A major center just completed,10 so I finally have time to collect my thoughts on centers. I have been part of a dozen centers in computer systems, often as director (see the accompanying table). By center, I mean a research project with at least three faculty, a dozen students, and a common vision. This Viewpoint is from the perspective of an academic in computer systems, but I hope it has wider applicability, even beyond academia. I do not advocate centers for all research; a lone researcher is best for many topics. Why care about the Berkeley experience? Alas, establishing credentials is a lot like bragging so let me apologize in advance, which I will also need to do later. The U.S. News and World Report ranked universities for the computer systems field four times since 2002. In every survey, our peers rank UC Berkeley first. In addition, the National Research Council published a study of information technology research that led to multibillion-dollar industries.6 UC Berkeley was associated with seven such industries, more than any other university, primarily for its system projects.
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