[macs-faculty] MACS site visit, Oct 6-7

Mayank Varia varia at bu.edu
Tue Aug 16 15:27:54 EDT 2016

Hi everyone,

In this email I will describe what we know so far about the MACS site
visit. I apologize in advance for the length of this email; please read the
whole thing anyway! I only have one action item for you right now: please
email Ran and me with the question I ask at the very end.


The site visit is on October 6-7 at the Castle at BU (225 Bay State Rd,
Boston, MA 02215
the same place as the kickoff meeting two years ago. We will begin at 8am
on each day. The first day is going to run very long (I'll explain why
below). The second day will be 'normal'; we might be done with our
obligation by ~lunchtime, and certainly by the end of the normal business


The site visit is the biggest opportunity for NSF to learn about our
project so that they can advocate to their management why we merit
continued funding. As such, it has huge sway upon the future of our
project. The panelists themselves provide technical guidance towards NSF's
decision-making. During the site visit, the NSF panelists will write a
report summarizing their thoughts about our project.

The overriding question that NSF wants to know from us is why we should be
awarded one Frontier grant rather than ~5-6 Mediums. To use the cliche: why
is the total effort greater than the sum of its parts?


*External panel:* There will be 3 NSF employees from the first visit (Nina,
Anita, Tim) plus maybe 1 more. Also, ~5-7 senior faculty members from other
institutions will be visiting as well. We will learn the identities of the
panelists about a week before the site visit.

*Faculty:* This is a formal project event, so NSF expects all faculty on
the grant to be there. (Yes, I admit it will mostly be boring, but no, you
still cannot leave. Bring a book.) If you have to leave for a few hours for
an official responsibility such as teaching, that's fine, but please make
every effort to be present for as long as possible. For non-BU faculty: let
me know if you need a parking permit here.

Nina says that it is "frightfully embarrassing" (her words) if team members
don't show up; our panelists are taking time to visit Boston, so we should
be there too. There have been Frontier projects in the past that had poor
attendance, resulting in an 'incomplete' evaluation and the need to hold
another site visit. Let's not do that!

*Postdocs:* I'll let you decide this on a case-by-case basis. Postdocs
should probably be present for the morning of Oct 6. They're not essential
throughout the event, but it may be a good learning experience for them.

*Students:* Please invite 1-2 students to attend the poster session during
lunch on Oct 6. Otherwise, they should stay away.


The first day (Oct 6) features 4 talks by the PIs on our research,
leadership/collaboration, education/outreach, and future activities.
Additionally, we will have a poster session during lunch for the panel to
talk to students/postdocs directly about their work. The rest of the
business day is reserved for the panelists to talk amongst themselves and
write their report.

By 5pm on the first day, the panel will prepare a written list of ~7-10
questions for us. We must be able to respond to their questions by 8am on
the second day! So: it will be a long evening for us (sorry!).

Here's the full agenda for day 1.

   - 8 - 8:30: Project overview
   - 8:30 - 10: Summary of research
   - 10 - 10:30: Break/panel discussion
   - 10:30 - 12: Leadership and collaboration, knowledge transfer,
   technical outreach
   - 12 - 1:30: Lunch + poster session
   - 1:30 - 2: Panel discussion
   - 2 - 3: Education and outreach
   - 3 - 3:30: Future directions
   - 3:30 - 5: Panel discussion, eventually producing a set of questions
   for us
   - 5 - ?: We prepare responses to the questions

The sole purpose of the second day (Oct 7) is for the panel to prepare
their report. We will begin by addressing their questions (say 8-10am?),
and then they will adjourn to a separate space to write, possibly asking us
additional questions as needed. They will be writing until 5pm, but perhaps
they will release us sooner than that.


It is patently impossible to explain all of our research activities in a
1.5 hour talk, and only slightly easier to describe all of the
collaboration/outreach/future plans in their respective time slots. So,
please think about the topics that you feel relate best to our project's
overriding themes of (1) composable security across different layers of the
cloud and (2) connecting the theory and practice of designing secure

The scope of the talks is broad; anything that you and/or your students
have done throughout the entire 2 years is fair game. Additionally, if you
gave a talk at last year's site visit and the panelists liked it, please
give the talk again! No need to worry about repetition.

Please send Ran and me an email describing any topics that you feel merit:

*1. A presentation on Oct 6.*
Remember that time is short! There will likely only be ~10 minutes to cover
each topic, and it might be the case that Ran describes many of the
research efforts himself to save on transitions.

*2. A poster that your students/postdocs could describe during lunch on Oct
Please choose ideas based both on topic relevancy and your thoughts on
whether the students will be good ambassadors for our project.

*3. A presentation at the PI meeting on Sept 9.*
We will use the PI meeting to prepare for the site visit, so pick topics
that you feel the rest of the group should know in order to present a
unified front at the site visit itself. Additionally, if you have postdocs
who haven't spoken yet at a PI meeting, get them to speak at this one.

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