Computing Profession Editor's letter

To the Members of ACM

  1. Article
  2. Author
ACM President Yannis Ioannidis

It is an honor for me to be communicating with you for the first time as ACM President. I intend to be doing this regularly, from the pages of Communications, and any other channel I will be setting up for interaction between us.

I am currently working together with the other elected officers to develop the agenda of our term and establish plans to implement it. On the table are the issues that I presented in my candidacy statement, as well as those that members raised in the Q&A process that was set up during the election. The ACM Executive Committee is having a thorough discussion, starting from taking stock of how well ACM is fulfilling its mission and planning to further strengthen what is in excellent shape already, but mostly to focus on what seems weaker or missing and bring it to the same level of prominence. All issues are prioritized according to the needs of the community and their potential for timely impact.

The ACM mission is to be "a global scientific and educational organization dedicated to advancing the art, science, engineering, and application of computing, serving both professional and public interests by fostering the open exchange of information and by promoting the highest professional and ethical standards."

Concentrating on some key terms, I would say that our organization has done very well in advancing the "art" and "science" of computing, but not so well on the "engineering" and, certainly, the "application" of computing, which is problematic. Multidisciplinarity is at the core of the latter, but the relevant communities are largely elusive for ACM. We will investigate forming strategic alliances with peer scientific societies, shaping computing-related multidisciplinary areas, and expanding our membership with colleagues of mixed backgrounds.

Another term of concern is "global," as ACM's North American weight is dominant. We will ensure candidates from all regions of the world are considered for all major positions and, without making any discounts on excellence, strive for diversity in the overall mosaic of ACM leaders and members of ACM bodies.

Open access is a priority for many ACM members, so "open" is another term that requires careful attention. We now have "ACM Open," a concrete model and plan toward an access policy of complete openness. We are committed to ensuring that "ACM Open" achieves financial viability and is adopted in a timely manner. In the realm of openness, however, ACM should go beyond just open access, embrace open science, and facilitate its methodologies. With the Digital Library as its vehicle of change, ACM has a chance to redefine scholarly communication and the entire research life cycle in our field.

Regarding serving "public interests," the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) capture significant long-term challenges that pose threats to humanity and its environment. Computing technologies are critical for addressing these challenges, and we will take proper action for ACM to liaise with the UN and other global organizations and establish the right mechanisms for our members to team up and contribute to relevant solutions.

Finally, the term "professional and ethical standards" is fundamental to the mission of ACM. The new "Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct" is an extremely valuable and potent document that "expresses the conscience of the profession." It represents a major achievement of ACM toward promoting the right standards to computing professionals. Unfortunately, it currently lacks support mechanisms for educating these professionals. It is critical for ACM to promulgate the Code within the computing community, and we intend to initiate appropriate campaigns, hold special events, and open a hotline for colleagues to consult on ethical issues.

ACM's livelihood and fulfillment of its mission depends on continuous enrichment of its membership. The latter is far from reaching the full diversity of the global universe of computing professionals. To reverse this, we will assess and potentially refresh our activities and products with an eye to attracting the young generation and other communities that do not usually associate themselves with ACM. We may also recalibrate our processes and mechanisms to give newcomers and old-timers fair and equitable access to all resources and opportunities and make them feel welcome and included in the big ACM family.

ACM has the responsibility to fulfill its mission to the fullest, not just for the sake of computing professionals but for society at large. Standing on the shoulders of all my predecessors, I will serve our community with the aim to bring ACM one step closer to being true to its mission. I am inviting all of you to step forward and join me in this effort, volunteering your time and expertise for the greater good. ACM enters the fourth quarter-century of its life and the next two years hold the promise of a challenging but exciting journey. I hope we can take it together.

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