CITRIS, or the Center for Information Technology Research
in the Interest of Society, is a partnership between UC Berkeley,
UC Davis, UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz to create information
technology solutions to critical societal problems, particularly
in the areas of transportation, education, emergency preparedness,
health care and business growth. Many of these problems depend
on widespread, reliable and secure information systems that
adapt to the varied needs of users and continue to perform
even if part of the system is down, disabled or under attack.
With input from engineers, scientists and social scientists,
the initial focus of CITRIS is to develop the technical foundations
of such Societal-scale Information Systems (SISs) to meet
many of California's needs within years, not decades.
Why is CITRIS unique?
Information technology (IT) is transforming all aspects of
society at an accelerating pace, from business systems and
social and political infrastructure to many aspects of our
personal lives. Yet, the current path for developing IT will,
at best, severely under utilize its potential and, at worst,
yield a fragile and disaster-prone IT infrastructure that
cannot meet market demands and simultaneously leaves much
of the general population behind. In addition, many of society's
most vital needs, such as transportation, health care, education
and emergency preparedness, do not receive adequate attention
in the IT community. CITRIS will be the first large-scale
project to tackle these needs.
Where did the idea for CITRIS come from?
The idea for CITRIS began more than a year ago in response
to several simultaneous changes taking place in the world
and in the field of engineering. During a discussion of the
future direction of UC Berkeley's Department of Electrical
Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS), the faculty agreed
that the real opportunities for impact in research lay not
in computer science for its own sake, but in its application
to other areas in society and in industry. These professors
realized the importance of applying information technology
to other engineering disciplines and in areas beyond engineering,
including the humanities, social sciences and the arts.
Professor Paul Gray, then dean of engineering at UC Berkeley,
planned an off-site workshop to tackle key challenges facing
engineering in the years to come, such as growth, distance
education and lifelong learning, and the balance among the
various engineering disciplines. In light of the rapid progress
in applying information technology and computing to all fields
related to science and engineering, a task force proposed
to address a challenge articulated by Adib Kanafani, chair
of UC Berkeley's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering:
"We need to re-engineer engineering in the context of today's
this time, Gov. Davis proposed a new set of institutes - the
California Institutes for Science and Innovation (CISI)- to
be implemented on or near UC campuses. As soon as the request
for proposals was released, professors Gray and A. Richard
Newton asked professor James Demmel of EECS to solicit interest
from the faculty and to investigate the possibility of proposing
a cross-disciplinary research institute to tackle tough social
problems using an information technology-centered approach.
Demmel sent e-mail to the faculty in the College of Engineering
at UC Berkeley, to other faculty across the Berkeley campus,
and to groups at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis as well. He was
overwhelmed by the response. Altogether, more than 170 faculty
replied enthusiastically that they wanted to participate.
What role do the industry partners play in the research planned
Gov. Davis envisioned the California Institutes for Science
and Innovation as opportunities to create a new environment
for industry-university collaborations in fundamental research
and teaching. Thus, industry scientists will be invited to
participate in research collaborations, be engaged in co-teaching
new courses and provide internships for students.
research will involve collaboration with founding corporate
members as well as with many other affiliated companies. This
close collaboration with industry is needed to disseminate
key research insights and artifacts rapidly, thus maintaining
and strengthening California's leadership in this field and
benefiting its citizens and industry. This industry participation
model also provides a natural mechanism for evaluating the
relevance of the research and the technology transfer possibilities
Will industry partners be the only ones to reap the commercial
rewards of CITRIS research discoveries?
No. All CITRIS results are expected to be published and publicly
disseminated to the research community and typically made
available to the public on the Web. CITRIS wants to maximize
the impact of its research, and the best way to ensure that
is to make all results open to all on a royalty-free, non-exclusive,
worldwide basis. This includes the source code of any software
created, the content of databases and any other copyrightable
material. Such openness is critical to maximizing the broad
impact of the institute and its research, as well as for establishing
CITRIS as a leader in these important new areas of research.
Will any physical space be built or renovated to house CITRIS'
Depending on the level of support for CITRIS, two new buildings
are planned. CITRIS I, to be built north of Soda Hall, the
home of the computer sciences division, would house laboratories
and offices. The second, CITRIS II, would be built on the
site where Davis Hall is today. This larger building would
house a Lifelong Learning Center, a micro/bio laboratory,
plus laboratory and office space for collaborative research.