In accordance with the Constitution and Bylaws of the ACM, the Nominating Committee hereby submits the following slate of nominees for ACM's officers.
Dr. Ryder and Dr. Cerf,
I am a software engineer at Google and was formerly on the computer
science faculty at Harvard. I am a Senior Member of the ACM, was
formerly Editor in Chief for ACM Transactions on Sensor Networks, and
have served as program chair, program committee, and organizing
committee member for a number of ACM-sponsored conferences.
Since you are both candidates for the presidency of the ACM, I would
like to ask you to take a clear position on open access for ACM
publications. This is an increasingly important issue and one that the
research community is taking very seriously. Although many academics
post their papers (with or without explicit license to do so) on their
websites, ACM's existing copyright policies do not constitute open
access, and do not serve to make the results of our community's
research available to the public, free of charge. Other organizations,
such as USENIX, have a much more sensible open access policy. ACM runs
a serious risk of becoming irrelevant and obsolete if it does not
serve the needs of the research community, which has long been in
support of open access.
Along with several hundred other researchers, I have signed the
Research Without Walls pledge (http://www.researchwithoutwalls.org/)
which says that I will no longer perform program committee or referee
duties for conferences and journals that do not provide open access.
This includes ACM-sponsored conferences and journals that do not
otherwise have an open access policy. For more background, you can
read my blog post on this topic:
I would very much encourage you to take up this matter as part of your
platform for presidency of the ACM, and hope that you will promote
open access for ACM's publications.
I came to ACM Council with a similar desire to achieve more open access to ACM publications. It turns out that the Digital Library is very popular, is not cheap to operate, and generates a substantial revenue stream that is important to the vitality of ACM. So your question is not a trivial one. I think the goal you propose is worthy but I also think we would need to do some serious due diligence to work out the financial implications. A significant drop in DL subscription fees would have a material impact on the organization's resources. An alternative mechanism might allow authors to post their work so that it is publicly indexable and discoverable. arxiv.org for
physics is an example, I think.
Thanks for your thoughts on open access publication and ACM. The ACM Digital Library (DL) has been designed and constructed by ACM, led by the vision of computing researchers in the SIGs. It now has become THE repository to go to for computing publications, having listings for many more than only ACM publications. This effort was undertaken for and supported by the computing research community; more recently, ACM has enhanced the DL with author metrics, additional search capabilities, the Authorizer tool, etc -- all in support of the research community. So the ACM DL is an important resource for computing.
But ACM is a membership organization, not a for-profit company which can choose to invest in services for the community, funded by other revenue streams. At this time, the ACM DL generates a significant income stream for ACM and its SIGs, which, in part, supports further DL development as well as other activities. Any discussion of Open Access publication and ACM has to consider the financial consequences of the choices to be made. It is not just a philosophical discussion.
As the Publisher of the Communications of the ACM, I read with interest Matt Welsh's letter to Drs. Ryder and Cerf requesting that they take a clear position on open access for ACM publications. As both candidates for the ACM presidency indicated in their responses to Dr. Welsh, the issue of open access is not as straightforward as some believe and there are many considerations that need to be taken into account in relation to this important issue. As Dr. Ryder stated, "It is not just a philosophical discussion". I think this is an incredibly important point that is often overlooked in relation to all open access related initiatives, such as the Research Without Walls pledge. What concerns me is that initiatives such as RWW tend to frame the discussion about open access in very black and white or good versus evil terms, when the reality could not be further from the truth.
In my opinion, one would be hard pressed to find any scientist, scientific society, or commercial science publisher who did not support the fundamental ideal of open access. All three of these groups exist to make high quality scientific information available to the widest possible readership with commercial publishers having the added incentive of making a business out of this process. All strive for the same end result to be successful, and they all seem to understand that publishing research is a process that consists of different people and organizations each playing their role, even though the researchers themselves are the most important contributors to this process. In fact, I would say that ACM and many societies and publishers would completely agree with the second goal listed on the RWW goal statement ("show your support for a community norm of open-access publishing"). But supporting the ideal does not mean that all societies and publishers should simply open their archives of scholarly articles and publications up to the world at large without careful consideration of the consequences of doing so, and it does not mean that all societies and publishers will choose to approach open access in the same way.
Over the past decade, during which many open access initiatives have sprung up and taken root, a long list of scientific societies and publishers (in and out of computer science) have adjusted their existing copyright policies, pricing practices, and business models to accommodate the fundamental ideals of open access, although very few have done so to the extent that the communities they serve would like. Now, to be certain, many have not gone far enough and an equal number have chosen to take advantage of the open access movement to create new ways to generate increased profits, but I have a very hard time agreeing with the approach RWW takes with its proposed pledge, because it has the effect of treating all societies and publishers in the same way, and even more takes a punitive approach to problem solving that has the potential to be detrimental to the community itself.
In the case of ACM and ACM conferences and journals, it is important to remember that the society exists to serve the computing community with the products, programs, and services essentially created by the community. At a fundamental level, there is no us vs. them as it relates to ACM. The ACM is run by volunteers from the computing community willing to sit on its various boards and committees e.g., the ACM Council, ACM Executive Committee, ACM SIG Governing Board, ACM Publications Board, ACM Education Council, ACM Practitioners Board, ACM W-Council, USACM Council, 36 SIG Executive Committees, the ACM Education Policy Committee and others. The volunteers on these boards and committees set the strategic direction and goals for the Association, including policies such as ACM's Copyright Policy, ACM's Plagiarism Policy, and ACM's approach to Open Access Publishing, among countless other initiatives that benefit the community.
When movements such as RWW ask members of the community to penalize any society or publisher that does not immediately open access to all of its publications, they risk doing significant damage to organizations like ACM and the community they serve. For the ACM in particular, I do not think I am overdramatizing the potential risk of trying to rally a community into denying ACM access to the volunteers that are ACM. For over sixty years, ACM has relied almost entirely on its volunteers, program committee chairs, Editors-In-Chief, authors, and boards and committees to launch, develop, maintain, and sponsor hundreds of top-tier conferences, journals, technical magazines, and newsletters that are all made available to literally millions of authorized users through an incredibly high quality web-based platform called the ACM Digital Library. ACM relies heavily on the subscription-based revenues that it generates largely from the institutional markets, including corporations. Without those revenues, ACM would simply be unable to underwrite and support the infrastructure that exists to maintain the publications themselves, the systems used to coordinate the peer review process, the DL platform (which is considered one of the most cutting edge and unique publications platforms available by any publisher), let alone the initiatives ACM pursues on behalf of the community: engaging more women and minorities in our field; strengthening real CS education in K12; educating policy makers on technology; reaching worldwide to advance computing as a science and profession. Rallying the community to treat a non-profit educational and scientific society like ACM the same way it would treat a for-profit commercial publisher will not benefit the computing community, and I would ask Matt and others who have signed the RWW pledge to reconsider the potential consequences of their decision.
If the goal of RWW is to advance the debate about how to increase access to high quality scholarly information, such as that published by ACM, in a sustainable way, then I believe the best way to do that is by participating in the ACM as a volunteer on one of its many committees and boards, and working within the system to gain a greater understanding of the publication process, what the ACM is already doing to address these issues for the community, and to affect positive change over time from within. To state that the new ACM Author-Izer linking service is actually a step backward for open access, as the RWW website states, shows a lack of understanding of the value that the ACM Digital Library has brought to the community and of the new linking service itself, which offers an "optional" and "free" persistent link to an open access version of the author's final published article in the DL without in any way limiting the authors' right to post the pre-published versions of their articles on their sites. This service essentially creates an open access back-door to articles published in the DL without jeopardizing the financial underpinnings of ACM that support the community. In developing this service, members of the community carefully considered the needs of the community and the sustainability of the organization that supports this community, and ultimately settled on an approach that would benefit both.
Director of Group Publishing
Association for Computing Machinery
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