A Closer Look at the Voting Results

The recent ACM/SOCG vote asked several additional informational questions in addition to the primary question of whether to stay with ACM or leave.  In addition, PollDaddy reports the country from which each vote was cast.  This additional data reveals some interesting differences between different segments of the community. To preserve anonymity, I will stay silent about groups with less than 10 people (for example: American PhD students, or voters from Singapore).

Update (Jul 20): Please also see Stefan Huber’s plots of this data, by percentages instead of raw counts.


The computational geometry community—and SOCG in particular—has always benefited immensely from the efforts of numerous volunteers.  As expected, a significant fraction of voters indicated willingness to volunteer if the community voted to leave ACM.  More than 30 voters specifically mentioned being willing to help with local organization; the next most common interests were proceedings, record keeping, and publicity. Several people expressed willingness even though they were unclear how they could contribute. Perhaps also as expected, voters who preferred to leave ACM were more likely to volunteer, and vice versa.

Willing to help? Total Stay Leave
Total 185 60 125
Yes 55 18 37
Maybe 92 23 69
No 38 19 19


Five countries contributed more than 10 votes each: Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. The remaining votes divide roughly evenly into other European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) and everywhere else (Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Singapore). Yes, I realize the last cluster doesn’t make much sense.

ACM? Willing to help?
Country Total Stay Leave Yes Maybe No
USA 55 29 26 12 22 17
Germany 27 6 21 10 13 1
France 20 1 19 1 13 5
Canada 16 5 11 4 10 2
Netherlands 15 6 9 6 6 1
Other European 39 10 29 10 18 7
Elsewhere 30 11 19 12 10 5

The difference between the United States and other countries is striking.  The US was the only country with more than 10 votes with a majority in favor of staying with ACM.  A few countries with fewer votes also favored staying with ACM, most notably Japan, but most countries outside the US had an overwhelming preference for independence. I think this difference speaks volumes about ACM’s international perception.

French voters were nearly unanimous, presumably thanks to the disastrous experience with ACM in Paris in 2011 (which instigated the vote in the first place).

Recent Attendance

We also asked about recent attendance at SOCG.  As expected, there was a big spread among the voters, and that voters who have attended SOCG more often are more willing to volunteer. More surprisingly, people who have attended SOCG more often were also significantly more likely to prefer staying with ACM.

How many SOCGs ACM? Willing to help?
in last 10 years Total Stay Leave Yes Maybe No
Total 194 65 129 54 92 38
5+ 48 22 26 19 18 9
3–4 47 18 29 12 25 7
1–2 62 15 47 13 31 14
Never 37 10 27 10 18 8

Career Stage

Finally, we asked about academic career stage. Most of the people who answered “other” indicated a position in industry, but we also heard from a few administrators, retirees, and pre-PhD students. Younger members of the community were significantly more likely to prefer independence; tenured faculty accounted for just over half the overall votes but just under two-thirds of the votes to stay with ACM.

ACM? Willing to help?
Position Total Stay Leave Yes Maybe No
Total 193 65 128 54 92 38
Tenured faculty 109 46 63 32 51 20
Untenured faculty 23 3 20 6 13 2
Postdoc 26 5 21 10 10 5
PhD student 21 4 17 0 16 5
Other 14 7 7 6 2 6

Old Farts

Finally, since more than half the voters were tenured faculty, I broke those down further, first by recent attendance, and then for each country with at least ten tenured faculty. Almost everyone who attended 5 or more of the last 10 years has tenure.

The biggest surprise for me is that American tenured faculty preferred staying with ACM by a factor of two to one, exactly the reverse of both the overall vote and the vote among American voters without tenure.  Again, I think this difference reflects the perception of ACM’s importance/prestige: Stronger within the US than globally, and stronger among older researchers than younger.

ACM? Willing to help?
Position Total Stay Leave Yes Maybe No
Tenured, 5+ 42 21 21 17 16 7
Tenured, 3–4 30 13 17 6 16 5
Tenured, 0–2 37 12 25 9 19 8
Tenured, USA 32 21 11 6 13 11
Tenured, Germany 16 4 12 9 6 0
Tenured, France 16 1 15 1 11 4

This difference also highlights the biggest challenge facing the newly independent conference: Maintaining the prestige of our flagship conference, and more generally of the community, without ACM affiliation. This was by far the most popular reason for voting to stay; several people suggested that people may develop a lower opinion of the field simply because it lacks the ACM label.

So much for numerical data.  In the next post, I’ll report some of the insightful narrative feedback that many voters provided.


About Jeff Erickson

I'm a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the chair of the steering committee for the International Symposium on Computational Geometry.
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