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Volume 29    Number 3    September 2000
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Chair's Message
One of the fundamental questions of philosophy, physics, and yes, even databases, is, what is the structure of time? Must it go in only one direction? Is it linear, branching, cyclic, even multi-dimensional? I'll invoke most of these aspects in this description of where SIGMOD has been and where it is going.

Imagine you are planning your wedding, perhaps a small affair, of say 50 people. Perhaps it will be an afternoon wedding, followed by a dinner and dancing. Still, there are lots of things to decide: the meal, entertainment, renting the hall, centerpieces, etc., etc.

Your dream darkens. The wedding grows and grows, to 500 of your closest friends. The afternoon and evening grow to a 5-day event. The cost grows to a quarter million dollars. You wake up sweating, with your heart pounding. Fortunately, it was just a nightmare.

Now you know what has been keeping Maggie Dunham busy this past 15 months, as she planned the SIGMOD'00 conference. Those of you who went know that Maggie did a fantastic job. Thanks Maggie, for your energy, your handling of a million details, and your desire that the week of the conference would be enjoyable and productive for everyone.

The registration fee in Seattle two years ago was $525. At that meeting, Moshe Vardi asked that the registration fee be lowered. Maggie was able to get the registration down to $400, which is the same as it was some 6 years ago, before high resolution projectors were needed in each room, before there was an email terminal room, and before the keynote addresses were video-taped. Getting the registration fee down while continuing to provide the facilities that are now expected was indeed an impressive accomplishment.

We are hoping that our example keeps the lid on conference registration fees for other database conferences. So my challenge to the other conferences is, do as we did, and drop your registration fees $100. Let's have a race among database conferences to the lowest registration fee!

Almost 20 years ago, another nightmare: one of my papers was rejected by a conference, in fact, by SIGMOD. I was devastated.

I'm reminded of talking to a colleague who was on the graduate admissions committee during the Vietnam war. He found these decisions agonizing, because denying an applicant was in some cases tantamount to sending that person off to die.

Well, a SIGMOD rejection isn't that serious, but it definitely has quite negative repercussions. A few SIGMOD papers can do wonderful things for one's career; the converse also holds.

And rejections are common. For every paper that Jeff Naughton accepted, he had to reject 5 others. Being PC chair means almost always having to say NO. (Jeff reiterates this observation in his comments.)

So it was critical that the strongest papers be accepted. And Jeff did a superb job of choosing the right people for the program committee and of managing the process and the PC meeting, so that the very best papers were accepted.

But Jeff's job was even harder. When I asked him to be PC chair, I told him he was responsible for the entire technical program: the panels, the tutorials, the demos, everything. And as those who were there can attest that the program was very strong indeed this year.

Next year, SIGMOD will be in Santa Barbara. Jianwen Su will be General Chair, and Timos Sellis, Program Chair. Do plan on joining us in sunny California, May 21-24.

So how is SIGMOD doing? On the next few pages are reports from Meral Özsoyoglu, the Vice Chair, Joachim Hammer, the new Treasurer, and others on how various projects are going.

But first, I wanted to highlight just a few activities of this organization. Our focus has been on building a worldwide database community, with four specific goals.

First, we want to emphasize the central place of databases within CS. To some, databases is administrative data processing, which is boring, boring. To others, databases is the Y2K problem, boring, boring. To me, databases represent absolutely core technology that has succeeded so well that everyone takes it for granted.

The SIGMOD awards celebrate the achievements of those in our community. This year's SIGMOD Innovations Award went to Rakesh Agrawal, the SIGMOD Contributions Award, to Michael Carey and Laura Haas, the SIGMOD ``Test of Time'' Award to two papers that appeared in the SIGMOD'90 conference a decade ago: ``Encapsulation of Parallelism in the Volcano Query Processing System,'' by Goetz Graefe, and ``Set-Oriented Production Rules in Relational Database Systems,'' by Jennifer Widom and Shel Finkelstein, and the SIGMOD Best Paper Award, to Hartmut Liefke and Dan Suciu, for ``XMill: an Efficient Compressor for XML Data.'' My congratulations to all these deserving awardees.

And there are ACM-wide awards. As you all know, we celebrated last year Jim Gray winning the ACM Turing Award. This May, some 30 ACM Fellows were induced. Over a fourth were from our community, which made me very proud: Peter Buneman, Mike Carey, Ron Fagin, Don Haderle, Hank Korth, Raymond Lorie, Moshe Vardi and David Warren.

Another goal that I have pushed throughout my tenure as chair is archiving and distributing technical material, which has always been a central role of SIGMOD, a role that has expanded in this age of digital libraries.

I thank Isabel Cruz for the amazing job she did on the DiSC'2000, which was released just a few months ago. Isabel is already hard at work on DiSC'2001, which will be even more impressive, in that it will include the proceedings of at least a dozen conferences held this year.

Michael Ley is also working very hard on the next volumes of the Anthology, which will be sent (free, of course) to all SIGMOD members in the fall, some 8 additional CDROMs. We've added some 20,000 pages to what was announced at the last business meeting:

  • CIKM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (Niki Pissinou)
  • DBPL Databases and Programming Languages (Alberto Mendelzon and Sophie Cluet)
  • PDIS Parallel and Distributed Information Systems (Sushil Jajodia)
  • MFDBS Mathematical Fundamentals of Database Systems (Jan Paredaens)
  • MobiDE (Panos Chrysanthis)
  • SIGIR Conference (Susan Dumais)
  • TKDE (Betty Salzberg and Ahmed Elmagarmid)
  • Foundations of Databases, a book by Serge Abiteboul, Rick Hull, and Victor Vianu

Thanks to all these people for their help in convincing publishers that the community values including their publications in the Anthology. Along with first volume, the 13 CDROMs will total over 100,000 pages of material.

Even better, next spring everyone will receive the Silver Edition of the Anthology, on DVD. This will comprise everything through 1999, about 70% of all the refereed material on databases that has appeared over the last 25 years. This includes about 250 volumes of material, a large bookcase totally full of journals, proceedings, and books, all on one or two DVD disks. Isn't storage technology amazing?!!

Much of this material turns out to be hard to find. We wanted to grab this stuff before it literally disappears. Even ACM and the IEEE keep only a few years worth of important material. So, one side benefit is that the Anthology will serve as an important historical record of our field--a record that we will now have for all time.

The third way we are building a worldwide database community is by encouraging other, related disciplines to also make their material available. Databases is a broad field: we use results from theory, operating systems, networking, hardware, and information retrieval. Hence, it is important that these related fields also capture their literature for easy access.

We have been encouraging other SIGs to follow SIGMOD's lead, with some success: ACM and all the SIG chairs have recently agreed to pay to digitize everything ACM has published in its 60 years of existence, back to 1940. By summer, 2001, the ACM Digital Library will include all journals, all conference proceedings, and all newsletters. This will cost in excess of $500,000. It will cost SIGMOD very little, because most of our material has already been digitized, with the rest being completed within the next few months.

SIGMOD is also encouraging other publishers to ``do the right thing'', in making their material as available as possible. We are working to get all of the Anthology onto the web, in many cases freely accessible.

Finally, the fourth way we are building a worldwide database community is to partner with other societies. The March 2000 issue of SIGMOD Record listed the many societies we cooperate with. Our regional partners include societies in Russia, Japan, and China. We are now working with those in Latin America to strengthen our ties there. Claudio Bauzer Medeiros chairs the Latin American Liaison Committee. We are also reaching out to the industrial community. Daniel Barbara has formed an Industrial Advisory Board to help there. See the first page of this issue for the members of these two committees.

I'm very appreciative of all the fine work that these people, and indeed, some 100 SIGMOD volunteers all over the world, are doing.

Rick Snodgrass
July, 2000

Last update: August 13, 2000
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