THE JULY 1993 ISSUE OF COMMUNICATIONS
WAS HONORED WITH THE BEST SINGLE ISSUE
AWARD BY THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN
volunteer work to select, referee, revise, and publish papers. The momentous increase in the volume of publications eventually led ACM
headquarters to recruit the help of specialists in
publishing, as is done in most professional societies.
It was in this environment that Peter Denning,
a recognized and experienced colleague, was
appointed EIC of Communications, and James
Maurer, a seasoned scientific publisher, was hired
as Executive Editor (EE). It was Jim who, in the
mid-1980s, invited me to join Communications’
Editorial Board as one of its Associate Editors
The experience I gained during my five years as
an AE was invaluable. I firmly believe this position
is the best training ground for potential EICs.
Since the choice of referees for a submitted paper
is one of the important tasks delegated to an AE,
he or she obviously plays a hand in the acceptance
or rejection of the paper. For an AE, tricky choices
abound; for example, in selecting the referees for a
paper authored by a well-known researcher, the
AE’s role was more like a judge than a
Remember this was pre-Web, pre-Google.
Indeed, there was not even a well-designed
database in the late 1980s where an AE could
check for related articles, record the names of
authors and paper titles, list the referees, or
note mailing dates. There was no automatic
means of prompting reviewers to get their job
done on time! Everything was done manually.
Often, after a paper is finally reviewed, an
AE is confronted with conflicting advice from
the referees, and a decision had to be made as
rapidly as possible about acceptance, revision,
or rejection. Editors, like judges, are human
beings and subject to controversial decisions.
My approach as an AE has always been to
reply to an author of a rejected paper with
constructive criticism and, whenever appropriate, suggest submission to related journals
that cater to the topic at hand.
In 1992, Jim Maurer and Peter Denning invited
me to become the EIC for CACM. As with any
candidate for a position of high responsibility and
visibility, I wondered if I would be up to the task.
After reflection, I decided to accept the challenge.
The acceptance was followed by a steep learning
curve. Diane Crawford, the present EE, had just
been appointed as the editor replacing Jim Maurer.
My main goal was to join her as a partner in carrying on the task of keeping CACM as the leading
ACM publication. At that time, the Association
had over 80,000 members who received the
monthly issues of CACM; the editors were responsible for ensuring a constant and timely stream of
high-quality articles catering to readers with
As EIC, I was also asked to join the ACM Publication Board, chaired by Peter Denning. I have
seldom participated in such focused and active
board meetings. Under Peter’s leadership the board
accomplished one of the ACM’s grandest plans:
the establishment of its now unreservedly success-