The annual SC conference is the “go-to” event for innovation in our community, but for those focused on the development of a robust future computational workforce, one announcement in particular stood out at SC15: creation of the ACM SIGHPC/Intel Computational and Data Science Fellowships.
These fellowships, announced by Intel Senior Vice President Diane Bryant, are underwritten by a commitment from Intel of $1.5M over the next five years. The explicit goal is to encourage more women and under-represented groups to pursue graduate degrees in data science and computational science. A uniquely valuable feature of these fellowships is that applicants studying anywhere in the world — not just in the United States — are encouraged to have their advisors nominate them, since these disciplines clearly have had global impact. Nominators must justify how the student qualifies as under-represented in the computing field within the country where they study. That definitely creates extra challenges for us in evaluating candidates, but we are excited by the opportunity to add nuance to the conversation around diversity in computing. The diversity conversation is frequently US-centric, and all too often devolves to simply counting membership in rigid gender and ethnic categories. We hope our approach will yield a much richer fabric of experiences and backgrounds among the SIGHC/Intel Fellows who will lead our next generation workforce.
Why is this type of investment important? If we hope to create long-term change in the demographics of the computing workforce, investments such as Intel’s are critical enablers. Efforts to raise awareness about the business case for diversity (there is great science here!) and to increase interest among potential workforce members won’t be enough if universities and computing organizations don’t implement the structural changes needed to move from enthusiasm to action.
We are grateful to Intel for their investment, and to ACM for the commitment and dedication they’ve shown in making these fellowships a reality. Response to the call for nominations has been amazing. The selection process will begin as soon as nominations close on April 30. I hope you’ll join me at SC16, where the Fellowship winners will be formally recognized.
Cherri Pancake is Professor Emeritus and Intel Faculty Fellow in EECS at Oregon State University, and the founding director of the Northwest Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering. As Chair of SIGHPC and ACM Awards Chair, she has spearheaded the development of the new Fellowships.