.

    1   WORKSHOP (November 2002)

    The Exercise began with a Call for Submissions to a Workshop, held at the National e-Science Centre in Edinburgh on 24-26 November 2002. You are invited to read the report of the Workshop. As a summary: There were 109 submissions, which were classified by the Programme Committee into four categories defined in response to the content of the submissions. Because of constraints upon the size of the Workshop it was not possible to invite all submitters to attend; however, each submission was discussed by a Panel concerned with the relevant category. All the submissions (except those subsequently withdrawn by the authors) are available at Panel A, Panel B, Panel C and Panel D.

    The aim of each Panel was to produce a reduced number of composite proposals, each incorporating ideas and goals from a number of related submissions. As a result, seven tentative proposals for Grand Challenges were drafted. For each proposal, a Moderator volunteered to conduct a public discussion and update the draft at suitable intervals.

    2   PUBLIC DISCUSSION (January--May 2003)

    The UKCRC proposed a strategy of next steps that could be followed after the Workshop. (This a strategy is likely to be continue in adapted form as the Exercise proceeds. ) As the first of these steps, a public discussion of the draft proposals, open to the whole computing research community, was conducted on this website from mid-January to 26 May 2003. There was one discussion group per proposal, and an over-arching discussion group to consider the concept of Grand Challenges and the submission of new proposals. Anyone could join any group. During the discussion, the proposals were developed and refined, and new versions were set up on the website from time to time.

    The Programme Committee's Report on the reports of the discussion groups was considered on 2 June 2003 by UKCRC, which endorsed it with enthusiasm.

    3   CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT (June 2003 --- )

    Each of the discussion group reports constitutes a firm basis for the continued development of a long-term research programme, whether or not it aims at meeting criteria for a Grand Challenge. It was therefore decided to continue the discussion groups on the website indefinitely. By this and other means each group will continue to add substance to its programme and to recruit further support. Researchers are therefore encouraged to continue taking part in these discussions with either contributions or criticism.

    The over-arching Master Discussion also continues, providing a medium for general discussion and for submission of new ideas.

    UKCRC has undertaken to maintain the Grand Challenge Exercise on a rolling basis, as a way of coordinating long-term scientific aspirations in computing, whether or not they lead to Grand Challenges.

    4   PRESS CONFERENCE (September 2003)

    A Press Conference was held at the BCS Headquarters in London on 22 September 2003. The Grand Challenge Moderators prepared a set of Abstracts for the Press, and a subset of them presented overviews to journalists. Informative accounts subsequently appeared in Computing, the New Scientist and the Financial Times.

    5   PUBLIC CONFERENCE (March 2004)

    A Conference on 'Grand Challenges for Computing Research', held in Newcastle on March 29-31 2004, jointly with a Conference on 'Grand Challenges for Computing Education'. Its stated aims were:

    In response to an open call, some 50 submissions were received, almost all linked to an existing Challenge. As in the Workshop (2002) these were again the subject of Panel discussions. The two Conferences jointly attracted over 250 attendees, and were sponsored by CPHC and the BCS.

    To mark the progress of the Exercise, the BCS has published a Report dated January 2005, entitled Grand Challenges in Computing Research, with an overview of the whole exercise followed by a short section on each Challenge proposal.


    Each Challenge Moderator with his/her collaborators has set up a Network, or is exploiting an existing Network, together with a series of Workshops. They aim to reach broad agreement on how best to promote high-quality research in the topics of their Challenge. The intended outcome in each case is to develop background documentation, feasibility studies, and a Roadmap of strategic directions.

    The Moderators for Challenges GC2 and GC4 (involving different aspects of ubiquitous computing, have agreed to combine them), forming a joint Challenge GC2/4 entitled `Global Ubiquitous Computing: Design and Science'. A joint proposal is in final stages of drafting; it will replace the two existing proposals by April 2005.

    A small committee for each of the Challenge proposals has been set up to carry it forward, together with an overall Steering Committee. Each Committee has elected a Chair. The Committees and Chairs are listed below.


    The UKCRC is grateful both to the EPSRC and to the NeSC for their support of this Exercise.