Information Trust Institute Engages Leaders across Campus to Make Societal Systems Trustworthy
The University of Illinois Information Trust Institute (ITI) has taken another major step forward, announcing its plans to expand across campus its mission to improve the trustworthiness of large-scale systems that are critical to society, such as health care systems and technology, agriculture systems, air transportation systems, and emergency response systems.
A system's 'trustworthiness' is its ability to remain secure, available, safe, and correct, even under adverse conditions such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The challenges involved in providing trustworthiness to large-scale systems are not narrowly technical in nature, but include business, social, psychological, and legal factors as well. As a result, ITI, which originally formed in 2004 around a small group of researchers in the College of Engineering, has expanded rapidly to include over 90 faculty and senior researchers from 24 departments and units spanning six Colleges, covering areas that range from community health to linguistics to almost every aspect of engineering.
At a day-long ITI member retreat on May 3, 2007, ITI Director William H. Sanders announced that ITI is now moving to the campus level to embrace every field of research that relates to its mission. As Sanders stated, ITI is becoming broader in terms of applications, but also broader in what we mean by trust. He explained that ITI is no longer concentrating simply on the quality of 'plumbing' through which data flows, but also on the quality of information that enters the pipeline as input, and on the confidence of human users in the information that exits the pipeline as output. "To address applications with global societal implications, we must bring top talent together from units across campus," he added.
His comments were echoed by University of Illinois Vice Provost Ruth Watkins, who also addressed the audience at the retreat. "ITI is ideally positioned to make advancements to positively impact societal needs, as prioritized in the campus strategic plan," she said. "The campus believes ITI is a model of what can happen when committed, innovative faculty from across campus come together. ITI is a central part of the campus plan, and the campus is behind ITI 110%." Reflecting that cross-disciplinary emphasis, the retreat included a panel discussion on Societal Systems Trust that included faculty leaders from Engineering, Applied Health Sciences, Law, Agricultural & Biological Engineering, and Business. Breakout sessions addressed the broad implications of trusted systems, including discussions on ways to respond to human needs, societal impacts of trusted technology, and the challenges of building trustworthy systems. Faculty from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering played a major role in the retreat, with more than 20 ECE faculty participating. ECE professor David Nicol moderated the panel discussion, and ECE professor Wen-mei Hwu moderated the discussion on building trustworthy information systems. Faculty from the Department of Computer Science also made major contributions, with Professors Carl Gunter and Klara Nahrstedt leading breakout discussions, and 14 CS professors participating.
Education is another key area in which ITI is announcing ambitious new plans. It has already been active in developing new courses, sponsoring competitions, and offering undergraduate summer research fellowships. Through the efforts of ITI's Center for Information Assurance Education, the National Security Agency recently re-designated the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to be an NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. However, the ITI leaders plan to further step up their education efforts, with a primary goal being to make all students across campus aware of the information technology issues that impact their main fields of study. Sanders said, "We plan to serve as the coordination point for cross-campus information trust education, complementing existing, traditional degree programs."
One of ITI's unique features is its strong emphasis on relationships with industry, and it has enjoyed great success in forming productive industry partnerships. It is continuing to pursue new government/university/corporate partnerships across broad application areas. In addition, interested faculty members throughout the University are encouraged to contact ITI if they'd like to participate in ITI or have ideas for new application areas or research directions. As Vice Provost Watkins stated, "the campus is very excited about the future potential of ITI," and the ITI leadership would like to see the entire campus become involved in that future.
About the Information Trust Institute (ITI)
The Information Trust Institute is a multi-disciplinary cross-campus research unit housed in the College of Engineering at Illinois. It is an international leader combining research and education with industrial outreach in trustworthy and secure information systems. ITI brings together over 90 faculty, many senior and graduate student researchers, and industry partners to conduct foundational and applied research to enable the creation of critical applications and cyber infrastructures. In doing so, ITI is creating computer systems, software, and networks that society can depend on to be trustworthy, that is, secure, dependable (reliable and available), correct, safe, private, and survivable. Instead of concentrating on narrow and focused technical solutions, ITI aims to create a new paradigm for designing trustworthy systems from the ground up and validating systems that are intended to be trustworthy. www.iti.illinois.edu
Contact: Molly M. Tracy, Associate Director, Information Trust Institute, 217/333-3437, mollyt AT iti.uiuc.edu.
Writer: Jenny Applequist, Information Trust Institute, 217/244-8920, applequi AT iti.uiuc.edu.
released May 28, 2007