ACM Publications Board Guidelines for Establishing a Best Paper Award for ACM Periodicals

ACM Publications Board Guidelines for Establishing a Best Paper Award for ACM Periodicals


Many research communities wish to recognize the outstanding work that is being published in their respective areas. One method of recognizing outstanding work published in a journal is to establish a regular Best Paper Award. ACM’s general policies and guidelines for establishing an ACM award can be found at: This document is an adjunct to that document and is intended to provide guidance and policies that are specific to the establishment of a best paper award for an ACM periodical (i.e., journals, transactions, and magazines).

Best Paper Award Proposals

The ACM Awards Committee gives pro forma approval to best paper awards, provided they: a) have a written selection process, b) are administered by the appropriate technical committee, c) are not a “Named Award,” and d) include honoraria not exceeding $1,000.00. However, to ensure consistency across the flagship publications of ACM, all best journal/transactions paper awards require approval by the ACM Publications Board. Conference best paper awards are managed by the SIG Governing Board and do not require approval of the Publications Board.

Following ACM’s guidelines, a proposal to establish a best paper award must include the following items.

  1. Statement of the award name, purpose of award, and criteria.
  2. A description of the process of obtaining nominations.
  3. A description of the selection process including criteria for selection.
  4. The form of the award (i.e., certificate, plaque, memento, etc.) If the award includes a cash prize, the proposal should include a plan for securing the award’s financial viability.
  5. A statement concerning the frequency of the award.
  6. A statement describing how the chair of the selection committee will be designated and how the selection committee is constituted.

Proposals for journal best paper awards should be submitted to the Director of Publications for consideration by the ACM Publications Board.

The following sections provide some additional advice and guidance specific to ACM Best Journal Paper Awards.

Award Name

For consistency and name recognition, ACM best journal or transaction awards should be named as “Publication_Name Award_Year Best Paper Award.” For example, “ACM Transactions on Computer Systems 2009 Best Paper Award” or “ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage 2008 Best Paper Award.” It may be appropriate to use the acronym of the transaction or journal in place of the full name of the publication (e.g., “ACM TOPLAS 2004 Best Paper Award.”)

In some cases, the sponsoring unit may wish to have the award named in honor of a person or persons. In ACM terminology, this type of award is called a “Named Award.” As described in ACM’s policies on awards, “ACM named awards, including prizes and grants, convey special distinction and require additional justification for approval. Both the merit of the award in the ACM context and the appropriateness of the proposed name will be scrutinized carefully.” The ACM Publications Board, ACM Awards Committee, and ACM Council must approve all Named Best Paper Awards associated with ACM journals.

For named best paper and journal awards, the preferred award name would be constructed by including the name of the honored person after the name of the publication. For example, the “ACM Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communications and Applications Nicolas D. Georganas 2009 Best Paper Award” or “ACM TOMCAPP Nicolas D. Georganas 2009 Best Paper Award.”

Award Criteria

The proposal should describe the criteria that will be used for selecting the best paper. For best paper awards, technical excellence is typically the most important criteria. However, other criteria such as innovation, significance to the research community, impact, and clarity of presentation can be considered.

The award criteria should specify the interval of publication for eligible papers. Some examples are:

  • All papers published in the previous calendar year.
  • All papers published in the past two calendar years.
  • The award for year N considers papers published in calendar year N–10 (i.e., a “test of time” award).

For purposes of determining the publication date of a paper, the date of publication in the ACM Digital Library should be used.

Nomination Process

The proposal should describe how nominations will be solicited. It is expected that the nomination process allow for anyone to nominate a paper. Self-nominations are permitted.

Selection Process

Typically an award selection committee will determine the best paper. There should be a designated Chair of the selection committee. The chair is responsible for ensuring the selection process is fair and unbiased and that any possible conflicts of interests are handled appropriately.

The proposal should describe how the chair will be designated and the selection committee is constituted. It should also describe how potential conflicts of interest will be handled. Once the award is established, the rules for the formation of this committee should be documented and publicly available.

It is expected that the selection committee will be made up of recognized experts in the area. The selection committee will often include members of the current Editorial Board.

The document “Rights and Responsibilities in ACM Publishing” ( outlines the rights and responsibilities of authors and reviewers. In particular, reviewers can expect ACM to maintain their anonymity and to tell them who will see their review. Similarly, authors have the right to know if reviews of their paper will be used for purposes other than editorial decisions. Any selection process should respect these reviewer and author expectations.

Award Form

As specified in ACM’s policies on awards, if the award includes a cash prize, the award should be endowed or there should be a plan for securing the award’s financial viability. An endowment/financial plan ensures that the prize will be available for each awardee. Similarly if the award includes a memento, arrangements should be made to ensure that the memento is available for presentation.

Award Interval

It is very important that the schedule for nominations and selection is published and the schedule maintained. Failure to make an award in a particular year can reflect poorly on those papers published in the period under consideration.


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