Although China-based computer professionals author numerous papers for international journals and conferences each year, their opportunities are limited by language barriers and a lack of international contacts. At the same time, few outside of China are aware of the variety of computer science developments inside the country's borders. Each year sees thousands of papers published only in Chinese by researchers who are unable to travel to international conferences, so their findings are all but locked off from the international community.
ACM hopes to help change that with the launch of ACM China, whose 20-member Council held its first meeting in June. ACM China's full launch, which is expected later this year, will culminate years of effort to give greater access and exposure to Chinese computer professionals.
China is the latest of three areas outside the U.S. to start an ACM Regional Council in the past year. The ACM Europe Council launched in October 2009, and the ACM India Council launched in January 2010. But ACM's efforts to grow the organization beyond national borders go back 20 years. "We started encouraging our SIGs [Special Interest Groups] to hold conferences outside the U.S. around 1990, when ACM was viewed as a purely American organization," says ACM Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer John White. "More recently, we've made an effort to have non-U.S. computer scientists in positions of leadership throughout the entire organization."
The selection of Council members was especially critical in China, where leadership reputation is highly valued. ACM China was fortunate to enlist Jiaguang Sun, computer science professor and vice president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, as the Council's chair.
"Once Dr. Sun agreed to help, things progressed very rapidly," recalls Vincent Yun Shen, professor emeritus of the computer science department at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "That's how Chinese people do business. You have to get the right person to lead a projectsomeone with credibility. When people learned that Dr. Sun was involved, they said, 'This guy is successful, so aligning with him is a good thing.'"
But establishing ACM China among Chinese computer professionals won't be easy. According to Yunhao Liu, associate professor in the department of computer science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, many of them "don't know that IEEE and ACM are different organizations." (Chinese membership in ACM is currently below 2,500.) Liu believes the twin keys to success are effective promotion, and cooperation with the 15,000-member China Computer Federation (CCF).
"CCF has a dominant position among computer societies in China," says Liu, "while few computer scientists here realize that ACM sponsors the famous Turing Award! But CCF's resources are limited when compared to ACM, which is international. ACM is looking forward to close cooperation with CCF and other organizations in China." ACM expects its selections for ACM China's Council to pave the way in building a relationship with CCF, as all but three of them are members of the CCF board or CCF senior members.
With eminent Chinese computer professionals leading the charge, Liu believes the time is right for ACM to enter China. "You have to get people who have been working in China already, and I think Dr. White made the right decisions," Liu says. "That's why I have every confidence that it will be very successful."
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