SIGPLAN Annual Report

July 2002 - June 2003

Submitted by: Hans Boehm, Chair SIGPLAN

This year ACM SIGPLAN has continued its active sponsorship of many conferencesand workshops as well as its two newsletters: SIGPLAN Notices, a monthly publication and Fortran Forum, published three times a year.

SIGPLAN's present financial situation is still strong, but we have been forced to address some unfortunate trends. Our fund balance still greatlyexceeds the required minimum, but has declined substantially in the past two years. OOPSLA 2002 financial results were substantially better than 2001 results, but our largest conference (and primary source of past surpluses) still incurred a significant financial loss. A number of our other conferences have also been incurring small losses, which we attribute primarily to the economic situation.

We are continuing to fund worthwhile projects such as student travel. But if current economic trends continue, we expect that we will have to be more selective with such funding.

A good resource for monitoring our activities is our web page, found at http://www.acm.org/sigplan/

I. Conferences

We sponsored 6 annual conferences last year, OOPSLA, POPL (with SIGACT), PLDI, ICFP, PPDP, and LCTES. We also sponsored PPoPP, and ISMM, and ASPLOS (with SIGARCH and SIGOPS), which are held approximately biannually.

Of these conferences, PLDI, ASPLOS, POPL and PPoPP appear in the Citeseer top 15 of more than 1200 Computer Science publication venues, based on their citation rates.

We continue to co-locate some of our smaller conferences (LCTES, PPoPP, PPDP this year) and many additional workshops with the larger conferences in order to minimize local arrangements overhead.

Financial results for our conferences other than OOPSLA were mixed. In several cases conference losses occurred primarily due to an unexpectedly high fraction of student attendees, who pay much lower registration fees. We view this as mostly a positive sign for the future, but it clearly has negative short term financial implications.

Conferences continue to receive far more submissions than we can accept, and our major conferences continue to be extremely selective. There seems to be a general downward trend in non-student attendance, a general upward trend in student attendance, but no discernible trend in the number of submissions.

We now have separate steering committees for all of our conferences.

II. Publications

SIGPLAN publishes 2 newsletters on a regular basis.

SIGPLAN Notices is sent to all SIGPLAN members monthly. Eight of these issues contained conference or workshop proceedings. The editors, Cindy Norris and Jay Fenwick, of Appalachian State University, have continued to arrange for SIGPLAN Notices to run very smoothly.

Our other regular newsletter, Fortran Forum, had 3 issues, as scheduled. Michael Metcalf continues as its editor.

III. Awards

We presented the 2003 programming languages achievement award to John Reynolds for his many contributions to our understanding of the foundations of programming languages.

Mary Lou Soffa received the 2003 SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award for her many contributions to the SIGPLAN community, including 5 terms in all positions of the SIGPLAN Executive Committee.

Michael Hicks received the 2002 dissertation award for his thesis entitled "Dynamic Software Updating".

Jens Knoop, Oliver Ruething, and Bernhard Steffen received the award for the 1992 most influential PLDI paper for their paper "Lazy Code Motion".

Simon Peyton Jones and Philip Wadler received the 1993 most influential POPL paper award for their paper entitled "Imperative Functional Programming".

This was the first time the award was made.

An article detailing recent SIGPLAN awards will appear in the August 2003 issue of SIGPLAN Notices.

IV. Activities and programs

We continue our Professional Activities Program, PAC, which was instituted a number of years ago, primarily to provide funding to graduate students who participate in a SIGPLAN sponsored conference. PAC has been supporting an increasing number of students, probably driven both by increased visibility and economic conditions.

We continued funding to sponsor travel and attendance of professors from 2-4 year colleges at the OOPSLA educator's symposium.

We helped to support the University of Oregon Foundations of Security summer school. This is an area that has also received increased attention at some of our conferences recently.

V. Membership changes

For FY 2004, we instituted several changes to SIGPLAN membership and our dues structure:

We increased membership dues from $30 to $35 ($10 to $15 for students). This was the first increase in many years.

We added an end-of-year CD-ROM as a member benefit. This will contain all SIGPLAN Notices issues (including Proceedings issues) for the year.

We will give members the option of of no longer receiving paper issues of SIGPLAN Notices.

For FY04 year, there is no dues difference between the two options. This was done in large part so that we could gauge preferences in the absence of a cost issue. We expect that membership with a paper Newsletter and Proceedings subscription will increase in price in the future, with the electronic-only membership price remaining approximately stable.

Aside from providing a better option for members with insufficient shelf space, we hope this will immediately reduce our publication costs somewhat.

It also partially addresses a longstanding issue, in that we no longer lose money on any new members who choose the electronic-only option. Hence it open some possibilities for the incoming executive committee to recruit new members without adversely affecting finances.

VI. Other Changes

After extended discussions, the Executive Committee approved a policy for conference publication of papers similar to earlier conference or workshop papers. This issue had previously arisen on several occasions. This required careful balance between our general desire to avoid republication without added value, against the wish to preserve the attraction of workshops that are designed for early dissemination of preliminary results, or that serve a limited community.

The policy is now available at http://www.acm.org/sigplan/republicationpolicy.htm

VII. Key Issues for next 2-3 years

The continued conference financial shortfalls, especially the OOPSLA 2002 one, are clearly a major concern to both the SIGPLAN executive committee and the OOPSLA steering committee. The OOPSLA 2002 loss made it clear that that the 2001 loss was not a one-time occurrence.

We believe that OOPSLA 2003 has a good chance at break-even, but both OOPSLA 2003 and 2004 continue to pose challenges since many commitments predate the 2001 loss, and assumed a larger conference. It is of course also essential that we preserve the attractiveness of our conferences while we try to improve their finances.

Based on experiences with other conferences, we would guess that OOPSLA attendance will partially recover when the economy does. But all such extrapolations are risky; it is hard to distinguish economic issues from general shifts in interest area.

We hope that electronic memberships will make it possible to also avoid losing money on publications. However, for FY2004 this will be immediately successful only if a large fraction of SIGPLAN members voluntarily forego paper publications. If this does not happen, we will need to rely on future price increases for paper subscriptions to achieve this goal.

SIGPLANs fund balance allows us to continue to fund our existing programs in the short term. But we clearly need to move towards a balanced budget, and our FY2004 budget takes a large step in that direction. We are planning on somewhat reduced funding for PAC and similar programs in the coming year.

Although overall conference attendance at many of our conferences continues to be healthy, the relative lack of new SIGPLAN members continues to be an issue. We will be exploring ways to attract new electronic-only members.

We are seeing significantly more requests for SIGPLAN proceedings publication in SIGPLAN Notices than we can handle with our current, and especially future, publication budget. We may need to consider moving some of these to electronic-only supplements, which would be included in the digital library and on the year-end CD-ROM.

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