Reviving application-based research in computer science

Ed Vielmetti has blogged about his attempt to find good research papers in what he calls “experimental computer science” for a conference to be held in 2007:

Experimental computer science generates “artifacts”, things that you can use and touch and see and experience directly. The most famous example of the field would have to be Doug Englebart’s 1968 demo of his new mouse. Englebart had written some papers about the mouse for peer-reviewed journals, but that did not get his work wide attention. It was putting together a demo and a video that showed the system (not just the schematic) in action and demonstrating what it could do that made it real for people.

(There’s fascinating historic footage of Engelbart’s mouse demo at Stanford’s Mouse Site.)

Ed’s criticism of computer science research resonates with me. I got my undergraduate CS degree in 1984. Since then I increasingly have the sense that if I were to return to a CS graduate program, I’d spend my time doing proofs about algorithms. Personally I’d be more interested in doing research that involved building stuff. (Not building enough stuff is my chief criticism of the non-CS graduate program I did eventually enter, but that’s another story.)

What I want to know is, is there a better name for what Ed wants than “experimental computer science”? Are these “applied” papers, papers about “systems”, “how-we-done-it-good” papers, N-letter acronym or YABA papers? There must be a buzzword that the authors of “micropapers” use to disparage their dwindling competition.

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