As senior researchers in computer science, we were interested in both the report Towards 2020 Science, published by the Microsoft Corporation, and your related set of News Features and Commentaries (Nature 440, 398–405 2006 and Nature 440, 409–419; 2006). The vision of advanced computational techniques being tightly integrated with core science is an exciting and promising one, which we are glad to see being carefully explored and presented to the broader community.
We are, however, concerned that, of the 41 participants and commentators brought together by Microsoft, not one was female, with the same being true of the nine authors of the related articles in Nature. The report notes that the participants in the 2020 Science Group were geographically diverse, representing 12 nationalities, coming “from some of the world's leading research institutions and companies [and]… elected for their expertise in a principal field”. Women have earned between 13% and 18% of all PhDs awarded in computer science and engineering in the United States during the past two decades. Women also work at leading research institutions, and also have expertise in the relevant fields. In most other scientific fields represented in the report, an even higher percentage of PhDs is female.
That the omission of women from the 2020 Science Group was doubtless unintentional does not lessen the negative message conveyed. The future of computing will be defined by the efforts of female as well as male computer scientists.