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NSF Names Daniel Atkins to Head New Office of Cyberinfrastructure

Appointment Announced on Heels of Atkins Visit to SDSC

Published 02/08/2006

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named distinguished computer scientist Dr. Daniel E. Atkins to head its newly created Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI). Just one week ago, Atkins spoke at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) where he addressed leaders from numerous minority serving institutions (MSI) as part of the MSI C(I)2 Workshop.

Dr. Atkins, a professor in the School of Information and in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has made major contributions to high-performance computer architecture, and led or participated in the design and construction of seven experimental machines including some of the earliest parallel computers.

He has developed high-speed arithmetic algorithms now widely used in the computer industry, conducted pioneering work on special-purpose architecture including collaboration with the Mayo Clinic on development of computer-assisted tomography (CAT), and chaired the committee at Michigan that developed one of the earliest computer engineering undergraduate degree programs. More recently his research has focused on the social and technical architecture of distributed knowledge communities.

Dr. Atkins will join NSF on June 5 as Director of the Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI), which has a Fiscal Year 2006 budget of $127 million. The President's budget request for OCI in FY2007 calls for $182.42 million--an increase of $55.3 million, or 43.5%.

Created in June of 2005, OCI makes competitive, merit-reviewed awards for leading-edge, IT-based infrastructure increasingly essential to science and engineering leadership in the 21st century.

Cyberinfrastructure includes supercomputers, data management systems, high capacity networks, digitally-enabled observatories and scientific instruments, and an interoperable suite of software and middleware services and tools for computation, visualization, and collaboration. The OCI will work closely with all offices and directorates of the NSF to realize the Foundation's emerging Vision for 21st Century Discovery (

"I cannot imagine a more ideal choice for this critical position at this critical time," said NSF Director Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr. "Not only does Dan have unparalleled leadership experience and a strong vision, but he is already very familiar with the Foundation, its programs and policies."

Dr. Atkins served as Chair of NSF's Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure. In early 2003, the panel issued a highly influential report, titled Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure, that recommends a major program in cyberinfrastructure-enhanced science and engineering research and allied education for the nation under the leadership of NSF. In addition, Dr. Atkins was director of the NSF EXPRES Project that laid the foundation for NSF's FASTLANE system of all-electronic proposal submission and management.

As computer and communication systems merged in the early 1980's, Dr. Atkins shifted his focus from traditional computer architecture to the technical and social architecture of distributed knowledge communities. He was co-founder of an interdisciplinary research group of social and computer science faculty at UM who were pioneers in the area of computer-supported cooperative work and related topics in human-computer interaction.

Dr. Atkins has been project director for several large interdisciplinary NSF-sponsored projects to develop principles for the design and evaluation of IT-enabled scientific "collaboratories," or "centers without walls" in which researchers can perform their research without regard to physical location, interacting with colleagues, accessing instrumentation, sharing data and computational resources, and accessing information and data in digital libraries and repositories. These flagship collaboratory projects, primarily focusing on atmospheric and space science, also included outreach to middle and high school science education and helped create the conditions for the current cyberinfrastructure/e-science movement in support of both research and education.

In addition, Dr. Atkins led workshops to develop the NSF Digital Library Initiative including joint programs with the European Commission and later became project director of the UM Digital Library Project. He helped pilot the Mellon Foundation sponsored JSTOR Project now in wide use in academic libraries. These projects laid the foundation for UM leadership in digital library production activities.

In 1992, Dr. Atkins became the founding Dean of the University of Michigan School of Information. This professional graduate school (M.S. and Ph.D.) is committed to learning, research and societal engagement through a combined social-humanistic-technical approach to "bringing people, information and technology together in more valuable ways." He had previously served as Associate Dean for Research for the UM College of Engineering.

Dr. Atkins, who earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a B.S.E.E. from Bucknell University, will join NSF management under the provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, and will retain his academic position at the University of Michigan.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.47 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.