Select Page

PL Perspectives

Perspectives on computing and technology from and for those with an interest in programming languages.

SIGPLAN is one of the special interest groups in ACM and it does a lot of good for the programming languages community.  For example, we are the umbrella organization that organizes the best conferences on programming languages.  We spend most our income on students, we give awards and nominate for CACM research highlights, and we have exciting activities underway. Let me say a little more about each of those points.


First, let me follow the money.  Our four main conferences are International Conference on Functional Programming (ICFP), Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI), Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL), and Conference on Systems, Programming, Languages, and Applications Software for Humanity (SPLASH).  They are nicely spread out through the year and each one has an attendance of about 500 people.  The general chairs of the conferences tend to budget conservatively, in part because ACM requires it, so often the conferences give a surplus.  We also collect membership dues, which are cheap: $25 annually.  We hope that you want to be a member and that way invest in our community.  In any event, the fee of $25 pays for itself the moment you register for a conference.  You know the reason already: we give discounts to our members.  What do we do with all that money?  We spend most of it on students.  For example, we give $120,000 annually in travel grants, particularly to students.  Additionally, SIGPLAN provides a total of $80,000 annually to support of our Programming Languages Mentoring Workshops (PLMW), and a total of $35,000 annually to support three summer schools.

We also pay for making the conference experience better both for authors and for other attendees.  In particular, we do live streaming of the main tracks at all of our main conferences and we put the videos on youtube.  We have a conference manager, Annabel Satin, who works on all the conferences; she is essential to the smooth organization of our main conferences and PLMWs.  We also pay for gold open access for papers published in the Proceedings of the ACM, Programming Languages (PACMPL), which includes papers presented at POPL, ICFP, and OOPSLA. All other SIGPLAN papers are free (green open access) at SIGPLAN OpenTOC. So, no paywall to get to papers in SIGPLAN conferences.  We ask authors to pay the fee for the gold open access, and some authors do pay, but if authors are unable or unwilling to pay, SIGPLAN pays the fee.


Next, let me move on to how SIGPLAN celebrates excellence.  We have up to ten annual awards as of today.  The most recent one is the distinguished educator award.  Let me highlight two recent winners: Tom Reps got the Programming Languages Achievement Award for exceptional contributions to the field of programming languages,  Zena Ariola got the Distinguished Service Award for establishing and running the Oregon Programming Languages Summer School.  The most influential paper awards are given for a conference paper ten years ago that was really influential.  We give the awards to celebrate excellence in our community and we want you to tell us what you think is worth celebrating.  The deadline is January 15 every year; please make plans to write a nomination letter.

We also show off some of our exciting work to the rest of the computer science community via the CACM Research Highlights.  Each Research Highlight often began as a conference paper and was rewritten for the general CACM audience because it is worth knowing across computer science.  We want to be sure that CACM Research Highlights has some SIGPLAN papers so we have our own nomination committee to get some papers into the pipeline (all listed here).  So far, our success rate has been over 50 percent and at least 30 SIGPLAN papers have appeared as CACM Research Highlights.


And now let me take a look at what SIGPLAN is doing right now.  The programming languages community has a long and glorious history, and every fifteen years we celebrate our history at HOPL.  HOPL is the History of Programming Languages conference that was held for the first time in 1978, and then again in 1993 and in 2007.  The next one is in 2020.  I attended the one in 2007 and loved it, and I already look forward to the next one.  I have gotten a sneak peek at the list of languages that may be presented in 2020 and it is going to awesome.

SIGPLAN has a committee on empirical evaluations, which has done a fantastic job of putting a list of guidelines together.  I have used the guidelines myself and recommend it highly.  Also, SIGPLAN has a climate committee, which focuses on how SIGPLAN can respond to climate change.  We led the charge in getting FCRC 2019 to offer the option of paying for carbon credits to offset the carbon emission from travel to the conference.

We have a Programming Languages Mentoring Workshop (PLMW) co-located with every flagship conference so four PLMWs annually.  Each PLMW has 40 attendees, which are a mix of undergraduate and graduate students.  The goal of each workshop is to make the participants interested in pursuing more education in computer science in general and programming languages in particular.  We have two co-organizers of each PLMW and we get new ones every time.  This helps us develop conference organizers; they get to try to organize a small meeting of high visibility. Often they get inspired to organize something bigger at a later point.


In summary, SIGPLAN does a lot of good for the community by funding students, giving awards, and always working on something new. SIGPLAN is stronger than ever: financially, in the size of our conferences, and in our impact on computing.  Look for our monthly newsletter, sent via email to every SIGPLAN member.  The newsletter contains information about upcoming SIGPLAN conferences and other activities that may be of interest to SIGPLAN members.  And now we have the SIGPLAN blog, which will have news, viewpoints, and information about the field of programming languages.  Become a SIGPLAN volunteer!  Help out where you can and get to know a lot of great people.  Look at the list of SIGPLAN executive committee members, the lists of conference organizers, and the lists of conference program chairs.  Everywhere you will find great people that are worth getting to know and getting to work with.  SIGPLAN is bursting at the seams with people who want to lead and who have what it takes to lead.  We have lots of activities and we have something for you to do that fits your interests.  So please sign up! SIGPLAN is a joint project; let us work on it together.

Bio: Jens Palsberg is a professor and a former department chair of Computer Science at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  He is the Chair of SIGPLAN, former editor-in-chief of TOPLAS, and a former PC chair and a former general chair of POPL.  In 2012 he received the SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award.

Disclaimer: These posts are written by individual contributors to share their thoughts on the SIGPLAN blog for the benefit of the community. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal, belong solely to the blog author and do not represent those of ACM SIGPLAN or its parent organization, ACM.