SIG Governing Board Meeting Minutes

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1.0 Welcome

1.1 Welcome Introductions (Madden, McCauley)

Patrick Madden welcomed the group and a microphone was passed around for those in attendance for introductions.

1.2 Welcome (Wolf)

2.0 Report from ACM CEO (White):

John White addressed the board and provided first a brief review of the state of the ACM and its finances concluding with a review of challenges facing ACM today.  ACM is financially healthy with just about 108,000 members.  This year the SIGs will have a substantial surplus and will collectively receive about 3.2 million in DL revenue. The ACM general side and the ACM SIG side are doing well. The initiatives in India, China and Europe are maturing.  ACM Europe is struggling to get the European FCRC off the ground and it might not come to completion. The EC retreat from the fall of 2013 continues to provide short term direction for ACM.  White said there are challenges for sure and presented some of the deep issues facing ACM and some of the options that exist in dealing with them.

In essence, the retreat launched a number of projects that are providing some short term direction.  White said that as Alex Wolf expressed in a recent Council meeting, there are some deep issues that are not being directly addressed by what came out of the retreat. White was asked to help the organization understand what these deep issues are - put them in context and layout some possible options that ACM might consider going forward.

Are there risks associated either from ignoring the challenges or engaging with them? White presented options for expanding the current publishing program in a couple of ways.  One option involves looking at the SIGs, not as Special Interest Groups of the ACM but more as small, independent publishers within the ACM.  Other potential options are incremental and others are a bit more substantial.

White explained that the biggest issue, in a nut shell it is the relentless push for increased public access – access to information.  From our point of view, the access to publications, and the impact of that relentless push on the ACM business model is a big deal and frustrating for ACM since we have been an open access publisher since 1998 with hybrid publishing since 2013 when we also launched a couple of options enabling SIGs to open up more of their content around and between conferences. However, there is still a segment of the community that is not satisfied and so you ask what is the issue?  The issue is not “Should ACM be open?” because ACM is open access and the issue is not “my research results should be freely available” because there is nothing about publishing with ACM that prevents an author from publishing their research papers on their individual or institutional website.  The issue is much more about cost and the business models that underpin publishing. There are two groups that hold these issues.  Both groups accept the reality that publishing costs money on one hand and one group accepts that in covering those costs there is sort of a burden that ends up on the producers or the authors of the content that is being published.  Another group really wants to see publishing costs covered someplace else – there should be no cost to publish with an organization.

White explained that the challenge is really about whether ACM can significantly reduce or eliminate the cost of gold open access publishing.  The first concern is to determine how wide spread the matter is or will be.  White presented information from a couple of recent surveys and one data point from a pubs board survey and previous points from a  SIGPLAN survey.  According to the pubs board survey the challenge isn’t wide-spread.

White reviewed the survey of Fellows, authors and volunteers (not all are members) and the question “Which model do you think is the best long term model for the field of computer science between green, hybrid or gold open access?” Green Open access means that an author is free to post the paper on public websites. The publisher can have a digital repository which requires a subscription to get to the version of record and the author can post the accepted manuscript on a public site.  Hybrid Open Access is what ACM launched a couple of years ago and that means that an author can have his/her paper immediately open to the public immediately upon publication out of the digital library with a payment of an APC (article processing charge).  We have had discussions at a couple of SIG meetings about the cost of publishing an online article and the charges, an APC lets you have your paper immediately available upon publication.  Not every paper and issue of a journal or proceedings of a conference will have an APC behind it which is why it is called hybrid. Gold open access is when every article in a journal or conference proceedings is open to the public immediately upon publication. An APC has been paid for and it is a requirement for every article to be open access.

The pubs board has been talking about a gold, broad journal for ACM where every article will be freely available and that is still on the table - we are looking for an editorial group to lead that effort. When looking at what is the best way forward for computing, ninety percent of this group is covered if you do one or all three of those options. The SIGPLAN survey asked the question, “Is open access a moral concern?” and seventy percent of the respondents said yes but what is really interesting is when you look at senior members of the field versus junior members and you can see that in the case of the US, for example that fifty one percent of senior members say that it is really important to offer open access while eighty seven percent more junior members feel that way.  There is a significant difference here and it isn’t something ACM can or should ignore.

White asked “if open access at a reasonable price is a moral imperative, what is a reasonable price?”  The SIGPLAN survey says something interesting – that the price that ACM has for APC, currently at the seven hundred dollar and a thousand dollar level, is considered reasonable by about ten percent of the community. Ninety percent say that reasonable prices would be on the order of two hundred dollars or less with thirty percent saying it should be zero; that all publishing costs should be borne somewhere else, not by the authors.  White says this is the issue and asked if this is a threat?  There are two ways to look at it.  What happens if we don’t do anything - if we don’t change our current model?  What happens if we engage in this issue?  So what is likely to happen if we ignore this is that we will be looking into this situation forever which would be too bad because it takes time and energy.  We need to get this sorted and move to other things.  White said that what is more concerning is the last data point of the SIGPLAN survey: “If OA isn’t available would you publish someplace else?” The majority of respondents said yes.  Since ACM has a reputation for high quality publications, White says this this attitude will hurt us. On the other hand, he believes that there are many other aspects of ACM’s publishing model which could mitigate this.

The matter of reducing APCs is complicated; will this reduce the publications revenue?  If we reduce the APC, it doesn’t matter because there isn’t a current revenue stream for APCs, because not that many people exercise that option so if the prices were cut by sixty seven percent nothing will really happen with revenues but there might be an increase in free content in the DL and the risk is that at some point that might start to impact the value of a subscription either for an individual or an institution which will lead to a decline in revenue.  But, the free content in the DL has been increasing steadily over the last many years and at the same time the revenue from the DL has been going up as well.

If the DL revenue decreases, can ACM afford it?  A look at the ACM businesses shows that there are three areas which have revenue and expenses and a fourth area, The Good Works of ACM, which doesn’t have any revenue and only expenses. When you look at these expenses, membership runs at a loss of one point four million a year.  However, our collection of professional members generated a six hundred thousand surplus in terms of the dues and the cost of providing services to those members. We subsidize students significantly.  The student membership program runs at a two million loss. Combined, that means that membership runs at a one point four million loss in general, every year. Publications run at a significant surplus. There is twenty one million dollars in revenue and ten million of expenses and about a ten point seven million surplus in publications. When publication revenue goes down and expenses don’t then the surplus drops. Of this surplus, three point two million goes to SIGs in DL revenue sharing and one point four million dollars goes to cover membership loss. Three point one million covers the good works which leaves three million which mostly flows into the ACM general net and the ACM general fund balance just like the SIG surpluses for the SIG fund balance. SIG conferences run a surplus every year of about five million so the collective thirty seven SIGs bring in three point two million from the DL and about five million from conferences so that is about eight million that you use to subsidize your operations (because if you don’t put eight million of surplus in the SIG fund balance every year you run operations at about a two or three million loss collectively.)

The bottom line is that a decrease in a publication surplus would have impact on the good works – conceivably significant impact.  Can we reduce APCs to something really low or nothing without immediate impact on the DL revenue? If we focus on the SIGs the answer is yes.  This issue is not about a decline in APC revenue it is about what kind of impact will the decline in DL revenue have on surplus and when will this happen?

There are three options.  The first is open TOC.  The second is a new idea that is being looked at by staff in the publications board and the EC called Sponsored Proceedings.  The third is having a parallel server for publicly accessible content.  These are all options to expand a set of options available to SIGs today. We will look at the SIGs collectively as small independent scholarly publishers without a unified perspective on the subject of OA while also serving as the biggest publisher within ACM.  In 2014 seventy percent of articles where published within SIG conference proceedings. 

There is a broad spectrum of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with ACM’s current open access model, stemming from the influence publication surplus has on the SIGs financial viability.  ACM publishes a tremendous amount of material  across a wide spectrum from transactions to journals to conference proceedings to workshop symposia and as we keep growing the options  so that a diverse spectrum of publishing can live happily within the ACM.

Of these new options, “Open TOC” provides open (free) access to conference papers.  Each conference is represented with a Table of Contents and Authorizer links for each paper.  These sit on the SIG site or the respective conference site and the content is freely downloadable.  .  Eventually DL revenue sharing will likely be based on “paid” vs. “free” downloads.  This would insure that the SIGs share in the financial risk. Some SIGs are not content with this option because the content remains behind a paywall.

The second option, “Sponsored Proceedings,” provides affordable gold proceedings.  The model is that there would be a bulk purchase of APCs for all articles of two hundred dollars per article.  This is not a reduction of APCs it is not a set of transactions with individual authors. This is a transaction between a SIG and ACM at two hundred dollars per article.  Authors still use the ACM Rights-Management but do not pay an APC.  All articles are freely downloadable from the DL upon publication.    This allows a SIG to sponsor gold open access conference proceedings.  SIGs choosing this option would fund the cost of Sponsored Proceedings likely from conference registration fees, fund balances, or corporate sponsorship – or some combination of all three.  This really enables a SIG to be a gold open access. Eventually if DL revenue drops because of the increase of free content the DL sharing would likely go down with the SIGs, what is going to happen if this option is implemented? We suspect that the SIGs which have been requesting more options for OA will take advantage of this if they can afford it. Affordability includes both funding the Sponsored Proceedings option and living with reduced DL revenue.  Many SIGs are unlikely to be motivated or able to afford this option and its consequences.

At some point, enough DL content may be freely available to see a decline in DL revenue and then in the publications surplus.

If we are faced with this, there are a number of things we can do.  There are at least five incremental changes which could be looked at beginning with restructuring or eliminating DL revenue sharing with the SIGS which is inherent in the open TOC and Sponsored Proceedings models. If DL revenue starts to drop then we would likely move to DL revenue sharing being reduced by the percentage of total downloads that are free.  Another incremental change would be to increase the SIG allocation to have the thirty seven SIGs that collectively run the biggest business at ACM (that’s conferences) share more in the general activities of the ACM. The third change would be to really push hard in moving from institutions paying for the subscriptions to the DL to institutions sponsoring and supporting the DL because it is a good thing.  Or perhaps authors at institutions will get breaks on gold publishing APC charges.  This would be a whole new business model that would take a lot of work to understand and be successful at.

There are incremental changes we could make but they do not address the reality that with decreased DL revenue there are a couple more substantive things we can look at. What that boils down to is eliminating the need for surplus to cover the subsidies that covers membership and the cost of the good works program.

White discussed changing the membership model/dues structure to accommodate membership paying for itself. Eliminating the need for a surplus will raise dues – the question is by how much and for whom. White said we need to ask ourselves if we should continue to subsidize students. If the answer is no, and student membership dues go up, there is going to be a drop in subscriptions in the respective community.  Figuring out what increases to look at once you decide on the principle, requires serious market research but it is not impossible, all with the goal of eliminating subsidized memberships if the surplus goes away.

The board engaged in an extended discussion on this information.  Topics included saving money through eliminating print.

A comment was made on whether funding agencies who are pushing for OA should contribute financially to easing the burden for us? White said that we have already seen what the funding agencies say – they fund grants and they can choose if they use some of the grant money to cover APCs they are free to do that but even without a government mandate it is clear that there is no more money for anything, so it really is how do you cover the cost of publishing without having some part of the system pay for it?  White said that increasing dues is complicated but not impossible – it will take real thought – probably six months of work to figure out the best way to do it.  Another question was asked related to the anticipated decline in DL revenue.  White confirmed that the decline isn’t happening now.  A comment was made that perhaps we are putting too much focus on the issue now since there doesn’t appear to be a decline yet. White explained that we are investigating options to make more free content available in the DL so as you do those options you should look at the risks.  You don’t have to solve the problem today but you do need to understand the landscape of these options before you take the step of making more content free.

A comment was made that the forty dollar savings on eliminating print could be a game changer. Have there been discussions within the rest of ACM on what this could mean?  White explained that there have been many discussions on the subject over the last two years. Like everything else we have talked about it is complicated.  Not all members receive print at the moment, only level one and level two.  This is something that ACM will take a closer look at regardless of whether the options continue to increase for publishing. There are a lot of other things to look into as well, such as the impact on courses and on Queue later down the line.

Another thing to look at is the good works of ACM.  Three point one million is spent on these good works yearly which includes a long list of programs and awards.  Broken into categories, this includes awards and recognition (beyond sponsorship we get from corporations), computing education which is a big area and includes everything that we do with the education board to the council to the CSTA to our work with education policy. Then there is what we do with professionals in the profession, diversity, international initiatives which has been a big part of ACM over the last couple of years and support for other organizations whether it is CRA or IFIP.  The options here are to make cuts or to find other funding and if you make cuts you should probably start with the bottom – get rid of support for other organizations and international initiatives and even that begins to change ACM.  If you continue then ACM is dramatically different, with some members - a scholarly publisher that runs conferences and that is it – a very different society.  So there are the options for substantial change.  They are complicated to implement but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be looked at as well as additional funding from outside the publications surplus.

If substantial change isn’t enough, we need fundamental change.  We can make ACM a scholarly publisher that runs conferences.  This can be achieved by making membership breakeven and eliminating the good works.  Or we can flip things so that we are a society defined, driven and governed by its Special Interest Groups. This may be several years down the line but it may be something to look at.  And this is primarily because the thirty seven SIGS own the largest business at ACM that isn’t under financial threat – not that conferences are easy but they are not suffering the same kinds of challenges that subscription-based publishing is.

In the end, there is a lot to do but no need to panic – this was the message to the Executive Committee.  There are multiple options to meet ongoing OA demands while sustaining DL revenue and publications surplus – possibly for a very long time.  There are open TOCs, and by the way, the Pubs Board approved open TOCs so SIGs who want to leave their conference proceedings open in perpetuity on their SIG site or conference site can do so. Sponsored proceedings needs a bit more work and thought and we will be doing that with the EC and the publications board.  There are multiple feelings on the idea of throwing up a server to pull all of this stuff together and making it available outside of the digital library on a parallel server with publicly accessible content.  There are three options with one already endorsed and the second one will continue to be looked at and the third I am not sure how much support there is for that.

The substantial changes include eliminating the needs of subsidized membership, primarily student membership, and the good works of ACM. So this is what the EC will work on.  All of ACM leadership would like to see us continue to be a comprehensive publisher, not just a journals publisher or a proceedings publisher.

A question was raised on the permanence of OA content. For a SIG that is very much in favor of OA with a community willing to go completely OA, White recommends SIGs determine how dependent they are to DL revenue to keep them afloat and how does that play into the thinking. A separate question was asked about the demographic breakdown of the junior and senior members.  White explained that Jan Vitek would cover the breakdown of survey respondents in his presentation.

Another question was asked regarding conferences being the most stable source of revenue.  What is the relationship to the proliferation of smaller conferences whose attendance rates are impacted by presenting authors who are required to attend and with the recent CRA recommendation about standards for promotion and tenure, will that hold to be true as it seems that with the conference viability smaller conferences may also be changing in the very long-term? White agreed that is something to consider and explained that he doesn’t want to leave the impression that these issues, options and changes are the only things that ACM needs to worry about.  White went on to explain that there has been a lot of thinking around conferences and journals and whether they serve the community well and he hopes and expects that the SIGs, the publications board and others will lead in determining the kinds of conferences we collectively run.  A comment was made that the ACM headquarters costs should be examined since SIG members have complained that the location would inflate overhead and salaries - if the organization is looking to adjust expenses, headquarters could be moved.  White explained that a committee has researched these costs and benchmarks have been set.  Moving the ACM HQ location would not offer a savings to ACM.

3.0 Viability Reviews

3.1 SIGCHI Viability Review (Van der Veer):

Gerrit Van der Veer presented the current strengths and weaknesses of the SIG to the board.  Van der Veer explained that to a certain extent SIGCHI is “business as usual” but in some cases membership is down.  Over the last 4-5 years the SIG explicitly tried to make things different in this cycle. They worked hard to create an international presence with the recent conference locations in S.E. Asia and Seoul. The SIG also focused on increasing local chapter activities and the chapters in Europe are meeting more.  SIGCHI invented a new SIG component labeled “communities” which are groups of SIGCHI members and non-SIGCHI members who work together on certain issues.  They have close to twenty five communities and half of them are in fact related to some of their specialized conferences but there are communities about other things like cultural heritage and HCI.  They are able to support the communities by helping them hold elections for leadership and providing financial support. They are self-supporting too. The SIG has made a lot of effort on education. They hired someone to do education surveys and have delivered and continue to deliver suggestions on education in the field of computer interaction and at the university level of education they have contributed to the IEEE ACM Curricula Guidelines. This focus on education is positive for SIGCHI. They also developed an awareness of public policy as a new effort that involved relations with the developing world in sort of a spin-off of USACM public policy activities only SIGCHI did it world-wide.  They have a group of people interested and willing to go about it from all over the world and their report will be in CACM.  The SIG spent a lot of time looking at computer interaction groups such as in the developing world and worked to have a conference in SE Asia. They expect to do the same at some point in Africa and Latin America. They have also set aside money for in support of their specialized conferences. Their financial buffer is growing even as they spend this money for these programs.  The SIG has have a half million dollars over what they are supposed to have.  The number of quality submissions and conference registrations is growing. Although this is a good thing it is difficult to find a sustainable way to handle.

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

Unanimous approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

3.2 SIGCOMM Viability Review (Srinivasan):

Keshav Srinivasan presented the current strengths and weaknesses of the SIG to the board.  Srinivasan said that like SIGCHI, SIGCOMM is in a very strong position with one point six million dollars in the bank.  The SIG gives two hundred and seventy five thousand dollars in travel grants every year. They waived contingency for all SIG-sponsored conferences and have a new Doctoral Dissertation Award.  SIGCOMM hired a professional conference management company, MeetGreen to help create corporate memory for organizers going forward so that they won’t face the same set of issues every year.  They funded several community projects and instituted childcare a SIGCOMM.  Srinivasan explained that they are able to do all of this because of their strong financial position.  The membership is stable at one thousand five hundred and fifty. They have benefited from record-setting attendance and growing industry participation. They have set up an Industrial Liaison Board to get help from industry.  Included in this is an industry themed demo event at SIGCOMM.  SIGCOMM sponsored eight conferences and three are new.  They have also put all EC minutes online.  One thing that may work against the SIG right now is that they are in a strong financial position and are seeing losses but trying to  avoid them.  They try to spend the money more for workshops and summer school. The general outlet for computer networking is the IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking and unfortunately the journal is using the IEEE rules of a ten page limit which is less than the SIGCOMM fourteen page limit.  Essentially, this journal is not being used by SIGCOMM members even though ACM is part of it and they are looking into alternatives.  The SIG is beginning to see members conduct research which has privacy implications with certain governmental agencies.  They are planning on conducting a workshop on ethics in computer research and present a curriculum on ethics for all SIG members.

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

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

4.0 Publications Board Report (Joe Konstan and Yannis Ionnidis):

Yannis Ioannidis reviewed the recent developments with publications. The first topic is what to do about proceedings of conferences which are in-cooperation?  This was an issue that was presented at the last SGB meeting.  There was some feedback and then an email was issued indicating that the publications board was ready to act and there were a whole lot of comments.  The pubs board gathered all the comments and there were private discussions on a conference call and the result is the proposal that the pubs board brings to you today.

Let’s start with the definitions. “Archived” or stored in the DL and served from the DL refers to content that we own.  Then there is “exposed” or indexed by the DL where we have all information about that content in the DL and we can search for it but when it comes to the content, it is elsewhere.  Another important term is “hosted” by the DL and this is content which doesn’t belong to ACM.  It is published by others and by a certain agreement it is archived in the DL.  For future adoption of quality content by failing publishers: ACM must be authorized by authors and this is better done from the beginning. Vetting is done by the pubs board, as usual.  If you are co-sponsored by ACM or if ACM is the publisher, it is archived in the DL.  If you are not co-sponsored and someone else is a publisher of the content it could be achieved in the DL, but it is not definite.  Who does the vetting that it is high enough quality and important enough that it should go in the DL?  If it is content related to ACM and published by someone and we deem that it is important, it can be hosted in the DL and the pubs board does the vetting.  Currently it is in-coop conferences published by others (official publishers, or not) that are being looked at. Come SIGs have clear vetting procedures and others do not. That made this an area that the pubs board needed to address.  The policy that was proposed by the publications board was simply that a conference could not be published by another organization, be in-coop and have the content in the DL. If an in-cooperation event wants to be archived in the DL, it has to be published through ICPS. If an in-cooperation event is published by another organization, it can be exposed in the DL (aggregations, groupings, classifications, analytics, etc)  with links to the publisher’s website. SIG decides on cooperating status as well as DL exposition.  High-quality important content (eg, in danger of being lost) can be hosted in the DL with vetting of that content done by the publications board.

Ioannidis confirmed that the SGB understood how cooperating event publications were to work and thanked everyone who provided feedback on the subject.

Ioannidis continued to present updates on “open TOCs.”  The three year experiment with open TOCs started a couple of years ago.  It involves two steps toward open access. The first on is “open-surround” that allows the content of the conference to be freely available for a month around the conference, from the DL.  And then the open TOC which allows the table of contents to be hosted on either the SIG web page or the conference web page and to authorizer links leading to the DL original record of the conference version of the paper.  Since the experiment began: there have been three hundred and twenty six sponsored conferences and two hundred and fifty six were to have open TOCs but only sixty two actually put them  in place (this was for nineteen SIGs).  Measured with data, most downloads occurred around the conference, the second most, during the first year and the third most, during the second year.  The pubs board made a decision last week to open up the TOC indefinitely, not just for 1 year but for the entire life of the SIG or ACM.  The group conveyed approval with applause.  Ioannidis added that if SIGs don’t want to have them up indefinitely, the links can be taken down.  He said that not all SIGs want this option – it is completely their choice. 

Joe Konstan discussed the pubs board survey results.  He indicated that there are some interesting results that SIG leaders would find worth knowing about.  The pubs board first surveyed ACM Fellows. The board then went out to survey a set of ACM volunteers and a set of recent but not long established authors, people who had published their first paper within the last 10 years and who had published between 3-10 papers altogether. Our volunteer survey doesn’t have perfect sampling and for that reason doesn’t have larger numbers but it does reflect what we have heard from the community.  Konstan presented a few highlights.  The board asked people about conference versus journal publication because this is a big issue and you will see that our communities broadly prefer to publish in conferences.  They prefer to read conference proceedings to keep up on the field.  Even though they think that journals have higher quality papers.  In fact the conferences have more impact on the field even though the journals have higher quality papers.  Konstan said this isn’t surprising – journals have higher quality reviewing.  Conference papers are more novel and timely.  The board asked a range of questions and in the end the community is really divided. 

The pubs board created a conference committee, half of whose members came from the SIGs including SIGs who have been most active in the publishing dialog – individuals who are very eager to deal with the issues around publication challenges, conferences vs. journals.  They found that what we publish in conferences is high quality by the standards of journals in other fields that are journal-centric.  The committee encourages continued collaboration agreements with Transactions (journal first and journal-integrated models). They also recommended creating a new brand: “Proceedings of the ACM” that would come out as a line of top-quality conference proceedings journals. The committee strongly felt that there should be a mechanism for direct submission without presenting at a conference.  Konstan says that the board believes that there might be a model in which there should be a journal series that is very much driven and run out of the SIGs. At the moment the board is seeking feedback because if the SIGs don’t want to do this, a lot of time is being wasted.  The board has heard from a lot of SIGs that this is an important thing. They are looking for feedback on the criteria for selection, the options for direct submission and the best management structure.  If you have questions or feedback on a business model please contact Joe Konstan.

Regarding the mandates for opening papers, the board is seeing that the US Federal Government and governments in India, in Australia and other places around the world are saying that you can keep it closed for about twelve months but then you have to open it if we paid for it and there is a gap that says that if you opened it for the first twelve months and then from twelve months on there’s a vanishingly small period of time where it was closed.  Right now that is getting toward zero.  At the same time, ACM has a longstanding policy that says that it will support authors in making any mandatory deposits of papers into government repositories.  The board has been doing many things such as working with CHORUS (Clearing House for Open Research in the US) which is expanding worldwide. Their mission is to have agencies to work with us so that we open things up in our own repository and report them to the governments so that the governments will link back to the official copy so we can still keep track of things like download statistics. ACM has already made it clear that we will live with the 12 month embargo period.  We will serve the version of record in the DL.  Future discussions include investigating services we can provide authors and the possibility of seeking voluntary payments.  We are looking into collecting funding data so that we can unlock, notify and report on the fact that your work has effectively been made public at the time that it has to be.  We are trying to make this as painless as possible for authors.

Other pubs board activities include ICPS which has a new EiC editorial board.  The numbers are growing with proposals from US, Australia and France.  The creation of a gold open access journal effort has been suspended.  The DL is changing as well with more services offered to members.  ACM Books is very active with many leaders from every field.  There is an active interest in books and the program is soliciting books so if you are interested please contact Tamer Ozu.  The books that have been published look really slick.

Comments included the possible association with the books program with the pitfalls of self-publishing.  Konstan explained that the program is distinctive from self-publishing and that a comparison couldn’t be made.  A comment was made about the lack of diversity on the pubs board and Konstan responded that there have been a number of women invited and we are not blaming anyone for not accepting and it is high on the priority list for the EiC.  We have lost our member who represents countries outside of North America so if you know of anyone thoughtful about publications and willing to put in a lot of time who happens to be based outside of North America, contact him.

4.1 SIGPLAN Publications Survey (Vitek)

Jan Vitek presented results from the SIGPLAN open access survey.  Vitek explained that there were about 1300 responses overall.  The survey was conducted after PLDI 2014 and another survey at the end of POPL.  Both of these surveyed conference attendees.  A third survey was with all the authors of submitted papers of ECOOP (not an ACM conference but it serves a similar community - programming language folks).  The last survey population was the very broad SIGPLAN community via social media which included responses from other SIGs as well.  Fifty three percent of respondents were from Europe and thirty seven percent were from North America.  Seniority was measured in the question, “when was your first published paper”  half of the respondents said ten years or less and that is split two ways between people who had published a paper more than twenty years ago and people who had published their first paper between ten and twenty years ago.

The questions included one set about the role of journals and conferences.  In the programming languages community there is feeling that journals are not playing the role they used to.  Vitek explained that the SIG has found the most important results and the biggest slice of the pie is within the field of conferences.  They asked authors, “Do you feel that publishing a journal paper is a requirement for career advancement?”  Fifty four percent of the authors who attended PLDI said yes – they feel that they need to publish papers because their employer expects them to.

There is also a population that needs journals.  What is the percentage of people outside of the US feeling that they need to publish papers in a journal?  The number is much bigger for respondents outside of the US. They also measured how many respondents were interested in publishing less in conferences than journals and in the SIGPLAN community; seventy four percent were in favor. In the PLDI poll the number was seventy percent and in the POPL it was seventy nine percent. Overall, across these three polls, people seem to be in favor of the idea that there is a good case for publishing the best conferences as journals.

The survey asked people “Do you want open access?” and eighty five percent think it’s important and fifteen percent don’t care and no one was opposed.  Vitek said that it has become apparent that most people interpret open access to mean “no paywall.”  Further questions referred to open access as the removal of the DL paywall. At POPL this year eighty one percent of respondents were in favor of that proposal and the SIGPLAN poll was also in favor.  The ECOOP poll asked whether removing the paywall benefits academia and overwhelmingly people felt it did.

The last open access question was “do you think that removing the paywall is a moral imperative?”  Overall, for everybody, seventy three percent were in favor but it is split differently across the respondents.  There is a stronger feeling for open access among non-US respondents and among more junior respondents.

This is certainly no representative sample of our population but it is worth listening to what four hundred people took the time to write in a poll. Seventy four percent of respondents would be ok with scaling down expenses (including the good works) to pay for open access.

White asked if Vitek was feeling optimistic about some of the OA announcements made earlier in the day.  Vitek said it is hard to say.  At least half of this is a problem of perception.  He said that a lot of these changes are really good and going in the right direction but believed that the members will go to the DL and be disappointed to see that it is still closed.  White and Vitek discussed whether members will go to proceedings for open access or go to the DL and have the perception that nothing has changed. Konstan added that asking decontextualized questions comes with concerns.   

5.0 Viability Reviews

5.1 SIGDOC Viability Review (Potts)

Liza Potts presented the current strengths and weaknesses of the SIG to the board.  There has been massive change in the community and the SIG over the last few years.  They represent the Humanities and Social Sciences in the ACM.  A few years ago their leadership left and Potts was the last leader standing.  Together SIGDOC volunteers have resurrected the SIG. They have witnessed a turnaround from where they were.  They are now receiving eighty three submissions for SIGDOC which is a significant increase.  The leadership is diverse and mostly women.  They have become an outlier in this regard and would be happy to talk to other SIGs about ways to include more women.  They have a growing pool of engaged volunteers.  Part of this has come from reaching out to other organizations and explaining the value of SIGDOC and carving out what SIGDOC means and they are doing a good job of that.  SIGDOC relaunched a peer-reviewed newsletter with invited articles.  Big names in the field want to be published in it. Over half of the members are new members.  They reached out to new organization called Women in Technical Communications.  Overall the visibility of the SIG has increased.

SIGDOC’s member numbers are down partially due to a promotional “return for ten dollars” pitch. However, attendance is more diverse now than prior years.  They plan to re-engage conference attendees by including membership with registration and will continue to build volunteers, early career scholars and students.  They will also partner with sister organizations and sponsorship.

Recommendation: The SGB EC likes the progress made by the SIGDOC leadership since their last review. The SIGDOC leadership should continue to evaluate their focus and think about how to position themselves as a community. The SIG is viable to continue its status for the next 2 years.

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

5.2 SIGIR Viability Review

Charles Clarke presented the current strengths and weaknesses of SIGIR to the board. SIGIR is about facilitating access to information.  Their main flagship conference, SIGIR, has about six hundred people a year.  They also co-sponsor CIKM which has about eight hundred and WSDM and JCDL as well.  Since 2012 they have had  one flagship conference that was sole-sponsored but starting next year they will be adding two more sole-sponsored conferences.  They are taking on these conferences because they have been struggling independently for a number of years and their plan is to give them some financial stability and allow them to plan ahead.

The SIG is introducing a Test of Time Award for papers published at SIGIR and are very proud to have hosted an Athena Lecture for 2014 as well as in 2007.  In fact SIGIR has had a reasonable record of women in leadership both administrative and scientific over the years.

The SIG co-sponsors conferences with SIGKDD and SIGMOD and went through a strange period where all of the conferences for a two or three year window were held outside of North America and outside of Europe.  They have had complaints from members that even though having conferences in locations like China and Australia has been great for students in these locations, it has been hard for our US attendees.

SIGIR has  also had a flat membership for the last couple of years and are looking for the right incentives like many other SIGs.

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

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

5.3 SIGITE Viability Review

Rob Friedman presented the current strengths and weaknesses of SIGITE to the board.  SIGITE is Information Technology Education.  They are a small SIG and a relatively young SIG.  They have had decreasing acceptance rates for their conference which is the main activity for their organization.  The acceptance rate was too high a couple of years ago and it has reduced to fewer than forty five percent.  Attendance has increased – last year it was one hundred thirty one which is an improvement.  Lightening talks appear to be a popular mode that we introduced last year to get conversation going around our organization.   International membership has increased twenty five percent.  SIGITE is a regular presence in Inroads Magazine which is a good thing for getting our word out. The SIG is also involved in ACMTOCE which is Transactions on Computing Education.  One of the officers has been on the editorial board since 2008 and they have representation on the ongoing curriculum revision committees with the ACM and IEEE.  Five of the twelve members of the current committee come from SIGITE.  The SIG has a relatively healthy fund balance.  It is not large but with fifty thousand dollar over the requirement, they feel comfortable.  They were disappointed with a conference that was held in Canada because attendance suffered. One of the member benefits is the newsletter which comes  out twice a year.  SIGITE has a new information director.  The main ow is something that is common to a lot of SIGs and that low membership.  It has been between three seventy and three ninety six and they are always looking for ways to increase it.  As a young SIG they don’t have many years in terms of publications being archived in the DL so a low citation rate is a consequence of a brief tenure in the DL.

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

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

5.4 SIGMIS Viability Review (Sipior)

Janice Sipior presented the current strengths and weaknesses of the SIG to the board.  Most recently they have tried to broaden the inclusiveness of the CPR conference.  It is a very small conference with a core set of people who produce high quality research.  Along those lines it has been renamed the conference on Computer People Research so it is not just about Computer Personnel Research.  The name change doesn’t appear to have created additional interest.  To try to get that interest underway, they initiated funding for participants in the doctoral consortium.  Along those lines they also wanted to add value to the junior set who are just launching their career and also those more senior.  They did an outreach to practitioners to answer the question about research relevance and with that formed a greater alliance with the practitioner community as well as  the academic community.  The thought was that a journal editor panel would provide insight into outlets that are viable for different research focuses.  SIGMIS redesigned their website and now have an excellent information director who deserves a great deal of credit.  For the ow, SIGMIS membership continues to decline.  For those numbers, the retention is around eighty percent.  The SIG typically retains their senior members but losses them as they retire and are not keeping the junior members.  What they are planning on doing for this year’s CPR conference is to add a session on leadership.  They have secured an executive coach who will provide the expertise for the session and are hoping that that session will develop those who are more junior into those leadership positions.

One of their efforts to attract members is to increase the geographic range of conferences.   Last year’s conference was in Singapore, this year they are on the West coast and next year we will be on the East coast and 2017  are targeting India and hopefully gaining a set of members from that venue.  They have investigated initiating a social media presence but have concluded that there isn’t much out there.  They have a presence in Inroads with a member who reports on the activities of SIGMIS and they run an annual networking reception.  They could potentially do a better job and maybe launch a campaign to create membership interest at that venue but that isn’t a focus.  In terms of planned efforts to increase junior members their goal is to make membership more attractive with a competitive research support.    They need to promote the CPR conference earlier in the year.  They plan to resurrect the one year membership offered to doctoral consortium participants as another incentive.

Recommendation: The SGB EC is concerned about volunteer development, the conference acceptance rate and attendance at the event. The SIGMIS leadership should evaluate and determine how to improve these areas. The SIG is viable to continue its status for the next 2 years.

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

5.5 SIGPLAN Viability Review (Vitek)

Jan Vitek presented the current strengths and weaknesses of the SIG to the board. SIGPLAN is mostly doing well.  Conferences are well attended and they make money.  The Programming Language Mentoring Workshop which is a series of workshops associated with the main conferences focuses on undergraduates and minorities and the goal is to fund their trip to the conference and provide them with mentors who introduce them to the field.  This approach to building membership has spread to POPL, ICFP and OOPSLA.  The practice of evaluating submitted papers to confirm that the artifacts match the claims made in the paper, called Artifact Evaluation, has spread to three conferences, PLDI, POPL and OOPSLA.  The SIG is moving to making HotCRP the default conference management system for SIGPLAN.  They are supporting the development of Constant Researcher which is a system for developing websites.  They are using it for some of the big conferences as it helps with the scheduling and management. The SIG is trying to get all of their conferences to develop best practices documents.  Currently two of them have and these are living documents which describe how the reviewing process goes and all of the rules of that particular conference.  The SIG regards this as a contract between the authors and the conference leaders.

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

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

5.6 SIGSPATIAL Viability Review (Mokbel)

Mohamed Mokbel presented the current strengths and weaknesses of the SIG to the board.  Membership has never seen a decrease since the SIG was founded in 2008.  The finances are very healthy while keeping registration rates very low.  The newsletter has been revamped to have each issue has a special issue on a rising topic.  They  also participated in the creation of  a new journal called ACM Transaction on Spatial Algorithms and Systems (TSAS) and the first issue will appear this year.  They have broadened their  impact after a paper presented at ACM SIGSPATIAL was the feature of a cover story on CACM.  For their flagship conference, SIGSPATIAL is trying to maintain a single-track with low registration fees.  The conference has  have consistent corporate sponsorship form ESRI, Microsoft, Google and Facebook.  Registration totals have been consistently over 300 for the last three years.  The conference has twelve affiliated workshops and distributed the SIGSPATIAL Cup since 2012.

The Ow concerns include the delays with the newsletter – one issue never appeared.  The newsletter isn’t so popular.  Because of this they  have a new editor and have revamped the model making it more interesting.  The flagship conference is always in the US and this is not welcomed by  non-US based members.  They are  not ready  to host a conference outside of the US but are studying alternatives.  They are planning  wide publicity, more industry engagement and more outreach to international potential members.

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

Approval of the recommendation by the SGB.

6.0 History Committee Report (Xie)

Tao Xie, SGB Liaison to the ACM History Committee presented the board with committee updates.  The committee’s work is about the history of ACM and its role in the world of computing by collaborating with other groups such as the SGB and the pubs board. The committee is made up of a mixture of historians, librarians and SIG members.  We have an ACM SIG History page where we include links to different SIGs history pages.   This is a good portal for SIGs to document and communicate SIG history to members and the boarder community.

If you have a specific update, feel free to send them to Xie.  As an example, SIGSOFT’s history page chronologically lists SIG activities such as awards and leadership positions.  The links lead to ACM Awards pages when applicable.  ACM History Fellowship Awardees have represented SIGs in the past and will continue to.  Recent ACM History Blog posts include the subject of “Oral Histories with Pioneers of European Computer Networking.”  It was recommended that SGB leaders take a look at the December 2012 CACM article by Mary Hall called “Understanding ACM’s Past” as it celebrates computing achievements and promotes the great things happening in our community.

The committee held an archiving workshop to help members of the community document and disseminate professional policies and practices about archiving computer history to ACM membership. The History Committee website has very detailed information including an archiving guide and toolkit.

They are responsive to the SIGs in terms of researching activities going on in the SIGs.  If you have any questions please contact Xie who will direct you to the correct person to provide help.  In the future, please expect an email from Xie who will create a mailing list to build a community focused on ACM history.

There was discussion on the maintenance of related links posted to the History Committee’s website and Xie suggested that content is posted on ACM’s url and also asked SIG leaders to have more frequent check-ins and report dead links and as well as using the Wiki site to post history related links.

7.0 SGB Meeting Survey Results (Altman)

Erik Altman provided a review of the results of the survey from the last SGB meeting.  There were 10 survey questions.  The overall impression was that almost everyone thought it was good or excellent.  The favorite part of the meeting was John’s presentation as is also the case and we have people liking virtually every topic except for viability reviews.  The least favorite part of the meeting was the Best Practices session.  The most valuable thing learned was around open access and open TOC and the retiree task force.  Erik said he was happy to see that there was a variety of valuable things.  For topics that respondents would like to see covered next time, collaboration between SIGs is one, more structured best practice section, more on future directions. There was more feedback on the DL app and its usability.

8.0 Best Practices Session

There was discussion on the review process made by the SGB EC and the SGB for viability reviews. SIG Chairs requested the guidelines and to understand how the SGB EC evaluates SIGs. A suggestion was made that the best practice session is more helpful and should be scheduled earlier in the meeting and the content should be archived. Another comment was made that the best practice session from a few years ago were better and more informative.  Another suggestion was made that the viability slides should include a third slide which shows standard categories for each SIG such as membership, finances which shows how big the SIG is, how much money it has; a sort of snapshot to the group. Alex Wolf explained that this is on the backup and it is on the meeting site.  He also said that we actually used to do much more of that and people thought that was dry. A comment was made that there is a need for an orientation meeting and Donna Cappo explained that one is being planned to occur the day before the subsequent SGB meeting.  Another request was made for easily downloadable back-up to read in transit in preparation for the meeting.  Another question was asked on what the criteria is for “sun-setting” SIGs. Another question was asked on the assessment of new SIGS and Cappo explained that the criterion is based on what the SIGs original stated mission was.

Cappo reminded the board that the SIG officers Manual states the criteria for viability review and the SGB EC goes through the specific details on behalf of the SGB. Several comments were made that the current presentation of the back-up is reasonable and review from SIG chairs is necessary.  A comment was made that the Ow and Wow slides don’t effectively communicate the status of the SIG. A response to that is that the idea came as a suggestion from a best practice session.  A request was made that there is a need for more engagement from the EC.  Madden said that the discussion will continue off line. 

The task force on retiree benefits presented an update on their proposal to offer reduced rates to retirees at conferences if the conference already offered student rates. Confirmation of retiree status could be made by ACM in an automated fashion to verify ACM membership for 10 years.  SIGGRAPH expressed concerns related to a possible overlap with their Pioneer category as well as the mandatory nature of the change. Another concern is ACM needs to confirm that membership data is available for ten years.  A concern was expressed on finding resources to fund the discount.  Pancake suggested that there are ways to fund this and still have consistency just as there are ways to fund students with travel grants.  Rates could be raised to compensate for the discounts.  Banzhaf explained that no one is imposing anything – the group had been charged with making the proposal more formal and what has been presented is based on a group decision.  A request was made to not vote and to bring this information to SIG committees especially since this is the first time this was discussed as an absolute requirement.  Madden stated that there appeared to be folks for, against and those who would like more time to make a decision and an email vote would be the next steps following discussion on an interactive site he is setting up.

Will Tracz shared a best practice on Webinars.  SIGSOFT has town hall meetings that serve as a forum on promoting future events for the SIG and to advertise for volunteer participation.  The SIG sends out invitations to all members and past members telling them about webinars.  This is an effective way to stir up interest and volunteers.  SIG leaders are encouraged to contact Tracz with any questions about webinars.  SIGSOFT is in the process of wrapping up some of their keynote addresses from well received presentations.

Madden opened a discussion on capturing research objects of various types as a  follow-up on Simon Harper’s proposal for a Reproducibility journal which would aid in the replication of research results.  Madden is looking for a handful of people who would like to research this further and talk off line to possibly bring a proposal to the pubs board.

SIGPLAN has an artifact evaluation process but the virtual machines are big and hard to archive. SIGKDD is definitely interested - if there are online groups, we would participate.  SIGCOMM has something called crawdad to use for this process.

Madden said that his vision for this is to have our own data sets on some server somewhere that may or may not be archived forever or easily findable - one of the discussions on the Pubs board is how do we go beyond a pdf file?

SIGCOMM suggests an incentive structure be put in place in order to make it reasonable for people to do this, some type of brownie point.

A comment was made that looking at the new NSF requirements makes it clear that preserving data is important. We need to step it up.  Everything will be changing Jan 1 2016 and all grants will have to comply with making the data available.

Van der Veer said that SIGCHI doesn't serve practitioners as well as researchers and students.  They have been trying to list and structure professional artifacts in their domain - SIGCHI domain.  They came up with a lot of different artifacts which should be labeled.  There could be all sorts of presentations. We are thinking about video capture and code and other forms of artifacts.  These things make sense for our community.  We would like to consider how all these artifacts could be officially identified and captured.  Van der Veer says that as he is aware the DL could capture this type of thing, especially if they are recognized as professional artifacts.  Van der Veer volunteered to work on this.

Vitek said that making data available is useful - you have to present it and format it.  SIGPLAN asked people how long it takes them to prepare an artifact and members have reported 1-2 weeks which is a lot of time.  There has to be an incentive for people to spend that time - we have to involve the community. Vitek added that the group should not underestimate the amount of activity involved.  The proliferation of artifacts that you would acquire will be substantial.

A comment was made that there might be a way to submit along with the artifact a 1 page description of what it is about which would provide uniformity.

SIGSPATIAL added that their SIGSPATIAL Cup competition highlights problem solving. KDD added that they have an award called the KDD Cup which requires that documentation of data is public. A comment was made that in the fact solving community code is made public and has evolved extensively along with the requirement for proofs for “no” answers.

Madden said that the discussion will continue offline.  Chris Gill said that there are parts of this that are actually open research.  Reproducibility in cyber physical systems is actually an open topic.

Paul Beame shared a best practice topic with the board and recommends that everyone read the AAUW study called “Solving the Equation” about women in Computing and Engineering.  The slides present a solid study that gives unquestionable research on the impacts of gender.

Keshav recommends the conference management company for taking on volunteer  responsibilities:  setting up registration and other logistics.  Contracting with a management company aids in the documentation of institutional memory. 

Patrick Madden closed the meeting. The next meeting will be held in the New York City area.  The event will include an orientation session on August 20 with the SGB meeting occurring on August 21, 2015.


  • Erik Altman, SGB Past Chair
  • Magdalena Balazinska, Secretary/Treasurer, SIGMOD
  • Wolfgang Banzhaf, Chair, SIGEVO
  • Paul Beame, Chair, SICTACT
  • Pradip Bose, Chair, SIGMICRO
  • Donna Cappo, Director, ACM Sig Services
  • Karla Carter, Vice-Chair, SIGCAS
  • Shih-Fu Chang, Chair, SIGMM
  • Naehyuck Chang, Chair, SIGDA
  • Charles Clarke, Chair, SIGIR
  • David Cook, Chair, SIGAda
  • Sanmay Das, Vice Chair, SIGAI
  • Mat Felthousen, Chair, SIGUCCS
  • Paul Fishwick, Chair, SIGSIM
  • Rob Friedman, Chair, SIGITE
  • Chris Gill, Vice Chair, SIGBED
  • Vicki Hanson, Vice President, ACM
  • Simon Harper, Chair, SIGWEB
  • Wing Man Ho, Finance Manager, ACM
  • Yannis Ioannidis, SGB Liaison to Pubs Board
  • Trent Jaeger, Chair, SIGSAC
  • Jeff Jortner, President, SIGGRAPH
  • Norm Jouppi, Board Member, SIGARCH
  • Srinivasan Keshav, Chair, SIGCOMM
  • Joseph Konstan, Co-Chair, Publications Board
  • Ilias Kotsireas, Chair, SIGSAM
  • Ann Lane, Administration Assistant, ACM
  • Bing Liu, Chair, SIGKDD
  • John C.S. Lui, Chair, SIGMETRICS
  • Patrick Madden, Chair, SGB
  • Jeanna Matthews, Chair, SIGOPS
  • Renee McCauley, SGB Member-at-large
  • Mohamed Mokbel , Chair, SIGSPATIAL
  • Scott Owen, SGB EC
  • Barbara Owens, SGB Rep to the ACM Council
  • Gultekin Ozsoyoglu, Vice-Chair, SIGBio
  • Prakash Panangaden, Chair, SIGLOG
  • Cherri Pancake, Chair, SIGHPC
  • David Parkes, Chair, SIGecom
  • Liza Potts, Chair, SIGDOC
  • Susan Rodger, Chair, SIGDOC
  • Patricia Ryan, COO, ACM
  • Mehran Sahami, Co-Chair, Education Board
  • Andrew Sears, Chair, SIGACCESS
  • Amber Settle, Treasurer, SIGCSE
  • Sung Shin. Chair, SIGAPP
  • Janice Sipior, Chair, SIGMIS
  • Keshav Srinivasan, Chair, SIGCOMM
  • Will Tracz, Chair, SIGSOFT
  • Gerrit Van der Veer, President, SIGCHI
  • Jan Vitek, Chair, SIGPLAN
  • John White, CEO, ACM
  • Alexander Wolf, President, ACM
  • Tao Xie, History Committee