Saturday, August 6, 2011

Considering Dropping My ACM Membership

Over the past few weeks I have occasionally pondered whether I should let my ACM membership expire this fall. I would continue my IEEE-CS and CCSC memberships. I really like ACM Computing Surveys, but IEEE Computer is consistently more interesting than CACM, and by a wide margin. I was reminded of this today walking through the CS department and stumbling across the 3/1976 issue of the CACM on a table. Here is the beginning of the table of contents from that issue:

Yes, kiddies, once upon a time CACM published real research. Now it's mostly fluff, mostly not from CS departments. This change occurred around 1990 or thereabouts. At the time I had a brief dialog with Stu Zweben about this, and he said the change in focus from CS was in order to appeal to a wider audience. Stu was faculty at Ohio State, where I was a grad student, and soon thereafter he became ACM president. Around the same time a letter to the CACM forum  referred to the CACM as having become P.A.M., pabulum for all members. IMHO pabulum is a reasonable description, and a sticking point is that CACM is still required for ACM membership.

With the decline of the CACM, the ACM gradually ceased to provide a general overview of computing research. Fortunately, IEEE Computer continues to fill that niche. So I maintain my ACM membership to receive Computing Reviews and out of a likely outdated notion that a computer scientist should belong to the ACM. UMBC does not reimburse me for the membership, but it is tax deductible, and there is a sister-society discount for belonging to both the ACM and the IEEE-CS. Still I do not get much for my membership dollar from the ACM.

I will have to verify that it is still not possible to belong to the ACM and yet not receive CACM, and also to see if I can get Computing Surveys at a reasonable price (or electronically gratis as UMBC faculty) before making my final decision.

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