advice to Members
seeking aCM distinction
ACM’s disTiNGUished MeMber Recognition Program was initiated in 2006 to recog- nize those members with at least 15 years of professional experience who have made noteworthy contributions to the computing
field. Since this program is relatively
new, and has been undergoing changes, there may be many ACM members
unfamiliar with the requirements for
this grade. As co-chairs for the Distinguished Members committee, we have
seen many submissions fail, not because of the quality of the candidates,
but due to the lack of adequate information regarding the submission. We
hope this column will help produce
more effective nominations.
The ACM Distinguished grade consists of three categories: Educator,
Engineer, and Scientist. Each category
comes with a unique set of criteria,
therefore alleviating any confusion
or competition between grade levels.
The committee ensures that candidates are assessed by experts knowledgeable of the contributions in their
category. To the extent possible, candidates are judged by their peers: scientists by scientists, engineers by engineers, and educators by educators.
There is no reason for an engineer or
an educator to feel ineligible if their
CV does not include an extensive list
of publications, nor a scientist if he or
she has never managed a large project. Indeed, we estimate approximately 10% of ACM’s membership qualifies
as Distinguished Members.
It is important to create a nomination package suitable for the category.
10% of acm’s
Of course, many people will have contributed to more than one category; it
is perfectly acceptable to list all major
professional contributions and activities. However, the submission should
focus on making the case for one particular category. The clincher should
be contributions as a practitioner, or
contributions that advance practice in
the relevant category. A scientist practices science by doing research and
publishing the results; an engineer
by developing products; an educator
by teaching. Thus, a member teaching engineering, but not practicing
it, might better qualify as an educator
than an engineer—unless this person
has significantly contributed to the
advancement of engineering as a discipline. A member doing research on
teaching computer science, but not
distinguished as a teacher, might better qualify as a scientist, unless that
member has contributed significantly
to the advancement of CS education.
The committee cannot indepen-
dently assess the quality of each sub-
mission; candidates come from many
different countries and professional
backgrounds of which the committee
members may have a limited knowl-
edge. Therefore, the committee puts
much weight on the endorsements
that support the submission. Strong
endorsements are essential for a suc-
to nominate or to self-nominate
It has been our experience that nominating a colleague for this distinction
succeeds more often than self-nomi-nations. A major reason for this track
record is that nominations composed
by someone other than the candidate
are likely to have stronger endorsements. The nominator should first
check that endorsers are supportive
of the nomination. Answers are likely
to be more sincere if the nominator is
not the candidate.
The choice of endorsers is crucial.
The committee tends to trust the judgment of endorsers who are recognized authorities in their field, such
as ACM Fellows. In fact, the Distinguished Member guidelines recommend that two of the endorsers be
ACM Fellows. The nomination package should also include endorsers
who are intimately familiar with the
work of the candidate and can provide
firsthand testimony of its importance.
Endorsers in the first category can focus on qualitative assessment of the
candidate’s merit; endorsers in the
second category should focus on providing factual information on the candidate’s professional activities and