Voter Feedback

Participants in the ACM/SOCG vote provided lots of insightful feedback, both in the “other” responses to the second and third question and in the open-ended final question. I’d like to show some of this feedback, on both sides of the main question.

Please don’t be offended if I don’t publish your comments here; this is only a representative sample.  On the other hand, if you recognize your own words and prefer that I not post them publicly, please let me know.

Most of the feedback fell into a few overlapping categories: (1) concern about losing prestige, (2) trust in ACM’s efforts to address our concerns, (3) criticism of ACM, (4) concern about distancing ourselves from the larger community, (5) support for open-access proceedings.

Several people on both sides of the main issue mentioned the potential loss of prestige.

[stay] I work in a small country, where evaluation of candidates for postdoc positions, government-funded projects, etc, is often made by looking at the impact factor of your published papers, how many of your conference papers appear in X database, etc. Even though I cannot agree with these evaluation methods, leaving ACM may penalize researchers from places where evaluations are done in similar ways.
It takes so much effort to have a SoCG paper accepted, that I feel some people cannot afford that it doesn’t count in their CV’s (at least, for some period of time).

[stay] I think we are a small community, and the ACM label (if we like it or not) carries a lot of weight in promotion and tenure decisions. The SoCG community is much smaller than the theory community (STOC, FOCS, SODA) or other applied communities such as the database community (e.g., affiliation-free VLDB). Can we afford leaving now without hurting our young?

[leave] My vote is a “weak” one—I hesitate quite a lot. The opinions of the steering committee and of the past local organizers should probably have more weight in the decision. I agree that there are many arguments in favor of leaving ACM. My only real concern is with respect to the loss of prestige we can expect if we leave ACM. Some countries really view the ACM label as important, and some researchers in our field will be negatively impacted.

[stay] While I do not like the ACM as an organization, and certainly not their policy to increase the cost of the conference significantly, I think that a choice to stay is a more safe choice. It can be that CG as a research field is perceived as a less high quality field 10 years from now by the the general CS research world, just by leaving the ACM. This is not in our control. The quality of the conference itself is in our control, not how it is perceived. I believe the argument that our colleagues in Asia and the US have a better chance of getting tenure if SoCG is with the ACM (I hate that this is the case, but I think it is, so we have to deal with this situation the right way).

A few people advocated trusting ACM, or at least continuing to negotiate with them, now that the community has made its needs clear.  (My own sense is that SIGACT already promised as much as we could reasonably expect to negotiate; concessions from ACM proper were never a realistic possibility.)

[stay] Since ACM officials are now saying that they will take care of the problems, there is no need to leave the organization.

[stay] Given the new leadership change of ACM and their new promises for resolving the past issues regarding SOCG vs. ACM, I think we have made our voices loud and heard, and I believe that they have a good faith to really resolve the past issues/problems. It would be a win-win situation to keep the association with ACM while having the past issues/problems resolved. At this point, I think we should stay with ACM to “harvest” this result.

[leave] We successfully got international SoCGs to work by threatening to leave ACM. We could do the same for the other issues, e.g. by threatening to leave ACM unless they make our proceedings free.

More voters were directly critical of ACM, even while recognizing the prestige issue. Most of this criticism was aimed at the administrative side of ACM; feedback on the researchers who volunteer as SIG officers was generally positive.

[leave] Premier conferences without ACM (or IEEE or SIAM) like VLDB or ICML seem to have no issues without ACM, and enjoy far greater flexibility and autonomy. For historical issues (ACM seems to have provided important early sponsorship and credibility) I would like to stay, but they seem to be no longer useful, and in fact are seeming to become a hindrance. And I don’t see things getting better.

[leave] I find ACM’s claim to the name SoCG appalling, and that alone would make me want to leave them immediately. And try to keep the name.

[leave] I organized SoCG outside the US. I realized that there was no real help from ACM. Contacting them is close to impossible and depending on them implies a big loss of time and effort for a small gain.

[leave] I am torn about leaving ACM; I fear irrelevance if we go it alone, but I’m not sure that ACM promotes relevance. While the SIG volunteers have always been good to us, the staff does not have our interests at heart.

[leave] It is extremely important to clarify that ACM is an organization of scientists, by scientists, for scientists. In the past, support staff at ACM has abused their position to usurp power they are not entitled to, and displayed an appalling lack of responsibility and respect. This cannot be tolerated!

Staff at ACM have to show responsibility for the scientific interests. If we end up staying with ACM (and I’m really sitting on the fence about this), we should
– make clear that it was despite of staff effort, not because
– make clear that things only moved with the help of scientific officers.

Thus, I do not trust staff. My worry is that they will simply sit out this issue, and (ab-)use the next change of office. We need assurances that we can expect continuity, even if the key people change.

[leave] I’m quite on the fence for this one. My biggest argument towards staying is the broad name-recognition of “ACM”, and the community name-recognition of “SoCG”. What propels me towards voting for leaving anyway is that from what I hear and read, ACM and SIGACT have not treated us (and especially the SoCG organizers) well, and get a heck lot of money from us for doing very little for us.

[leave] SOCG is for a truly international community; ACM does not behave like a truly international society.

[leave] I feel the ACM has lost touch with the community, failing to serve its interests (open access, etc.).

Another important issue is the interaction between computational geometry and the broader computer science community. (This is one of the reasons I am strongly in favor of co-locating SOCG with STOC in 2016.  Choosing not to publish our proceedings with ACM does not prevent computational geometers from working more closely with SIGACT and ACM as members.)

[stay] Leaving ACM would make us more isolated from the rest of theory. We are already pretty much isolated…we shouldn’t accelerate it by leaving ACM.

[stay] All of the above PLUS: participation in THE professional society for computer science. Those unhappy with ACM, and there are many reasons to be unhappy with ACM, should work to make our professional society better.

[stay] several of the above, I’d also like to see the CG community closer to the other communities in SIGACT, and leaving ACM doesn’t seem ideal for this.

[stay] ACM is an important, but unfortunately US-centric organization. By staying we can help making ACM more international, if we leave the divide between CS in the USA and the rest of the world only gets larger.

[stay] I’d also like to see the CG community closer to the other communities in SIGACT, and leaving ACM doesn’t seem ideal for this.

Finally, as one would expect from the vote, several people voiced support for freely available proceedings, either officially or by “gaming the system”.

[leave] ACM and IEEE have a growing divide between the academic minority, who provide the papers, and the non-academic majority, who buy them.

[leave] I applaud the attempt to move to LIPIcs. My library does not subscribe to DL so I access SOCG papers by paying for my own individual access… and the move to a truly open access platform is far better. I hope the vote succeeds!

[leave] My main concern is the point highlighted by Pat Morin in his post. The main reason I voted to leave ACM is because I would like everyone to have free and open access to all of our publications.

[stay] Option A: Stay with ACM; put papers on arXiv ensuring “Open-access” with no fee; Play the game that hiring committees do play in many countries, i.e. ACM tag makes your publication worth more.

Option B: Leave ACM; Go “Open-access”; publications “worthless” for bureaucratic committees in many countries.

The obvious choice for me seems to be to stay with ACM while the authors “game the system” by uploading full-drafts on arXiv.

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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