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CACM Reports: Using Computational Complexity to Protect Elections

November Issue Reports on Security in the Cloud, Job Prospects for CS Grads, and Outlook for Search-Engine Ranking

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – October 28, 2010 – Elections are highly important to democratic societies, and with increased reliance on electronic agents, they have become more open to attacks. In the cover story in the November Communications of the ACM (CACM) researchers from Poland’s AGH University of Science and Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester examine a startling new approach to protecting elections.  This approach uses computational complexity as a shield, making the task of trying to affect the election computationally prohibitive.  In a discussion that touches on the P vs. NP problem, they conclude that computational complexity may truly be the key to defending elections from manipulation.  Also in this issue, Communications Editor-in-Chief Moshe Vardi explains the shortcomings of the claimed proof that P does not equal NP.  He calls for a broader complexity theory that would explain both the difficulty and the easiness of NP-complete problems. 

            Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format

            Technology writer Gary Anthes surveys several ingenious solutions that researchers are devising to address security risks in cloud computing.  Approaches include automating security management through virtualization techniques, currently underway at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and IBM Research, and cryptographic cloud storage by researchers at Microsoft.  Anthes notes that cloud security is hampered by scant legal or regulatory frameworks and few precedents to deal with liability issues among parties in cloud arrangements. 

            Job prospects for computer science graduates in the U.S. are rosy, reports technology writer Leah Hoffmann.  Data from several universities shows CS graduates typically receiving multiple job offers this year, and a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers said the average salary for this year’s CS graduates was $61,112.  The article also cites a “coolness factor” among the current generation of students, and points to the latest Taulbee Survey showing an influx of college students to the field after a steep six-year decline.  Despite these gains, the supply of CS graduates in the U.S. is still dwarfed by the projected number of jobs.  In the UK, China, and India, job prospects vary widely as does each country’s educational and economic situations. 

            Concerns about biased manipulation of search results may require intervention involving government regulation, write Patrick Vogl and Michael Barrett of the University of Cambridge, UK.  They explore the role of search engines as gatekeepers of information, and evaluate the concerns of users over the possible targeted manipulation of search results.  Markets alone, they argue, are unlikely to sufficiently address these concerns, and propose a new approach to increasing transparency in the relationship between Webmasters and search engines. 

            Grappling with the definitions and descriptions of computational thinking in K-12 STEM education, authors Stephen Cooper of Stanford University, Lance C. Perex of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Daphne Rainey of the National Science Foundation propose an alternative to the terms used in higher education. Viewing computational learning as an iterative and interactive process between the K-12 student and the computer, the authors’ model combines theories of human learning with the computer’s superiority in dealing with complexity and variability, and its ability to present results in ways that appeal to the learner.             

            Other November Communications articles:

  •        In an article developed by acmqueue, software programmer Poul-Hanning Kamp posits that progress with programming languages requires a break from the “tyranny of ASCII.”  He analyzes the history of programming languages and wonders why programmers keep trying to cram an expressive syntax into the ASCII straightjacket.
  •        Pablo J. Boczkowski of Northwestern University dissects the divergent online news preferences of journalists and readers.  His research found that journalists selected more news about politics, economics, business, and international matters, while readers were more interested in sports, weather, entertainment, and crime.  This mismatch, he contends, bodes ill not just for elite media organization but for the public as well
  •        In a Technical Perspective, Sarita Adve of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign comments that data races have been widely considered symptoms of bugs, leading to the conclusion that programming languages should strive to eliminate data races.  She reviews two research papers on Goldilocks and FastTrack, which propose alternative solutions that use always-on data race detection for current languages.
  •        Pamela Samuelson of the University of California, Berkeley assesses the controversial results of a recent empirical study on the role of intellectual property in software startups, and detects a perception among software entrepreneurs that patents may be important to potential funders, but that patents do not provide strong incentives to engage in technology innovation.
  •        Blog@CACM blogger Tessa Lau discusses the acceptance criteria for Human Computer Interaction systems papers at CHI and other conferences.

            For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 

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