The Pipeline Crisis in Computing Taking the Initiative SIGCSE 2007 Symposium Covington, Kentucky March 9, 2007 Eric Roberts Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University Co-chair of the ACM Education Board Reframing the Issue
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Taking the Initiative
SIGCSE 2007 Symposium
March 9, 2007
Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University
Co-chair of the ACM Education Board
Graphic created by Greg Lavender at the University of Texas.
SOURCE: National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics, SESTAT (Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System), 1999, as presented by Caroline Wardle at Snowbird 2002Economic Utility of Disciplinary Degrees
Working in the life sciences typically requires a degree in biology or some closely related field, but relatively few biology majors actually end up working in the field.
In computing, the pattern of degree production vs. employment is reversed.
These data suggest a significant underproduction of students with computing degrees at the university level.
While it is itself a discipline, computational science serves to advance all of science. The most scientifically important and economically promising research frontiers in the 21st century will be conquered by those most skilled with advanced computing technologies and computational science applications. But despite the fundamental contributions of computational science to discovery, security, and competitiveness, inadequate and outmoded structures within the Federal government and the academy today do not effectively support this critical multidisciplinary field.Why Other Sciences Should Be Concerned
Though the information technology-powered revolution is accelerating, this country has not yet awakened to the central role played by computational science and high-end computing in advanced scientific, social science, biomedical, and engineering research; defense and national security; and industrial innovation. Together with theory and experimentation, computational science now constitutes the “third pillar” of scientific inquiry, enabling researchers to build and test models of complex phenomena—such as multi-century climate shifts, multidimensional flight stresses on aircraft, and stellar explosions—that cannot be replicated in the laboratory, and to manage huge volumes of data rapidly and economically. . . .
Students are insecure about the dot-com bust and offshoring.
CS curricula are seen as unexciting and lacking in flexibility.
Images of computing work—and workers—are often negative.
Introductory courses have become more difficult to teach.
Teaching computing in high school faces growing challenges.
Students have changed in ways that decrease the appeal of CS.Reasons for the Decline
For much of our field’s history, programming was the most popular aspect of the major. That seems to have changed.
And for those programming jobs, the reason it’s possible to sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time is because in CS we can learn new things, achieve goals, and be creative. Every day! It’s this last point that really drives me, personally. If you ask any passionate person how they can "___ all day long", it’s because that’s their outlet for being creative.Some Encouraging Signs
Matt Jacobsen, Senior, UC Berkeley
A common misconception is that many people think CS means sitting in front of a computer all day long. This may often be the case for programming, but CS is a large field. There are many applications that require CS skills that involve little or no programming. . . .
From Dan Garcia’s “Faces of CS” web site.
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
Published: October 10, 2006
A profitless Web site started by three 20-somethings after a late-night dinner party is sold for more than a billion dollars, instantly turning dozens of its employees into paper millionaires. It sounds like a tale from the late 1990’s dot-com bubble, but it happened yesterday.
Google, the online search behemoth, agreed yesterday to pay $1.65 billion in stock for the Web site that came out of that party—YouTube, the video-sharing phenomenon that is the darling of an Internet resurgence known as Web 2.0. . . .The purchase price has also invited comparisons to the mind-boggling valuations that were once given to dozens of Silicon Valley companies a decade ago. Like YouTube, those companies were once the Next Big Thing, but some soon folded.More Encouraging Signs
—Don Knuth, October 11, 2006Computing Is Getting Harder
Many faculty in our discipline believe that teaching computing has become more difficult. The contributing factors include:
Concern over these has sparked several initiatives including the ACM Java Task Force.
We have met the enemy and he is us.
Unfortunately, the sense of crisis in recent years carries with it the risk that our community will adopt desperate measures that are self-defeating in the long run: