Published: Dec. 10, 2020 By

CU Boulder faculty member plays key role in white papers for policymakers

Liz Bradley headshotEvery four years, the Computing Research Association’s Computing Community Consortium undertakes a series of white papers for policymakers and the computing community that focuses on potential research directions, challenges and recommendations around national priorities.

This year, that effort was led by CU Boulder computer science Professor Liz Bradley, who is chairing the CCC. In July, the CCC convened a group of academic and industry representatives and began brainstorming topics that policymakers needed to be most aware of in the next four years.

The result is 18 papers focused on topics like artificial intelligence, online disinformation and cybersecurity. Bradley, who has been a part of the “transition paper” process for several cycles, said it has been a gratifying way to contribute her skills and knowledge more broadly.

“I care about funding for research, but what I really care about is good policy for science and how policy can be made on solid scientific basis with good funding to support and bootstrap. So that was my goal in doing this,” she said.

In past years, the process of disseminating – or “briefing” – CCC reports and white papers in D.C. has been a whirlwind of rushed hallway meetings with congressional staffers, as well as outreach to connections in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Defense and more.

This year, in true COVID-19 fashion, those briefings will happen virtually, which Bradley expects will allow them to have an even greater reach. CCC members have also already been providing the papers in advance to some of their personal contacts.

CU Boulder alumnus Maj. Gen. Matthew Easley (MCompSci’98, PhD’00) is one of those contacts who got a “sneak peek.” A former PhD advisee of Bradley, he is now the chief information security officer in the office of the U.S. Army’s chief information officer. He said the policy and research recommendations in the papers are helping him understand the future of cybersecurity, computing and information. 

“Each paper is a summary of important technology advancements that our country must be preparing for,” he said. “Just in cybersecurity, they point to changes in how quantum computing will affect our public key infrastructure, how the adoption of IoT device and 5G and 6G technologies will increase the number of networked devices we must manage exponentially, or how to counter AI-based information warfare attacks.“

Bradley said they’re also seeing the results of some of the “seeds” they’ve planted in previous years, as people contact them about white papers from past cycles.

“It's been a wild ride watching them go out and just land, and then all of a sudden there's a plant there,” she said. “It's like you throw the seed down and suddenly the beanstalk comes up.”

For instance, as vice chair of the CCC, she helped to develop a research roadmap for artificial intelligence that was likely a factor in the launch of the National Science Foundation’s AI Research Institutes, including the AI Institute for Student-AI Teaming at CU Boulder.

“That roadmap took a year out of my life and a lot of gray hair, but it has transformed things,” Bradley said.

This year, Bradley specifically helped to author two of the papers, “An Agenda for Disinformation Research” and “Pandemic Informatics: Preparation, Robustness and Resilience,” and edited a number of the others. While she said they’ve already gotten a lot of interest in the papers from their sneak peeks and briefings, she’s also looking forward to seeing their impact in the future.

“The CRA, especially the CCC, has been growing this kind of ecosystem for around 15 years now,” Bradley said. “It really is kind of like gardening. You make sure that your garden soil is right, and you don't know what's going to come up, but something might come up in three years.”

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