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36 thoughts on “ACM considered harmful

  • January 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm
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    Another thing I found funny was when they sent me out a certificate to show I had completed all the membership requirements. You know, those really tough requirements that made me a worthy member, for example – well, its not just an example, its the ONLY requirement: paying the membership fee. What an accomplishment worthy of a certificate!

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  • January 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm
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    I agree wholeheartedly. I was a member of ACM for several years as an undergraduate and beginning professional, as it gradually became obvious that they were doing more harm than good to the profession. It is a shame, though, that there isn’t a better clearinghouse for CS publications. ACM feeds off the academic world, wherein individual users don’t feel the pain because their digital library fees are covered by their institution. Those of us now on the outside either pay exorbitant per-article fees or join ACM to avoid them. Either way, the evil is perpetuated.

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  • January 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm
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    Assignment of copyright without remuneration is pretty standard with academic publications, and is not uncommon in other periodicals. I’ve had articles in law reviews, software trade magazines and journals and the vast majority required copyright assignment and offered only reprints and bragging rights in exchange. It’s a PR activity, not a revenue generating activity. That doesn’t mean it’s the right path for everyone, but it is not an anomaly in the publication industry.

    Personally I get enough out of my ACM membership to make it a good investment each year. Your mileage may vary, and if you’re not a member and don’t want to pay for the article, chances are good that the local university’s ComSci library has a copy.

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    • January 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm
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      Assignment of copyright is standard but that doesn’t make it right. Societies such as the ACM should be leading the way in member’s rights – not removing these rights.

      Unless things are different in the US, university libraries are unlikely to have paper copies of articles. Digital subscriptions are much cheaper.

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    • January 26, 2011 at 11:13 pm
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      And here it comes, the stereotypical guy defending the un-defendible as “standard practice”.

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  • January 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm
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    It would seem that the only reason that ACM still exists is so that academics can play the publish-or-perish tenure game. If the goal were just to make research available to colleagues, people could publish in free repositories like, or on their own web sites. However, the real goal is to publish in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals and get tenure.

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    • January 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm
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      Academics, like everyone else, want to advance in their careers. I am sure most would prefer to have their work as easily available as possible but they have little choice in the matter. Academic institutions would be in a better position to curtail ACM’s racket.

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  • January 24, 2011 at 10:18 pm
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    It is worth noting, however seldom done by authors, that ACM (and also IEEE) permit having an author’s version of papers on their own homepage.

    The author version of papers must have a slightly different copyright notice. I agree completely that papers should be freely accessible, but authors should at least care to add such a version.

    From the ACM copyright policy (Valium Online Uk Review):

    Under the ACM copyright transfer agreement, the original copyright holder retains:


    * the right to post author-prepared versions of the work covered by ACM copyright in a personal collection on their own Home Page and on a publicly accessible server of their employer, and in a repository legally mandated by the agency funding the research on which the Work is based. Such posting is limited to noncommercial access and personal use by others, and must include this notice both embedded within the full text file and in the accompanying citation display as well:

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  • January 25, 2011 at 1:34 am
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    Yes, the IEEE Computer Society is the same. What really gets to me are all the “standards” that the IEEE Computer Society publishes. These have really good material like the one on Code Reviews; but 99% of practitioners will never read it because of the fees involved. Academia has only itself to blame for people re-inventing the wheel in the agile movement and so on. They wouldn’t have to if they could read the old research!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • January 25, 2011 at 4:19 am
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    What I find particularly avaricious is that the ACM puts up pages for papers that are otherwise freely available and charges $15 to buy it through their site.

    For example, a (quoted) search for one of my conference papers “Surrogate Regret Bounds for Proper Losses” returns a link to an ACM portal page [ Buy Ardin Diazepam ] that gives absolutely no indication that you can get the official version for free from the conference web site [ Buy Valium Cheap Online Uk ].

    It seems they are not content to make money off people who publish to their publications but also from other publications too.

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  • January 25, 2011 at 9:24 am
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    As an individual with an interest in CS research, I don’t entirely like it, but $200/year for membership + DL access isn’t too bad. The $15 individual article charge seems to be punitive and aimed at persuading people to pay for general access instead, which is a bit of a shame.

    Overall the situation isn’t ideal, but I think Springer are a much bigger problem – they charge far more per article and don’t seem to have any general offering for individuals to get access to all their journals + LNCS.

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      • February 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm
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        In reply to Mr. Sittampalam:

        Even if it is cheaper for “developing countries”, the ACM’s process to register and pay is a pain in the whatever: enter you credit card number online, and for a reason or another you have to fax both sides of your credit card (that you are not supposed to do).

        And the system don’t even send you any email or information if you are not registered: you wait couple of days and after that, you have to contact the ACM to know what’s going on.

        I never got clear cut on the whys I had to do so, while I can pay on Amazon and any other websites without any issue.

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      • February 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm
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        Personally I haven’t had problems paying by credit card online, so I guess whatever the problem is isn’t universal.

        I don’t really like ACM either – but I think any energy people have to get away from expensive publishers would be better focused on Springer first.

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  • January 25, 2011 at 10:24 am
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    Actually, the ACM is really nice compared to most other publishers (Elsevier, Springer, etc.).
    You are allowed to post your own paper on
    your website. Some conferences publish their whole proceedings online for a short time during the conference (e.g. TEI 2010). You can get permission to put a whole special issue of a journal online [1].
    In general, ACM does not seem to actively hunt down ‘illegal’ copies of papers.

    I do not think that the ACM’s publishing terms are great [2]. However, it is not ACM, it is the whole system that is problematic.

    Nevertheless, if the ACM would adopt an Open Access publishing process, it might change the system. At least in computer science ACM conferences and journals are quite important.

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    [2] For example, all images in my most recent paper would belong to ACM and I would generally not be able to reuse them without permission. Therefore, I added some kind of disclaimer to all figures. Thanks to ACM, you can have a look at Buy Diazepam Safely

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    • January 25, 2011 at 11:19 am
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      Yes – of course Springer is worse but they are a commercial company and don’t claim to ‘serve the computing profession’ as the ACM does.

      Springer truly exploits the academic publish or perish culture in academia but we should expect much more from professional societies such as the ACM and the IEEE.

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    • March 7, 2011 at 9:27 am
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      Actually, the ACM is really nice compared to most other publishers (Elsevier, Springer, etc.). You are allowed to post your own paper on
      your website.

      Same with Elsevier, actually. I’m less confident about Springer.

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  • January 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm
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    Ha! I had the very same experience a couple years ago, when I wanted to re-read 2 books on the History of Computer Languages, I have read in my Library. I am not a ACM member. I have a ACM login/web account.

    Your rant was legit, yet there are several issues addressed and should now be kept separate?

    1. 19th Century Copyright and publishing practices.
    2. 20th Century Fight Club Style (profit-oriented?) closed ecosystem Membership, vs
    3. Modern era (Internet, interconnected, open source style) advanced publishing?

    Many old publishing houses and member-based organizations have struggle in their schizophrenic approach to keep being ‘relevant’ to their peers, while fishing for fresh blood?

    If I cannot read it for free or cheap, I move on. So do many others? The user base shrinks eventually, until they are factual history?

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      • January 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm
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        You are right that the underlying issues revolve around a worldview that is not appropriate for the 21st century, Internet enabled world.

        The issue of whether all research should be freely available is a complex one – publishing is never free and I don’t think that we are ready yet for a systems where only the originators of the research pay. I don’t have a problem with charges in principle – just stupidly high charges which almost certainly mean that revenue gained is virtually nothing. If recent papers cost $2 (say) and older papers $0.25 then I don’t think this would be a problem. Apps have shows that you can generate a lot of revenue from a low unit price

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  • January 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm
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    ACM is certainly not without blame for the situation of scientific publishing. However, I think they are part of the academic game, and must be seen within that context. When we complain at ACM as outsiders, we have to understand that they serve the academic world, not the programming world. Their charges are reasonable for Universities and other scientific institutions, unlike commercial publishers like Elsevier.

    We should have some mechanism to avoid this separation between academy and industry, but the solution is still not there.

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  • January 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm
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    The publishing side is one thing, but the part that blows me away is the conference fees. The full conference fee for siggraph is $1,170 for members. While students less than half $495 it is still totally insane.

    For a point of comparison, the American Historical Society charges student’s $81 to attend their annual meeting.

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  • February 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm
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    I have had a response from the ACM to this post. I have included below, unedited and without comments.

    Hi, Ian,

    I’m the Education Manager in ACM’s Membership Department and we recently came across a blog post (Valium Online Uk) where you expressed some frustration with (among other things) ACM’s policy on access to Tech Packs. While I cannot address your copyright concerns, I can speak to the issue of Tech Packs. There are three important points I’d like to bring up:

    ACM Tech Packs are not restricted to ACM members. The bibliographies, with reading lists and annotations by subject experts, are open to anyone with an ACM Web account (please see Buy Valium Sydney ). This just means you register with our site — you need to provide a valid email along with your first and last name to set one up. Our “Related Materials,” which consist of additional resources not cited in the bibliography (some of which may be subject to controlled access through their third-party sources), are available in the “Introduction” page for each Tech Pack — a page that does not require a login.
    Full access to the content of ACM Digital Library articles included within Tech Packs does indeed require ACM membership. I understand this limitation is less than ideal from your point of view, but this type of restriction represents the cost associated with maintaining and providing a repository in computing.
    It’s also important to note that ACM Tech Pack Committees who create these learning documents do not work with a bias toward ACM Digital Library articles. They are chartered to curate and compile the best resources available, regardless of source. A great example of this diversity of resources is in our Parallel Computing Tech Pack (Cheap Valium For Sale), which you can access by logging in with a (free) ACM Web Account.

    I hope that this offers some clarification with regard to access. It would be great if you could offer the same clarification on your blog. It is also my hope that you will continue to explore ACM Tech Packs—we’ve been getting very positive feedback on them thus far.


    Yan Timanovsky
    Education Manager
    Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

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  • March 7, 2011 at 1:21 am
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    I won’t comment in general on ACM copyright policy, but I think it is worth noting that the subscriptions paid to access the ACM Digital Library (DL) are paid back to the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that organize the conferences and journals that provide much of the content of the DL (in proportion to the number of downloads of that content). The SIG that I chair, SIGPLAN, receives about $90K/year for accesses to content we generated, and we in turn use that to fund our Professional Activities Committee (PAC), which provides grants to aid students and others in attending conferences.

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  • March 7, 2011 at 9:40 am
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    ACM’s and IEEE’s practices are often defended – including in comments above – because they are non-profit organisations that serve the community.

    What many people don’t understand is that “non-profit” has a different meaning from “doesn’t make a profit”! Subtracting costs from income gives what a non-profit organisation calls a “surplus” – the name is what makes it different from a profit. The more important difference is that the surplus/profit is not taxed. So a better name than “non-profit organisation” would be “non-taxed organisation”. The people who are charged with making sure that such an organisation is financially healthy no more or less evil than the people who run commercial organisations.

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