As I’m sure many other departments are doing today, our department submitted a letter of intent for the Simons Foundation Institute for the Theory of Computing. Do we have a shot? Well, we wouldn’t have submitted if we felt there was no chance. (Actually, we were thinking that the worst outcome would be if the Simons Foundation asks us to submit a full proposal when the probability of us actually hosting the institute is low.) In fact, depending on what the Simons Foundation is looking for (which is completely unclear to me), I think we might have a pretty good chance. The main points I see in favor of establishing a center at UMD are:
- It would be a chance to establish a new center for TCS research, rather than to strengthen an already existing center for TCS research. Sure, you could make that case for any location besides a select few (e.g., Boston, New York, Bay Area), but I would eliminate from consideration any location that is not near a big city (sorry, Cornell) as well as any location that does not already have some strength in TCS. Besides, the nation’s capital seems like a place where you might actively want to establish new strength in an area.
- At UMD there is a huge potential for collaboration with government agencies. Funding agencies like NSF or DARPA are the obvious ones, but we also have extensive existing collaborations (within TCS) with places like NASA and NIH, and we could hope to build on that with other agencies.
We made some other points in our letter of intent as well, but I think those are not necessarily unique to UMD.
Anyway, we’ll hope for the best!