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National Computational Science Alliance and NCSA announce leadership transition

John Melchi, (217) 244-3049;

Karen Green, (217) 265-0748;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The National Computational Science Alliance will enter a new phase today when Larry Smarr, founding director of the Alliance and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, assumes the new role of Alliance Strategic Adviser.  This change will free him of his management responsibilities of the Alliance and NCSA.

Dan Reed, head of the UI department of computer science and co-lead for the Alliance’s technology development efforts, will take the helm as Alliance director.  Jim Bottum, currently deputy director of NCSA and the Alliance, will become NCSA’s executive director.  The management changes are effective today, with the transition to be completed by June 1.

“I’m very optimistic about the future of technology on the Urbana campus,” Smarr said.  “In my new role, I will have more opportunities to work with academic researchers, federal agencies and the private sector to create and develop a new vision for the future of computing and information technology in this country.”

The management changes will enable NCSA and the UI to take maximum advantage of the recently announced Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science and the proposed new NCSA building.  These two buildings will anchor a world-class information technology complex that includes the UI’s new IT Research Park.  The new complex will operate as a technology pipeline that couples long-term computer science research, prototyping and development, and technology transfer to startups and IT companies.

“We’re entering a new era – extraordinary advances in computing and its applications are transforming every aspect of science and society,” Reed said.  “The UI and the Alliance have a unique opportunity to help shape the future of computing, and in this new position, I am delighted to be a part of that future.”

The changes come as the Alliance, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, enters its fourth year.  Launched in 1997, the Alliance is prototyping the 21st century’s information infrastructure through a partnership among researchers at more than 50 institutions.  A new type of virtual organization was established to manage and lead the Alliance, with the understanding that its structure was dynamic and likely to change and adapt over the 10-year life of the partnership.

The Alliance is now focusing on the creation of major information infrastructure components, driven by collaborating with Alliance application teams.  A newly structured executive management team has been developed to lead the Alliance in this important development and deployment phase.

Commenting on the changes, UI Chancellor Michael Aiken said:  “This is exactly the right move at the right time.  We are excited at the promise represented by Larry Smarr’s new role.  He has a unique gift for envisioning the future of information technology and for communicating that vision to the rest of us.  I am confident that his new role as Alliance Strategic Adviser will significantly enrich the development of information technology throughout the world and this university’s part in it.

“By bringing NCSA and the department of computer science into closer collaboration, Dan Reed’s new leadership will open up exciting new possibilities for both as their missions become increasingly complementary.”

A summary of the management changes:

Larry Smarr, the founding director of the Alliance and NCSA, will move into the new position of Alliance Strategic Adviser and will step down as director of the Alliance and NCSA.  In his new capacity, Smarr will collaborate with academic researchers and private-sector companies working on the frontier of the global information infrastructure to identify emerging trends.  He also will focus on the new opportunities made possible by the convergence of information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology as academic research, government funding and private-sector investment greatly increase in this new disciplinary revolution.  He will use the results of these new insights to advise the Alliance and NCSA and identify new opportunities to partner with agencies, users and industry. Smarr also will provide advice and leadership on the development of private sector involvement in the emerging IT Research Park complex.

Dan Reed, head of the UI department of computer science, co-leader of the Alliance’s Enabling Technologies teams, and the Alliance’s chief computer scientist, will become director of the Alliance and principal investigator for the Alliance cooperative agreement with the NSF.  In this role, he will assume overall responsibility for both the Alliance and NCSA, providing strategic direction and leadership for NCSA in its role as the leading-edge site for the Alliance.  Reed is a respected leader within the Alliance, in the national computer science community, and among the federal agencies that support research and development.  Reed is also the lead investigator for the Alliance’s NSF terascale proposal, a plan to develop new supercomputer hardware and software that perform in the multi-teraflop range.  Reed also will continue as head of the UI department of computer science.  In this role, he will foster greater collaborations among one of the nation’s leading computer science departments, NCSA, the Alliance, the private sector and the UI Research Park.

Jim Bottum, NCSA’s deputy director since 1987 and a deputy director of the Alliance since 1997, will be promoted to executive director of NCSA, which has a staff of approximately 275.  NCSA will have a strong experienced leader who will concentrate on integrating the day-to-day operations of NCSA and ensuring a smooth linkage with the NCSA partners in the Alliance and Private Sector Program. Bottum also will be responsible for Alliance business operations and will act as NCSA’s liaison with the UI, the NSF and the state of Illinois.  Bottum also will play a key role in the continuing effort to bring new commerce to the Champaign-Urbana area and to promote technology transfer to various sectors of the community.

John Toole, an Alliance deputy director since 1997, was recruited by the Computer Museum History Center in the Silicon Valley region of California.  He has accepted a new position as executive director and CEO and will resign his Alliance position effective April 10. Information technology entrepreneurs and executives are establishing the museum in Silicon Valley.  Toole has been an invaluable player in the process of creating the Alliance and in working in Washington, D.C., with government agencies.  He brings a wealth of first-hand experience and knowledge about the evolution of the modern computational infrastructure to his new position.

Rick Stevens, head of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne National Laboratory and co-lead of the Alliance’s Enabling Technologies teams, will become the chief computational architect of the Alliance.  Unofficially Stevens has been in this role for some time, and his responsibilities will increase as development of the broadband Grid and the Alliance Centers for Collaboration, Education, Science and Software (ACCESS) continue.  Stevens will help create an integrated prototyping effort with the Department of Energy Office of Science and the NSF’s PACI program.  Stevens also is a computer science professor at the University of Chicago, and co-director of the Argonne/Chicago Computational Institute.

Philip M. Smith, a partner in the Washington-based science and technology policy consulting firm of McGeary and Smith, will continue as the chair of the Alliance External Advisory Council and as a consultant and adviser to the Alliance and NCSA.  Smith provides advice on research and development and organizational leadership issues, drawing on his decades of experience managing federally funded research programs and as a science and technology policy adviser.

The new Alliance leadership team was selected after careful consultation with the Alliance External Advisory Council, UI President James J. Stukel, Chancellor Michael Aiken, Provost Richard Herman, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Tony Waldrop at the Urbana-Champaign campus, the Alliance Executive Committee and NCSA Leadership Council. The new executive team has the full backing of the NSF.

The National Computational Science Alliance is a partnership to prototype an advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century and includes more than 50 academic, government and industry research partners from across the United States.  The Alliance is one of two partnerships funded by the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, and receives cost-sharing at partner institutions.  NSF also supports the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is the leading-edge site for the National Computational Science Alliance.  NCSA is a leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge high-performance computing, networking and information technologies.  The National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, industrial partners and other federal agencies fund NCSA.