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Communications of the ACM

Europe Region special section


images from April 2022 CACM Europe Region Special Section

Credit: Spooky Pooka / Debut Art

Welcome to the second Communications Regional Special Section spotlighting European countries and Israel. On a relatively small portion of the Earth, this region includes almost 50 countries with enormous cultural and socioeconomic diversity that is also reflected in the richness of its business structures and computer science research. The first Hot Topic article in this section illustrates the high overall share of European public research on a global scale, and further highlights significant differences within the region. We are happy to report the authors in this special section represent 15 countries throughout Europe plus Israel.

An important goal emphasized by the European Union (E.U.) and many individual countries is to attain digital sovereignty of the private and public sectors, while further developing areas of traditional industrial and design strengths into the future. Data strategies and regulations by the E.U. therefore emphasize resilient networking of decentralized digital infrastructures in addition to the presence of international big players from, for example, North America or China. In this regard, important initiatives spotlighted here include the GAIA-X initiative on decentralized data space infrastructures, the FENIX network of scientific high-performance computing, the transition from 5G to 6G networks, and more domain-specific initiatives related to Industry 4.0, to robotics, and to energy informatics in the context of de-carbonization—an important element of making the E.U.'s "Green Deal" become a reality.

Europe has shown world leadership in placing people at the core of the digital and AI revolutions, as exemplified by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the recently proposed AI regulation where human-centric aspects are at the core, such as bias avoidance, transparency, veracity, and the preservation of human autonomy. This "European approach" in existing or proposed regulations and research funding schemes have significant implications for systems design and computer science research topics. Thus, this section includes several contributions in this regard, such as studies of privacy-preserving networks, fair recommender systems, and general design implications to build trusted AI.

Beyond these strategically driven topics, the section also highlights selected fundamental research and industrial innovation projects in areas of traditional European CS strengths, such as formal methods, process management, and socio-technical user interface design. To bring the emerging field of quantum computing into more complex real-world solutions, its embedding into formally based software engineering methodologies requires deeper study. The generalization of the success of deep learning algorithms to "broad AI" is summarized by one of the top European contributors to this success. Further along on the evolutionary curve, the traditional European strength in business process management, exemplified by the early success of SAP, is reaching the next stage by highly successful European-initiated start-ups in process mining and robotic process automation that have their basis in fundamental Europe-driven research. Finally, Europe has a long tradition in human-centric systems and user interface design under special consideration of user diversity and inclusion. Recent developments are highlighted in application-oriented articles for crisis management and chronic patient support, and in a contribution on completely new interface types, such as on-skin computing.

To create this section, we conducted a (virtual) two-day workshop from August 25–26, 2021, with 34 presentations. Participants were in part directly invited, in part preselected from over 100 submissions in response to a public call for abstracts. The lively and fruitful discussions led to the sharpening of our foreseen structures, including a couple of newly formed author teams. In further steps, we converged to a choice of 22 initial articles invitations. After further discussions and a review of submissions by the guest editors and external referees, the result is a section composed of 11 Hot Topic and six Big Trend articles.

Of course, this special section can only cover a small part of the breadth and depth of CS research and innovation pursued in Europe and Israel. Nevertheless, we hope it will provide insights into many of the strategic drivers and networks of what is happening in the region and into exciting research results and start-up initiatives.

We would like to thank Jakob Rehof, co-chair of Communications' Regional Special Sections Editorial Board, and Morgan Denlow, Communications' Deputy to the EIC, for their most helpful advice and support in preparing this section. Many thanks go to all submitters and presenters at the workshop for their valuable and constructive input, and especially to the authors by adhering to our extremely tight deadlines despite all the obstacles placed in our way by the COVID-19 pandemic. This section would not have been possible without any of you.

—Jessica R. Cauchard, Matthias Jarke, and Nuria Oliver
Europe Regional Special Section Co-Organizers

Figure. More than 40 Europe Regional Special Section workshop participants met via Zoom to share ideas about the editorial content presented here.

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Andrew A. Chien

Morgan Denlow

Jakob Rehof
Haibo Chen
P J Narayanan

Jessica R. Cauchard
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Matthias Jarke
RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Nuria Oliver
ELLIS Unit Alicante Foundation, Spain

Figure. Watch the co-organizers discuss this section in the exclusive Communications video.

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Jessica R. Cauchard is an assistant professor in Human-Computer and Human-Robot interaction in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

Matthias Jarke is Emeritus Professor of Databases and Information Systems at RWTH Aachen University, Germany, and past Chairman of the Fraunhofer ICT group, the largest applied IT research organization in Europe.

Nuria Oliver is co-founder and Director of the ELLIS Unit Alicante Foundation and Chief Data Scientist at Data-Pop Alliance. She is also vice-president of ELLIS, the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems.

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