Computing Applications President's letter

The Rewards of ACM’s Awards

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I recently had the pleasure of hosting ACM’s Annual Awards Banquet in San Diego—a splendid event honoring some of computing’s brightest innovators and their brilliant accomplishments. The gathering celebrated their efforts and how they have expanded the knowledge of computer science, helped educate new members of our community, and supported the technology field as well as ACM’s initiatives.

I was particularly proud to present ACM’s 2006 A.M. Turing Award to my esteemed colleague, Fran Allen, and to welcome 41 new ACM Fellows to the fold, bringing our total count to 594.

The event led me to wonder about the influence of recognition awards. Why, in fact, do we continue to celebrate the impact that individuals have made to our profession? I contend such programs:

  • Demonstrate our respect for our most dedicated and successful colleagues;
  • Showcase the work of some of the best people who made significant contributions to our field;
  • Make computing more visible to other sciences and to society in general;
  • Increase the awareness of ACM’s work; and
  • Allow us to share and honor the lasting impressions of those efforts and have a good time in the process :-)

While all these motives are true, the driving force is to expound our value system by example. Major prizes and awards events confirm what we care about as a profession. We endorse the fact that devoted people create the results, and the world is better for their hard work.

As you may have heard, ACM will increase the monetary prize for some of its awards in the coming year, thanks to the generosity of corporate sponsors who see the value of such awards to the industry. In addition, a new award has recently been established that will celebrate young innovators in the field. All decisions regarding award recipients are made by independent committees organized by the ACM Awards Committee (chaired by C. Gotlieb and J. Horning).

Major prizes and awards events confirm what we care about as a profession. We endorse the fact that devoted people create the results, and the world is better for their hard work.

Although the true honor lies in the award itself—its purpose, its celebrated list of distinguished past recipients, its citation shared throughout the industry—the size of the award attracts interest from outside the field and validates its importance.

The value of ACM’s A.M. Turing Award, indisputably the highest honor in computing, has risen over the years from $1,000 in 1971 to $100,000 the last few years (courtesy of Intel). Starting next year, the award—co-sponsored by Intel and Google—will be $250,000.

The ACM-Infosys Foundation, a new award recently announced, will recognize breakthrough contributions by young scientists and system developers to a contemporary innovation. Infosys endowed this award as part of its 25th anniversary celebration. The award prize will be $150,000.

In addition, sponsors have recently increased the cash value of a number of other ACM awards. The Doctoral Dissertation Award is now sponsored by Google; the first prize is $20,000, the second is $10,000. IBM has increased the Software Systems Award to $35,000. And Google has raised its sponsorship of the Grace Murray Hopper Award to $35,000.

Of course, we would be delighted if other organizations saw fit to adopt some of ACM’s awards to help increase their monetary prize value, or perhaps endow the ACM with new awards for great work.

In the end, we all win.

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UF1 Figure. Increase of monetary prize for ACM’s A.M. Turing Award.

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