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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Revisiting ACM Europe

ACM Europe Council chair Fabrizio Gagliardi.

Fabrizio Gagliardi, chair of the ACM Europe Council, says the organization has been working to bring the professional and academic computing community in Europe greater opportunities to contribute to European Commission-backed research programs.

Credit: Microsoft Research

ACM's Past President Wendy Hall, a European who became the Association's first non-North American president, made a special effort to encourage diversity and support of research, practice, and student communities around the world during her term of service. Her successor, Alain Chesnais, another European, has confirmed and continued this trend.

In 2009, the ACM Council discussed and endorsed an international plan to promote ACM's presence and activities outside the U.S., namely in Europe, India, and China. As a result, ACM Europe ( was launched in October 2009 at an ACM-sponsored event in Paris in conjunction with the European Computer Science Summit. A group of 15 European computer scientists from academia and industry agreed to serve on the ACM Europe Council. This group has now grown to 21 members with a good mix of nationality (although mostly European, of course), gender, and research interests. Research units of major IT companies are also represented (IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and SAP, among others). When I was invited to chair the Council, I believed my long career in computing and my vast network of contacts in the scientific and industrial research communities would serve the position well.

The rationale behind creating regional councils in Europe, India, and China was the observation that despite ACM being a very well established and successful organization, it did not seem to have the same impact and adoption outside the U.S. There are many reasons for this: some have to do with the relative higher or lower maturity of the computer science community in different parts of the world, and others have to do with the different cultural and traditional attitudes toward professional societies. In Europe, we have some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world; we can actually claim that computer science and early computers were invented and introduced in Europe with legendary figures such as Alan Turing and Konrad Zuse. However, European computer scientists tend to be less inclined to participate in broad professional associations, preferring smaller organizations usually focused on their field of expertise.

The career reward system in Europe does not always recognize community work, but rather individual scientific publishing (although there is good progress in certain countries such as the U.K.). Moreover, unlike engineers, medical doctors, architects, and lawyers, computer professionals are not required to be licensed.

Despite this backdrop, we agreed that coordinating a group of distinguished scientists with the task of expanding the visibility of ACM in Europe while at the same time making European scientists more relevant and active in ACM was worth exploring. From the beginning, ACM Europe decided to focus on three main areas: promote and support the creation of new ACM chapters in Europe, especially student chapters; increase the number of European nominations for ACM professional awards and distinguished member grades, including a more European presence in the ACM distinguished speaker program; and, increase the number of ACM conferences in Europe and consider a federated ACM conference in Europe analogous to FCRC.

Now, just two years later, I am pleased to report ACM chapters in Europe, especially student chapters, have increased significantly and we extended ACM's reach to Turkey and increased its presence in Russia. Particularly helpful has been an effort, supported by ACM headquarters, to offer local language translation of ACM Web pages. To help further the activity and growth of ACM chapters in the region, we held a European Chapters workshop in Paris last month.

The number of European computer scientists nominated to ACM senior positions and awards has also increased, as has the number of European speakers in ACM's Distinguished Speaker Program. More ACM conferences are adopting European venues and a federated computer science research conference in Europe on the style of FCRC is planned for Paris in April 2013, in conjunction with the annual CHI conference.

In summary, I believe that after two years of work, ACM Europe has reached most of the original goals: more presence of European members in various ranks and distinctions throughout ACM, more chapters, more conferences, and a first successful federated conference planned. Still much remains to be done, especially in improving communication and outreach, not just in academia but also in industry. As part of this effort, discussions and some initial work have begun with the European Commission, for evaluating the impact and promotion of professional societies in the European Union.

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Fabrizio Gagliardi ([email protected]) is chair of ACM Europe Council and Europe, Middle East and Africa Director for External Research at Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA.

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