Re-creating the prestige of the past for CACM
seems to me to be an important step in restoring the
image of computing. CACM is not just the flagship
publication of ACM, it is also, or at least it ought to be,
the flagship publication of the computing field.
CACM is our “storefront window”; it ought to project
an exciting image of a dynamic field.
“Perspective” piece aimed at a
general scientific audience.
The final model proposed by
the CACM Task Force in late
2005 is similar to the model envisioned by the 1983 redesign
effort noted in Denning’s essay. It
consisted of news, columns,
computing practices, and
research articles to be drawn from
ACM conferences and journals
and accompanied by brief but
broadly aimed perspectives.
I was asked by Dave Patterson
to take over the task of revamping CACM in early 2006. After
some hesitation, due to other
commitments and the magnitude of the task, I accepted the
The computing field went
through a perfect storm in the
early 2000s: the dot-com crash,
the telecom crash, the offshoring
scare, and a research-funding
crisis. After its phase of glamour
in the late 1990s, the field seems
to have lost its luster. For those
of us in academia, the plunging
undergraduate enrollment is evidence for the “image crisis.” At
the same time, I fervently believe
that our field has a glorious
future. Re-creating the prestige
of the past for CACM seems to
me to be an important step in
restoring the image of comput-
ing. CACM is not just the flagship publication of ACM, it is
also, or at least it ought to be,
the flagship publication of the
computing field. CACM is our
“storefront window”; it ought to
project an exciting image of a
I love the idea of getting
research articles from computing
research conferences. The
reliance of our field on conferences is unique among the science and engineering disciplines.
The fast publication cycles and
the sharp focus of the conferences move our field forward
very quickly. At the same time,
our conference-based culture has
resulted in a severe fragmentation of computing research. A
reader of Science can keep track
of progress across all of science.
In contrast, it seems impossible
to keep track of progress across
computing research, even at a
high level of abstraction. A
strong Research section in
CACM might be able to help us
re-create the unity that our field
had in its early days, as reflected
in the early CACM.
I embarked on the CACM
renewal project in late 2006.
With all due respect to the
CACM Task Force, I was not yet
ready to adopt their conclusions.
The Task Force consisted of a
group of ACM insiders. I
thought it best to carry out a
much broader conversation
before committing to a particular model.
During the winter and spring
of 2007, I participated in four
major conversations about the
“new CACM.” The first conversation was with the SIG Board,
which consists of the chairs of all
ACM’s Special Interest Groups.
I then organized three focus
groups—in New York, San
Francisco, and London—each
consisting of about 25 computing professionals from industry
and academia. In each conversation I described the history of
CACM and presented the recommendations of the Task Force.
This was followed by very lively
conversations typically lasting several hours. It turns out that people, though unhappy with
CACM, do care passionately
about it and do have many ideas
on how to revitalize it.
There were several main points
that echoed throughout these
conversations. First and foremost,
there was almost unanimity that
ACM must have a print flagship
publication. With all the
advances in online publishing,
there is yet no substitute for paper