The CACM Research Highlights (CACM-RH) section is devoted to the most significant recent research results published in computing. Papers in this section are first nominated by a CACM Editorial Board (EB) member or an ACM SIG selection committee, and then selected by the CACM-RH Editorial Board. Publication in CACM-RH is not precluded by, nor does it preclude, publication in another conference or journal (ACM or otherwise).
Accompanying every RH article, an expert in the subject matter of the article is selected by the CACM-RH EB to write a one-page "Technical Perspective" (TP), which situates the article in the broad context of CS and explains its importance.
With a readership of over 100,000 from over 100 countries — and considering that RH is one of most-read sections of the magazine — publication in CACM-RH provides unmatched visibility and is regarded as a significant honor.
The goal of the Research Highlights (RH) section in CACM is to highlight exciting, recent research results across the field of computing research. To that end, papers are selected by the RH EB based on two key criteria:
A paper might be chosen for RH because it opens up a new area in a field, or because it has the potential to be a definitive milestone. A paper might be chosen because it brings well-known techniques from one area to a new field, or because it describes an exciting application of known ideas.
Generally, papers are not chosen when they seem to be incremental, or of interest to only a relatively narrow sub-community. This distinguishes RH papers from some "best" paper awards. The latter can be quite technical or focused on a very small community, whereas the former should be accessible to a broad part of the CS research community.
The CACM-RH section does not play the same role as a journal. In particular, the only feedback that the Editorial Board (EB) provides to authors is related to accessibility and emphasis (or de-emphasis) of particular aspects of a paper. The CACM-RH EB does not provide the kind of detailed refereeing and editing that would go with a journal article. The goal is to highlight and broadly advertise exciting results that have already been vetted by a sub-community.
Typically, each accepted paper has at least one "in-the-field" champion from the EB (or an expert solicited by the EB) who attests to the significance of the results, and at least one "outside-the-field" EB member who confirms that the paper is (or can be made) accessible and exciting to the broader CS community.
All else being equal, a nominated paper that seems exciting and interesting to "outside-the-field" readers is accepted, even if the "inside-the-field" experts feel that the paper is not necessarily one of the best recent results in that field.
The CACM-RH EB has generally resisted the temptation to solicit papers or to ask someone to write a summary/survey of a given area, though it has occasionally asked several authors to co-author papers that assemble and combine a collection of ideas. Generally, it is better to use other sections of CACM to achieve this task (see Author Guidelines). On some occasions, papers nominated for consideration for CACM-RH are instead solicited as contributed papers to CACM.
CACM-RH has a strict policy of accepting nominations only from: individual SIGs (ideally through a SIG selection committee), CACM-RH Editorial Board members, or the editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions. It does not accept nominations from any other sources or by any other means.