Open Access

This page provides information about the positions of candidates for ACM and SIGGRAPH positions regarding Open Access. Two questions were emailed to the candidates; we list questions and responses below.


  1. Open Access to ACM publications.

    • Background: The Open Access movement argues that unrestricted access to publications (especially online access) has compelling advantages for both authors (increasing citation rates) and readers (improving access). Various Open-Access publishers are trying out alternative funding models, such as author fees (e.g. the Public Library of Science). The US government has mandated that all NIH-funded research be submitted to an Open Access repository (PubMedCentral) and has recently called for comments on a proposal to extend this mandate to all federally-funded research. The ACM Publication Board has argued that Open Access is harmful since it will cause ACM to lose revenues it currently receives from the Digital Library, and has even taken action to restrict linking to author's copies of ACM publications. A full adoption of Open Access by ACM would require removing the paywall from the Digital Library, though more partial steps are certainly possible.

    • Questions: What is your opinion on this issue? If you are in favor of Open Access, what actions would you pursue to reach this goal?

  2. Transfer of copyright for ACM Publications.

    • Background: The ACM currently requires authors to transfer their copyright to the ACM. This includes the publication as a whole, as well as individual images. Some authors have found that they cannot grant permission to other publications to reprint their own images. A more author-friendly policy would be for ACM to have authors grant it a license with some non-exclusive rights instead of a copyright transfer.

    • Questions: What is your opinion on this issue? If you are in favor of changing the policy, what changes would you propose and what actions would you pursue to reach this goal?

Answers from ACM Council Candidates

  • Alain Chesnais (candidate for President):

    1. I believe that as a general ideal, Open Access is a wonderful concept. Open Access means that there is a freely accessible copy of the content somewhere on the web. That does not imply that every access to the content is freely accessible and, more specifically, it does not imply that the Digital Library itself be free of charge. Please see my reply to Question 2 below to see how current ACM copyright policy addresses that. The key issue in providing the Digital Library service is that we want to make sure that when we deliver content in the Digital Library it remains accessible for the long term. That is a fundamental role of any library. We want to ensure that the model we put in place provides for the ability to guarantee that the content continues to be readily accessible for many years to come. That implies finding a means of funding the service that continues uninterrupted for the long run. One key thing to remember is that ACM is an educational and scientific computing society of 96,000 members worldwide that publishes over 45 peer-reviewed journals in computing and computer science as well as the peer-reviewed proceedings of 170 conferences annually. The ACM publishing program has been shaped by the volunteer members of the computing community and aims to provide that community high-quality journals and conference proceedings at a very affordable price. There is a fair amount of flexibility allowed within the current model. For instance, every SIGGRAPH member has free access to all SIGGRAPH sponsored publications in the Digital Library. That has been in place since the launch of the Digital Library. We managed to do that at SIGGRAPH without raising dues by setting appropriate priorities for the overall set of services that we offer our members.

      Let me point readers to an article in CACM written by Michel Beaudoin-Lafon, a long time member of the ACM publications committee, that eloquently addresses many of the issues related to this:

    2. Let me clear up what appears to be a misconception concerning existing copyright policy at ACM: ACM was one of the first societies to modify its copyright policy to allow authors of accepted papers to post the peer-reviewed, accepted version of their paper on either their personal or institutional website. This policy of allowing authors to post the accepted version of their papers has been in place for many years. As a result, essentially everything that ACM publishes is freely available somewhere on the Web. At the same time ACM has sustained a successful, subscription-based publishing program that ensures that the published content will continue to remain accessible far into the the future - largely because of very low-cost individual and institutional subscriptions to the ACM Digital Library.

      Does that mean that all issues related to copyright are fully addressed? No, it doesn't. I would encourage ACM members who are concerned about specific copyright related issues to volunteer to work on those issues with the appropriate committees. We are, after all, a volunteer run organization.

  • Joseph A. Konstan (candidate for President):

    The question of Open Access is an important one. At its core, it is a balancing act among three competing challenges: (1) ensuring that published research is accessible by as many people as possible; (2) ensuring that research is effectively archived and disseminated; and (3) ensuring that authors have access to venues to publish their research.

    Clearly we can all see that the Web has changed things for the better, but has also raised important questions. The solutions at either end of the continuum are pretty bad. At one end lies completely closed publication, where a publisher (nearly all of them for-profit commercial publishers) claims all rights to an author's paper and leaves it accessible only for pay. At the other end lies pure self-publication; anyone can put up their own website, but the papers their lack any review or editorial process, and will almost certainly disappear when the author no longer chooses to maintain the site.

    The art of Open Access is finding the right compromises that sustain publication while providing access. ACM has adopted some of these organization-wide, and is experimenting with others. ACM's copyright policy allows authors to post copies of their papers on their websites (or their organizations') where anyone can access the papers for free. In certain cases, ACM has also made papers of general interest free to all in the ACM Digital Library as a public service. Clearly there are other approaches to experiment with. Some suggest that ACM charge a publication fee to authors that can be used to offset the cost of publication; this is a worthwhile experiment and may turn into a long-term option, but it cannot be the only option as it would too severely limit access to publication to authors who can afford these fees.

    While these policies and experiments are good, some have claimed they are not enough. I have been directly asked why we don't simply make the Digital Library free to all. While this sounds appealing (especially for those who pay for the subscriptions), publishing content is expensive--even when it is purely electronic. ACM has invested tens of millions of dollars into everything from software development to scanning to high-bandwidth internet connections and computing to support the Digital Library, and each year it invests more to maintain and grow the collection, expand access, and even to subsidize the creation of new content (through money delivered to the SIGs to support the conferences that provide much of the DL's content).

    I very much support continuing experiments to explore how we balance and achieve the three challenges behind Open Access. I'm proud that ACM is already a leader in this field--a strong supporter of authors' rights. I've spend much time talking with librarians, and am proud that they view the ACM Digital Library as an incredible bargain--far cheaper for the value it offers than they can get from other computing publishers. And I'm excited by the fact that our volunteers, both in the Publications Board and the SIGs, are exploring and experimenting with a wide range of new ways to make content accessible in a sustainable way.

  • Barbara G. Ryder (candidate for Vice President): No answers received.

  • Norman P. Jouppi (candidate for Vice President): No answers received.

  • Alexander L. Wolf (candidate for Secretary/Treasurer): No answers received.

  • Carlo Ghezzi (candidate for Secretary/Treasurer): No answers received.

  • Vinton G. Cerf (candidate for Member at Large):

    1. First, I favor, at the least, incorporating access to the digital library to anyone who is already subscribing to any of the ACM publications. I recognize the financial issue regarding revenue and would be happy to work with others interested in finding a practical way to achieve this goal.

      Second, if by Open Access one says that all publications of ACM are freely accessible without subscription, perhaps there is a nuanced way to achieve the objective while not depriving ACM of one of the means by which it covers its operating costs. One might start with the item above, and then after a 1 year delay, allow the papers to be available to the general public at no additional cost. This is just a suggestion - analysis is needed to determine the financial effects. I fully accept the argument that open access to publications is vital to innovation. If there are reasonable ways to accelerate access to publications in an even more timely fashion, I would want to know about them.

    2. I think it ought to be sufficient to grant ACM non-exclusive rights to publish documents, not to transfer all rights. I wonder whether a form of Creative Commons would work? Again, one needs to look at the finances of ACM as a whole and ask how such changes would affect the enterprise.

    Ultimately, ACM and other non-profits, are intended to promote wide-spread dissemination of knowledge. Putting financial barriers in the way of this objective seems counter-productive. Costs must be met, of course, so this is not a trivial exercise. It is, however, an important one, and I am prepared to devote some serious time on Council, should I be elected.

  • Fei-Yue Wang (candidate for Member at Large): No answers received.

  • Satoshi Matsuoka (candidate for Member at Large):

    1. It is my firm belief that open access to scientific results, i.e., any academic papers, sensory and simulated data, programs etc., so long as they have been obtained via public funded research and not compromise the competitive first rights for an agreed reasonable period of time, is essential. Since journal and conference papers by nature become public at the time of their publication, it would follow that they should be subject to Open Access, unlike commercial publications.

      The question then is, who would cover the cost? By all means with digital publication the linear cost of printing and distribution would be virtually eliminated, the question would be that of fixed cost. Now ACM's most significant role in papers and their published venues is that of accreditation, i.e., providing auspice. Since computer science is conference centric, I propose to charge the ACM conferences certain amounts sufficient to cover the fixed cost of digital publication, e.g., maintaining the digital library.

      Then proposal is superior to charging the authors since the cost is distributed among the community, and avoids the danger of indecent pay-to-get-published situation. Since a community member would be paying in some form anyhow, the ultimate payment amount per person would not differ substantially, but will provide ubiquitous Open Access without the conflict of membership interest that the current model suffers from. Journals can be subsidized from this endeavor.

    2. I am in favor of author granting the copyright usage to ACM instead of transfer. With the first policy instituted the business incentive for transferring copyright would be lost. ACM would further remove itself from legal issues regarding copyrights. Of course then authors need to explicitly grant the use of the copyright, and notify ACM should such granting would be revoked, perhaps after a certain period.

  • Salil Vadhan (candidate for Member at Large):

    As indicated in my platform statement, strengthening ACM's support for open access and the wide dissemination of scholarly research is one of the main issues that I am interested in as a potential ACM Council Member. As an author, I have personally been frustrated by ACM's unwillingness to accept the copyright addendum that is the basis of my university's open access effort. Admittedly, I do not have a complete picture of the role that publications currently play in how ACM supports itself, but I am interested in exploring how ACM might move towards open access in financially sustainable manner.

Answers from SIGGRAPH Director-at-Large Candidates (three open positions)

  • Mashhuda Glencross:

    1. I am in favor of Open Access. In my candidate statement, I indicate this in the sentence "Tutorials and courses, available on-demand and free to the community, will expand the member base, decentralize and highlight the unique SIGGRAPH experience."

      Providing Open Access to SIGGRAPH content is complicated by two main reasons, firstly the funding model of the ACM and secondly by issues to do with copyright of content from industry. The second problem even limits the content that can be supplied on the Encore DVDs. Resolving the issue needs multiple organizations to be committed to the idea of Open Access together with alternative funding streams.

      My strategy is to begin by initially trying to gain Open Access for some content, namely courses. Given the purpose of courses is educational, it should be possible to argue for a change in policy regarding these. Many authors of courses do currently make their material available online from their own web pages but I'd ideally like to see something more extensive. is a great and actively growing resource for computer science courses and tutorials, it currently has 1962 computer science lectures available for free. From these, only 8 are classed as Computer Graphics. If we consider broader areas that might also potentially include material that is within the remit of the SIGGRAPH conferences then there are also 55 in Computer Vision, 61 in Image Analysis and 14 in Human Computer Interaction. Contrast this with the 762 freely available lectures in Machine Learning. I'd like to see course lectures that are recorded at SIGGRAPH being made available to the community either through videolectures or ACM SIGGRAPH's own website (or both). I am hopeful that we can argue that the ACM SIGGRAPH should make educational content available for free to the community.

      Regarding wider Open Access to papers etc., I currently feel unqualified to propose an alternative funding model that would make it possible to effect such a major change. If I am elected, I hope to have an opportunity to investigate the feasibility of this.

    2. I am in favor of a more author friendly policy on the transfer of copyright. Understandably though, to maintain quality, the ACM needs to limit the potential for re-publication of the same material in other conferences and journals. Perhaps a workable model is, as you suggest, a policy whereby authors grant the ACM an exclusive license to publish the material in it's complete form -- but with an agreed non-exclusive mechanism for allowing authors to re-use an appropriate portion of their content. If I am elected, I would have to bring together a subcommittee of experts and interested parties to debate what form of copyright agreement makes sense and then use this as the basis of a proposal to the ACM as I can't speak with authority on copyright myself.

  • James O'Brien:

    1. I am very much in favor of Open Access, both through allowing authors greater freedom in how their own papers can be self-distributed and through unrestricted access to ACM's Digital Library. I recognize that ACM provides an extremely valuable service in sponsoring many journals, conferences, and other publication activities and I would not want to see unconsidered changes made that could damage ACM's viability. However, I believe that Open Access is inevitable due to University and Funding Agency pressure. Rather than fighting futilely against this inexorable trend, ACM should be a leader in developing Open Access policies that still allow ACM to support itself.

      Regarding the episode this year where ACM attempted to prohibit link compilations that pointed to PDFs hosted on author sites: I do not believe that ACM had any valid legal justification for that action, and further I believe that the action was contrary to member interests. I'd like ACM's internal policies to be revised so that similar incidents to not occur in the future.

    2. I've experienced this problem firsthand in the past where I was told that using my own images would require permission from ACM and payment of a small fee. There would also be required language to accompany the image that gave ACM credit rather than to my students and myself. I don't think ACM has any reasonable interest in owning included media, such as images or video. The creators of that content should retain ownership and merely grant ACM wide permissions to use the included content as part of the primary publication. This is already the policy for third-party images and I don't see any reason that it should not apply to author-created images as well. I'd also would like a retroactive grant of unrestricted permissions for authors to use any of their images that have already been transferred to ACM ownership.

  • Jacki Morie:

    1. I am generally in favor of open access to scholarly documents. I applaud the mandate to have publicly funded research from NIH in the open PubMed system, and believe that ALL government funded research should be dispersed freely. That being said, I think that not all research is government funded, and that much of the access to such research is not for scholarly purposes. I would be in favor of looking at a hybrid system that allows revenues to be collected in some instances (for commercial use, e.g) and also sets rates at a reasonable rate. This is a non- trivial issue and needs a great deal of study and input to come up with a system that is fair for all. Publishers may have a reasonable expectation to gain some revenues on their activities, but authors also should be given some opportunity. The arrival of digital repositories and online publishers is a game changer, and we need to find the correct rules to play this new game fairly.

    2. I am in favor of a non-exclusive copyright transfer to ACM or any publisher. I would be willing to serve on any committee investigating a more equitable solution for the 21st Century that benefits all.

  • Turner Whitted:

    For 30 years I've been telling people "You have my permission to reprint this image, but you're going to have to get permission from ACM as well." That's only mildly irritating, especially when you consider that the only reason anyone wants to reuse my work is because ACM published it in the first place. The more bothersome irritant is trying to get access to a paper that isn't readily available. However, I've also spent a few uncomfortable meetings on an IEEE editorial board wondering how we were going to fund electronic distribution of publications. This isn't just an ACM problem; it is an issue that extends across the entire technical community.

    So there are two sides to this problem, but it's not "us" versus "them." We are the ACM and it's up to us to come up with a distribution mechanism that provides ready access without threatening the existence of the organization.

    I guess the easy answer to your question is to endorse the Open Access proposal. But let's get past the easy answer and ask how we can find a workable solution that will serve us and our professional society and become a model for other organizations. This is going to take work not only to analyze the financial or legal impact of a change in policy but to find out what changes in policy will be acceptable to ACM as a whole and not just to SIGGRAPH.

    I just today had a chance to look at the responses from the SIGGRAPH director at large candidates as well as the ACM council candidates. They have obviously put a lot of thought into this issue and almost everyone recognizes the difficulty of the addressing both sides of the problem. That is encouraging and leads me to believe that this question is going to receive attention, but the problem is going to require involvement from the membership as a whole. We're going to have to be prepared to enlist wider involvement and perhaps settle, in the short term, for incomplete solutions as we look for the modern definition of "publication."

  • Brian Wyvill:

    1. I am very much in favour of open access. I would certainly argue for this with ACM. Most academics enjoy access via their library but financial pressures are affecting library budgets and these links are threatened. There are a number of copyright issues surrounding this but it is such an important issue to the whole community (industry and academia) it is worth investing some time to explore the options with ACM. There is also the Eurographics digital library. SIGGRAPH enjoys a special relationship with EG and as I am also on the EC of Eurographics I would like to explore improved access to this library in future negotiations.

    2. The transfer of copyright seems to be an old fashioned idea and I am in favour of re-negotiating this policy. A limited licence is a better way to approach this issue allowing authors to retain their rights but giving some form of limited permissions to ACM.