Any discussion of names of the computing sciences professions must recognize the semantic imprecision and confusion that plagues practically every aspect of computers, computer studies, and the range of traditional academic disciplines that increasingly use computers in instruction and in academic research.
Until recently, there has been no satisfactory definition of any of the computing sciences professions, such as Computer Science, Information Systems, and Information Sciences. However, the CSAB Board of Directors felt that it must establish, as early as possible, a definition for the Computer Science profession, the profession for which CSAC-accredited programs at this time aim to prepare their graduates. The final text was approved by the Board on October 23, 1986.
The official CSAB definition of the Computer Science profession is reproduced below. CSAB knows of no similar
definition work for either the Information Systems profession or the Information Sciences profession.
Computer science is a discipline that involves the understanding and design of computers and computational processes. In its most general form it is concerned with the understanding of information transfer and transformation. Particular interest is placed on making processes efficient and endowing them with some form of intelligence. The discipline ranges from theoretical studies of algorithms to practical problems of implementation in terms of computational hardware and software. A central focus is on processes for handling and manipulating information. Thus, the discipline spans both advancing the fundamental understanding of algorithms and information processes in general as well as the practical design of efficient reliable software and hardware to meet given specifications. Computer science is a young discipline that is evolving rapidly from its beginnings in the 1940's. As such it includes theoretical studies, experimental methods, and engineering design all in one discipline. This differs radically from most physical sciences that separate the understanding and advancement of the science from the applications of the science in fields of engineering design and implementation. In computer science there is an inherent intermingling of the theoretical concepts of computability and algorithmic efficiency with the modern practical advancements in electronics that continue to stimulate advances in the discipline. It is this close interaction of the theoretical and design aspects of the field that binds them together into a single discipline.
Because of the rapid evolution it is difficult to provide a complete list of computer science areas. Yet it is clear that some of the crucial areas are theory, algorithms and data structures, programming methodology and languages, and computer elements and architecture. Other areas include software engineering, artificial intelligence, computer networking and communication, database systems, parallel computation, distributed computation, computer-human interaction, computer graphics, operating systems, and numerical and symbolic computation.
A professional computer scientist must have a firm foundation in the crucial areas of the field and will most likely have an in-depth knowledge in one or more of the other areas of the discipline, depending upon the person's particular area of practice. Thus, a well educated computer scientist should be able to apply the fundamental concepts and techniques of computation, algorithms, and computer design to a specific design problem. The work includes detailing of specifications, analysis of the problem, and provides a design that functions as desired, has satisfactory performance, is reliable and maintainable, and meets desired cost criteria. Clearly, the computer scientist must not only have sufficient training in the computer science areas to be able to accomplish such tasks, but must also have a firm understanding in areas of mathematics and science, as well as a broad education in liberal studies to provide a basis for understanding the societal implications of the work being performed.
Last update: 28 May 1997