Prior to 1990, there was no formal organization for the Canadian academic computer science community. The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) conducted accreditation for university-level computer science programs, but did not have a focus on computer science research. The current CS-Can / Info-Can organization evolved to fill this need over a number of years.
Initially, there were fairly informal annual meetings of the chairs of computer science departments at which there was usually a presentation by NSERC staff on the current state of federal research funding programs, and there was an annual survey of Canadian computer science departments.
Around 1991, the Canadian Association of Computer Science / Association d’Informatique Candadienne (CACS/AIC) emerged as the formal name for the informal organization that was beginning to take shape. An archive of the former CACS/AIC website is available for those who are interested. By 2000, dues were being collected on an annual basis from member departments and CACS/AIC was formally incorporated with Industry Canada as a Canadian non-profit organization in 2005.
The new organization established an Awards Committee, an Outreach Committee, and the Undergraduate Capstone Open Source Projects (UCOSP) initiative. CACS/AIC remained largely a committee of chairs of Canadian computer science departments, rather than an organization of individuals. It also played an informal role as the interface between the Canadian computing research community and NSERC, the primary federal granting agency that supporting computer science and engineering.
In 2011, NSERC established an official Liaison Committee with the computer science research community, recognizing that computing was the only major science or engineering discipline that did not have a national association that represented all researchers in the discipline. The Liaison Committee was represented mostly by researchers at the larger, research-intensive universities. At times it collaborated with CACS/AIC on efforts such as a report in 2013 that analyzed the current state of the Canadian computing research community.
In discussions at its 2015 Annual General Meeting, CACS/AIC addressed the need for a national association that would represent the broader computing community in Canada, not just the academic researchers and department chairs. There was considerable debate over the appropriate function and structure for the proposed new organization. Small departments were concerned that large, research-intensive departments might dominate and larger departments were concerned that any new organization be a champion for research. A working group with members from CACS/AIC and the NSERC-CS Liaison Committee was appointed to continue the discussion and develop a proposal for a successor organization.
The working group comprised Anne Condon (UBC), Mark Giesbrecht (Waterloo), Mark Green (UOIT and President of CACS/AIC), Parvin Mousavi (Queen’s), Houari Sahraoui (Montréal), Michael Shepherd (Dalhousie), Jörg-Rüdiger Sack (Carleton and Chair of the NSERC-CS Liaison Committee), and Carey Williamson (Calgary). It first met on 2015 September 4 in Toronto where far more progress was made than many predicted. This lead to regular teleconferences that culminated in a recommendation to evolve CACS/AIC into Computer Science Canada / Informatique Canada (CS-Can/Info-Can) by revising the exiting Bylaws for the organization, filing with Industry Canada to rename the organization, and transferring all funds from the old organization to the new in order to provide continuity during the changeover.
The initial mission identified for CS-Can / Info-Can was “to foster excellence in Computer Science research and higher education in Canada, drive
innovation and benefit society.” This was to be achieved by the organization through the following proposed activities.
- Being an advocate for Computer Science within Canada on matters such as research funding, computer science education, and public policy.
- Promoting Computer Science through an awards program and undergraduate and graduate recruiting.
- Connecting with Industry through efforts such as “research speed dating” to foster greater industry-univeristy collaboration.
Several drafts of the new Bylaws were developed during Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 with extensive comment and discussion from the Working Group, and review by lawyers for CACS/AIC. The Bylaws for the new CS-Can / InfoCan organization were approved in May 2016 at the Annual General Meeting and a Transition Board of Directors was appointed comprising a subset of the CACS/AIC Board of Directors and the Working Group.
Membership in CS-Can / InfoCan included departmental, individual (faculty), industry, and student members. The Board of Directors was designed to represent both small and large departments and both PhD and non-PhD granting departments, all of the regions within Canada, and the broad range of gender identities within the field. Members of the Board of Directors were to be elected for three-year terms with the possibility of one consecutive re-election, and the expectation that each member would be actively involved in at least one standing committee. There were provisions for representation on the Board for students (and postdoctoral fellows) and industry. The Bylaws required that at least 2/3 of the elected Board be selected by nominations and voted on by individual members, with at most 1/3 of the Board nominated and voted on by departments.
CS-Can / Info-Can was formally launched on 2016 September 22 in Ottawa.
The first elections were held in 2017. This proved to be more of a challenge than expected. There was no comprehensive list of the computer science programs in Canada, and not list of the individual computer scientists in Canada. An ad hoc list was generated, nominations were solicited from the computing committee, and a Nominations Committee added additional candidates to complete the slate. Voting took place in May and the new Board members and President took office on 2017 July 1.
Plans to revise the organization’s website and add the CS-Can / Info-Can Forum as login-only a back-end for members were approved by the Board in early 2018 and the Website Committee began the transition by harvesting information from the old CACS/AIC website and adapting it to the new CS-Can / Info-Can website. A mailing list with the chairs of Canadian computer science department that was inherited from CACS/AIC was moved to the new forum.cscan-infocan.ca domain and a new mailing list was established for individual members based on the list used for the 2017 elections with updates provided by departments.
The 2018 Annual General Meeting was held in Toronto at York University on May 7-8 along with the annual Awards Banquet.
In November 2018, a two-day state-of-the-discipline and planning retreat organized by the Board of Directors was held at the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) in Alberta with 31 attendees drawn from the Board of Directors and various constituencies within the Canadian computing community. Revised Mission and Vision statements were developed and later approved at the 2019 Annual General Meeting in Montréal.
The material on this page was gathered from a variety of sources, including Dr. Gordon McCalla’s “short history of CACSAIC” and material assembled by Dr. Mark Green.