wants to know how famous the candidate is in her field; not how famous
she is in her country. Good nominations often use endorsers that can
testify to the importance of different
contributions; one might focus on service, others on different aspects of the
technical contributions. The right mix
will depend on the types of contributions and their relative importance.
While the candidate’s advice is important in selecting the endorsers, it is
better that the endorsers be approached
by the nominator: It will be easier for a
potential endorser to say no if he is approached by the nominator, rather than
by the candidate; a straight no is preferable to a tepid endorsement.
Write meaningful endorsements.
A one-sentence endorsement such as
“I believe this candidate merits fellow
status” is poison, even if it comes from
a very illustrious computer scientist.
Don’t agree to provide an endorsement
if there is a risk you might not be able
to say more; don’t choose an endorser
you suspect may be content with a one-sentence endorsement. Substantive,
thoughtful, convincing endorsements
will provide enough detail for credibility. This generally uses most of the
There is no point repeating text
that appears in the nomination—this
is not new information. The endorsement is a “personal assessment of
the candidate’s impact on the computing field.” The endorser should
explain why he believes the impact is
important enough to merit recognition with fellow status. Ideally, this
explanation is distinct from or expands upon the explanation provided
in the nomination. If it is not obvious
why the endorser is able to assess the
quality of the candidate’s contribution, then a short explanation to that
effect will be useful.
Please remember: An endorsement
of the form “I am famous and trust me
on this one” is likely to do more harm
Marc Snir ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is Richard Faiman Professor
in the Department of Computer Science at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I wish to thank Laura Haas, Joseph Konstan,
Craig Partridge and Mary Shaw for their comments
on a draft of this Viewpoint.
Copyright held by author.
Committee members may not be familiar with the importance of national
awards, national academic societies or
national leadership positions. Please
explain their importance.
Provide evidence of accomplishment that is most relevant to the type
of accomplishment. Accomplishments
are meaningful if they have a visible
impact. Impact will be of different natures for different types of impact. If
the achievements are in theoretical
computer science, the impact is intellectual advance in our understanding
of computing; the evidence could be
subsequent research that builds on
this advance as evidenced by citations.
If the achievements are in applied research, the impact would be in the use
of the developed technology; tangible
artifacts could be more important than
citations. If the achievement is to the
computer industry, then the impact
would be industrial success, with products as evidence of impact. Of course,
these are not hard rules, and many caveats apply: The last inventor of a new
concept is often more cited than the
first one; and commercial success of a
product is only weakly correlated to its
Speak of the past, not of the future.
Fellows are selected for their actual accomplishments, not for their potential
accomplishments in the future. The
nomination and the endorsements
should focus on the impact the research has had so far, not on the impact it is likely to have in the future.
Provide all the required informa-
tion. The nomination is required to
˲ Candidate’s most significant professional accomplishments and their foundational, technical, commercial, or other
achievements (limited to 750 words).
˲ Up to 8 specific contributions epitomizing the significance and lasting impact of those accomplishments (limited
to 300 words).
˲ Candidate’s most significant leadership roles in ACM or other service activities (limited to 300 words).
˲ Formal professional recognition the
candidate has received for his/her contributions, such as awards or other honors
(limited to 300 words)
Don’t skip any of these sections.
Please remember that “contributions”
need not be publications. Also please
explain why the contributions, roles,
or recognition are significant. As noted
earlier, do not assume the committee
members will just know.
Select the endorsers carefully. One
is naturally tempted to pick the most
famous ACM Fellows that are willing to
write an endorsement. Most will be diligent in doing so. However, some will
write an endorsement that sounds like
the “Model of a Letter of Recommendation of a person you are unacquainted
with” that Benjamin Franklin once
composed ( http://sites.sas.upenn.edu/
Endorsements are more convincing when they come from people
who work in the candidate’s field of
specialty and have made use of the
candidate’s work. If the candidate
co-created a key result in their field,
having at least one of the collaborators as an endorser is recommended.
Such a collaborator could be in the
same organization as the candidate.
On the other hand, endorsers from
the same organization that are not
closely connected to the candidate’s
work are discouraged, as are endorsers who have an obligation to the candidate (for example, former grad student or current supervisor). Having
only collaborators as endorsers is a
bad idea. Having all endorsers chosen
from a narrow community (a small
sub-specialty or a small national community) is a bad idea. Carefully weigh
the trade-off between the familiarity
of an endorser with the candidate and
his perceived objectivity; and between
the familiarity of the endorsers with
the candidate and the breadth and
diversity of the community they represent collectively. If one cannot find
five endorsers that are ACM Fellows or
have equal standing, and balance well
these conflicting requirements, then
it is likely the candidacy is premature.
For a candidate coming from a
smaller country, or a country with a
smaller community of ACM Fellows,
it is important to have endorsers of
another nationality. The committee