SIG Governing Board Meeting

Thursday, October 16, 2014

1.0 Welcome, Introductions (Wolf, Madden)

Alex Wolf welcomed the group and those in attendance introduced themselves.  Wolf acknowledged that the best way to make an impact at ACM is done by volunteers at the SIG level.  The work of the volunteers is important.  Wolf thanked Donna Cappo for her work with the volunteer leadership at ACM.  He also described his immediate and primary focus as President is to examine the future financial model of ACM concerning the 3 main areas of membership, SIGs, Publishing/DL, and what to do if DL revenue is decreased.

2.0 Report from ACM CEO (White):

John White introduced himself and thanked everyone for attending. He reported that in general ACM is healthy with 108,000 members worldwide with membership in China and India maturing.  Forty-six percent of our members are outside of the US.  Over the last six years membership has increased twenty-six percent, most of that outside of the US.  We are no longer a US organization.  Financially, 2014 was a solid year and we expect 2015 to be as well.

ACM’s international initiatives include Europe, India and China.  We have established ACM Europe as a legal entity with the EU. Plans are underway for ECRC in 2017.  We continue work with Informatics Europe and have established a policy committee of ACM Europe Council (EUACM) to focus on education and engaging European commission on computing research funding priorities.  As in Europe, we are also established as a legal entity in India with ACM India Council elected by ACM Indian members. In India we are working on education initiatives such as standardizing curriculum and guidelines as well as establishing a CRA like board under the ACM India Council.  In China, we are proceeding with another MOU with China Computer Federation.  Restructure of the ACM China Council is complete and has convened two meetings.  We are building agendas for chapters, education, publications and awards.  Translation of CACM has begun and there are plans to translate CS2013 as well.

ACM sponsors the Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF) which brings together young researchers with laureates from the fields of computing, mathematics and science and letters. The forum is a week-long meeting with 200 young researchers and 40 laureates. ACM needs the help of the SIGs to generate awareness with their communities of young researchers.

An update was provided on the strategic planning retreat of November 2013 and the many ideas which were generated.  We are looking at the community of members to guide us as we examine ways to restructure ACM’s core activities, and the business models that support our communities to stay viable in the future.  Areas of focus include building an ACM community member database, building an initial model for the ACM community; defining the products, services, and benefits for the ACM community; improving the current publications business; moving further with OA publishing within ACM; critically review the current portfolio of publications; journal vs. conference publishing; future published content; the future of the digital library; reposition conferences within the publishing culture of computing research; explore conferences outside the SIG structure; improve the SIG structure.  We expect developments in these areas over the next year.

We welcome new senior volunteer leadership.  The ACM Council elected Alexander L. Wolf as President, Vicki Hanson as Vice President and Patrick H. Madden as SGB Chair.  Also on council are Vinton Cerf, Cherri Pancake and Per O. Stenstrom.  There are 2 new chairs of the Education Board: Mehran Sahami and Jane Prey.  George Neville-Neil is the new Chair of the Practitioner Board.  Ed Felton is the new chair of USACM Council and Srinivas Padmanabhuni is the new chair of ACM India.

The deeper issues facing ACM are many.  Prominently featured is the future of publication and the impact of that future on the future of ACM. Of our three sets of revenue streams, Publications is the only one that generates a surplus.  The other two are Membership, which runs at a loss because we subsidize students worldwide as well as professional members in developing countries and Conferences which runs at a surplus that is retained by the SIGs and invested in serving and subsidizing their respective technical communities.

We are looking at ways to find the right balance. The publications surplus also funds the “good works” of ACM including many activities such as ACM-W (our twenty year effort to support and see more women in computing) CDC, CSTA, EPC, CRA, CSAB, USACM, ACM Europe/China/India, the Education Board, the Practitioner Board, the Publications Board, the ACM Awards program just to name a few.  These programs are member-driven: they were conceived, created and developed by members. Some of these “good-works” were demanded by members. There remains real motivation to sustain a publication surplus but is this possible – is there a balance?

To date, we have engaged OA and increased free access to the SIG content.  This includes complying with government mandates and opening SIG content (proceedings). However, some in the community perceive this effort as insufficient (SIGACT, SIGPLAN and SIGOPS) and consequences remain a concern.

In finding the right balance, there is another step to consider.  Should we allow SIGs to host all conferences in a series not just the current year model?   Each conference would be represented by a TOC and Authorizer links.  The conference proceedings, in a series, could be maintained on the SIG site or the conference site(s). Papers would also reside in the DL and could only be downloaded from there with a subscription or some other access right. The outcome would mean that a definitive version of all papers published in a SIG’s conferences are freely available on the SIG’s site or the conference site (by finding the TOC and clicking on the Authorizer link) if a SIG desires.  Also, the DL would still be the definitive aggregation of everything we publish, but the papers in a SIG’s conferences could be found on the SIG’s site or the conference site (not that different from USNIX).

One SIG’s reaction about “open access” is that if it is handled well, it could be a good thing for ACM, and “could largely defuse the OA concerns from our community.” If it is a full commitment (ending the three-year experiment) and associated with either a permanent conference website or a SIG website - it would have to work well with the kinds of websites that SIGs/Conferences typically run. The format for this facility would have to be flexible. It is desirable to have conference papers organized in a format that the conference goers would have seen, with links from the program itself.  There would have to be real ACM support for making this work.

The Publications Board understands the context for these demands.  Taking these steps would end the three-year experiment in assessing the impact of free-downloads on revenue and also constitute an additional risk to our goal of sustaining the DL and its revenue stream.  The Publications Board is willing to support this proposal as long as the SIGs share in the financial risk as determined by the Executive Committee and Council.  ACM will need to explore new models of sharing revenue and counting revenue vs. free-downloads.  The Publications Board is interested in the reaction from the SIGs.  The Council will meet this month and discuss these matters including the possibility of rethinking the overall future of the various sources of revenue at ACM.

3.0 CRA CCC (Mynatt)

Elizabeth Mynatt, Vice Chair of CCC (The Computing Community Consortium) presented a review of the activities of the organization.  The organization’s mission is to catalyse and enable computing research by energizing the community around “big ideas” that create excitement and energy for computing and computational research.  There is a challenge in shaping, articulating and communicating relevance to national priorities, the community, policy makers and funding leadership. To accomplish these goals, the organization uses community-initiated visioning.  They also have several modes of outreach to the White House and funding agencies. Communication is done through the CCC blog, Action Video Series, “Highlight of the Week” and “The Impact of NITRD” symposium.  Efforts to nurture the next generation of leaders involve contributing to the “Computing Innovation Fellows Project” and participating in the leadership of the Science Policy Institute.

Many characteristics of CCC provide the organization distinction.  Foremost is the ability to identify, plan and execute a strategy within a matter of weeks or a few months.  Also, a community-based orientation is unique.  The expectation that everyone within the organization is expected to do something provides a built-in “leadership incubator.”  CCC is a promoter of the health of the bridge between the CS research community, the funders of that research and the beneficiaries of the research.

Examples of recent initiatives include Robotics, Big Data, Architecture and Health IT. The organization presents a “Blue Sky Ideas” competition and offers prize money for top 3 papers that present new problems, new application domains or methodologies.  Recent conferences which featured this competition: BuildSys 2012 AAAI 2013, CHI 2013, Robotics: Science and Systems 2013, CIDR 2013, AAMAS 2014.  Upcoming: SIGSOFT, FSE 2014 and AAAI 2015.

4.0 Publications

4.1 Report from Publications Advisor (Ioannidis)

Yannis Ioannidis, gave an overview of the workings of the Publications Board and its current activities. The Pubs board is the governing authority on ACM journals, magazines, ICPS (International Conference Proceeding Series), Tech Packs and the DL.  The board also oversees access and copyright information.  The board mandates the highest quality publications considering efficient cost, effective printing, publishing policies for content quality, selection process integrity and content presentation.  The board is made up of numerous committees: Business Working Group, Conferences, Ethics and Plagiarism, Digital Library, Technology, New Publications and Magazines.  The SGB provides a liaison between the Pubs Board and the SIGs to report on publications policy discussions concerning such matters as peer review standards and plagiarism.

Recent topics of discussion surround the four routes into the DL (through a co-sponsored conference, an in-coop conference, ICPS or through a Pubs Board approved hosted venue.)  The Board has also been discussing whether all in-coop proceedings go through the ICPS program if they are not in the DL.

4.1.1 New Publication Suggestion (Harper)

Simon Harper gave a proposal for a new and radically different ACM publication and asked the group for feedback.  The concept is for a publication that answers a need for a repository of archived CS research data across all levels: refutation, replication, secondary analysis and methodology.  This will serve the needs of Governments, CS financiers as well as the public.  This solution will give value by enabling citable publication and experiment with new publication and review paradigms so as not to negatively affect other ACM publications.

The publication will be similar to BMJ and BMJ-Open with short 2-5 page “tight” papers and would be for a specialist audience. There would be fixed section and review criteria. It would include video abstracts, contribution highlights and paper podcasts.  The content would cut across all SIGs enabling cross cataloging via SIG domains with those domains of the specialist reviewer (review-teams).

The publication would be electronic only, open access, open review, review credit via alt-metrics possibly using the social network “Publons” and reviews published with the paper.  Further discussion could be facilitated by “PubPeer”.

Konstan suggested that Harper prepare a concise proposal for consideration of the publications board.

4.2 Report from Publications Board Chair (Konstan)

Joe Konstan addressed the group with an update on recent activities with the Pubs Board.  There are many submissions to manage for 43 journals and 110 participating ICPSs.  Given the amount of publications we produce, it is not surprising that we are looking at how we can keep the costs down and the doors open.  Our service concerns are about potential aggregations.  If there is a place where you can get most of the stuff in the DL, how could we continue to charge for it?  We have made progress in complying with the US government mandate about Open Access.  We are exploring which DL service could be sold off print and how we deliver services to readers, advertisers, institutions and authors. We are exploring the role of pubs revenue within the organization and the possibility of developing national pricing models.

Computing as a whole is struggling with questions of quality, impact and the future of publishing.  Beyond papers, data sets, replicability, do we publish too much?  Not enough?  What is the role of conferences?  Should we pursue our options for a journal/conference hybrid model?  Should we schedule a joint summit of SGB and Publications Board?  The Pubs Board has been running annual one-day sessions with journal EICs.  We could try to co-locate a session with either SIG chairs or other SIG publications representatives.

5.0 Viability Reviews

5.1 SIGARCH Viability Review

SIG Chair, David Wood presented a review of the current strengths and weaknesses of SIGARCH.  The SIG is transitioning as it shifts its focus after supporting the creation of SIGHPC which now has full responsibility of SC ‘15.  SIGARCH will “insure” until SIGHPC achieves necessary fund balance.  Membership is stable at 1,441 after declining for several years. The percentage of decline is less than the other SIGs.  Print member rates have been increased to cover actual costs.  “Electronic only” publishing is up 65%.

The newsletter “Computer Architecture News” needs a makeover.  The publication is routinely 1 to 7 months late. Several issues have not been published and the format has limited relevance.  The SIG plans to revive the newsletter by selecting a new editor (tentative new selection is Mohamed Zahran, NYU) and survey members to determine the best format which will launch in 2015 in fully electronic format.

Recommendation: The SGB EC congratulates SIGARCH on their program performance and finds it viable to continue its status for the next 4 years.

Unanimous approval of the recommendation by SGB.

5.2 SIGBED Viability Review

Xenofon Koutsoukos updated the group on the current strengths of the SIG starting with the successful conferences CPSWEEK and ESWEEK.  The SIG actively engages student researchers by awarding travel grants and awards (Paul Caspi Memorial Dissertation Award). The SIG has been successful at improving and expanding research journals.

Despite considerable growth in the areas of cyber-physical systems and embedded systems, the SIGBED membership has remained flat in recent years.

Recommendation: The SGB EC congratulates SIGBED on their program performance and finds it viable to continue its status for the next 4 years.

Unanimous approval of the recommendation by SGB.

 5.3 SIGMETRICS Viability Review

John C.S. Lui, SIG Chair, presented two things the SIG is proud of, beginning with inclusively awarding Professor J. Walrand of UC Berkeley with the 2013 Achievement Award for his scholarly achievements, despite not being a SIGMETRICS member.  Another positive development is the launching of the new journal “ACM Transactions on Modeling and Performance Evaluation of Computing Systems” which will be inclusive to many communities.

SIGMETRICS would like to improve efforts to increase membership.  Plans are to invite companies to seek feedback from students who attend SIGMETRICS conferences, lower students’ registration fees, offer a “registration credit” to previous student attendees.  Also, the SIG plans to reach-out to students in Europe, China and India.

Recommendation: The SGB EC congratulates SIGMETRICS on their program performance and finds it viable to continue its status for the next 4 years.

Unanimous approval of the recommendation by SGB.

6.0 Report from CSTA (Clayborn)

Lissa Clayborn, acting Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association thanked the board for the funding of 60K for the chapter mini-grant project. The project resulted in an increase in 27 new members. Fundraising continues to be challenging for the organization and the support of the SGB is very much appreciated.

The funds were allocated to CSTA chapters to perform leadership advocacy training, and professional development for chapter members, promote CSTA chapters as leaders in K-12 CS Education and build community in the process. The allocation was used to reward chapters with the most worthwhile ideas on ways to achieve the stated goals. These state chapters had winners: Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin.  The chapters used the grants in a variety of ways: community workshops, a poster publicity project, conferences, the creation of a website, apparel give-aways, a CS awareness campaign, public advertising appearing on municipal buses, brochures, resource development.

7.0 SGB EC Administrative Reports

7.1 SGB EC Update (Madden)

Patrick Madden provided an update on developments with the SGB Executive Board. The election of new EC members resulted in Jeanna Matthews will continue and Barbara Simons will step down and Florence Appel joining.  Patrick addressed the challenges of many SGB leaders with “managing chaos” and recommended that the board use a program called “Base Camp” to communicate and manage matters going forward. He suggested a test run for those interested. Any interested Chairs should contact him.  This might also be an effective tool in engaging practitioners.

7.2 Task force on policies toward retirees (Banzhaf)  

Wolfgang Banzhaf, SIGEVO Chair and task force committee Chair, represented the committee which includes Donna Cappo, ACM Headquarters, ex-officio member, Brent Hailpern, SIGPLAN, Jeffrey Jortner, SIGGRAPH President, Cherri Pancake, SIGHPC Chair, Will Tracz, SIGSOFT Chair, Gerrit Van der Veer, SIGCHI President. The committee formed in February 2014 charged with the task of coming up with recommendations that could be adopted by all SIGs.

The current state of the matter is that SIG retiree benefits are offered at the discretion of the SIG or conference leadership.  Many of our members are also members of other organizations which do offer discounts to retirees - ACM is at risk of losing members due to not having a unified approach.  The task force took a look at IEEE’s policy and found that a generous policy exists for lifetime members. The task force recommends that ACM’s overall professional organization should be looked at in more detail by the responsible parties.

The task force offered these recommendations: SIGs be permitted to offer retirees the same member pricing as students; SIG-sponsored conferences and workshops should offer a reduced registration fee to retirees in line with their student rate; discount rates should be tracked for a few years; confirmation of retiree status should be based on the honor system; ACM should consider investigating possible changes in rates and benefits for retirees in light of policies of other large professional organizations.

The group discussed the recommendations and a motion was put forth but did not advance. The motion: require SIGs to apply the student rates to retired members. The overall response was in favor of the recommendations but less of the motion.  Patrick Madden asked the group to review the recommendations and come up with a refined motion that can be approved by the board.

8.0 Best Practice Session: Practitioner Activities

Patrick Madden directed the group to an article written by Vint Cerf in Queue Magazine which asks professional programmers how they stay informed about the research which influences their professional work.  In addition to that, the group was asked to read and reflect as a group upon the analysis of the reader responses provided by Scott Delman.

The group addressed the need to increase the number of members who are Computer Science practitioners.  An extended examination of the motivation behind the objective was discussed.  Do we want practitioners to be members or to just take advantage of our services?  Comments included a review of the specific services ACM provides to practitioners.  ACM seeks to provide resources to practitioners allowing them to take leading technology and apply it to the real world and provide a space where the knowledge transfer can take place.  A suggestion was made that the SGB could do more between meetings to develop ideas to engage practitioners.                                                                                                                                                  

Patrick Madden closed the meeting

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at the O’Hare Hilton, Chicago, Illinois.

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