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Volume 28    Number 3    September 1999
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Chair's Message
In this message I look to SIGMOD's past, and then to its future. Both are bright.

For those of you who weren't with us in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, you missed a great conference. Susan Davidson did just an incredible job handling the many, many, many details. I first contacted Sue a full two years ago, in August, 1997, and she has been working on the conference ever since. And I'm most pleased with those aspects, such as the banquet held literally amidst some Egyptian mummies, in which Sue made it uniquely hers.

I checked back through the records, and found that during the 1990's the conference registration fee went up an average of $30 a year. This year Sue reversed the trend, actually lowering the registration fee by $70. This wasn't easy to do, while maintaining all the facilities we've come to expect in this conference.

I also want to thank Christos Faloutsos for so capably handling the technical program. While I've never been a general chair, I have been a SIGMOD program chair, and I know how much work that involves. Yet Christos maintained his enthusiasm and energy throughout the long ordeal. Christos did a fantastic job putting together a solid technical program.

I just got the statistics on the ACM Digital Library for the year ending May, 1999. Papers in the SIGMOD proceedings were more popular than those of all of the ACM Transactions. I've often heard it said that it is harder to get into the SIGMOD conference than into many journals. This statistic emphasizes the relevance of the papers presented at our conference. And by being a member of SIGMOD, you get free access to those proceedings, on CDROM and on the web.

Definitely the most emotional time of the conference was the reception for Jim Gray, this year's Turing Award winner. At this reception we celebrated Jim's contributions and the uplifting role model he presents to the database community at large. Pat Selinger (IBM), Bob Taylor (Tandem/Compaq), Christos Papadimitriou (Berkeley), and Dave Lomet (Microsoft), with David DeWitt officiating, shared their recollections of Jim's activities at their respective institutions, and captured so movingly the respect and affection we all hold for Jim.

This was the second year for the book drive. The first one resulted in some 250 books being shipped to Jakarta and distributed to five technical universities. This year Sue picked Romania, a country which needs good technical books, and one which can fully utilize such books. Val Tannen, from the University of Pennsylvania, organized the book drive. He arranged for Irena Athansiv at the University Politehnica in Bucharest to distribute the books there. This year, for the first time, several publishers exhibiting at the conference also got involved. I thank Michael Hirsch from Addison-Wesley, Kasia Kolinke from Morgan Kaufmann, and John Wannemacher from McGraw-Hill for donating books on exhibit. Finally, I thank Goetz Graefe and the Microsoft SQLServer Group for once again paying for the shipping of these books.

Incidentally, this year was the 25th SIGMOD conference. I checked with some old hands, to find out the origins of SIGMOD and its conference. We roll the clock back to January, 1969, when SIGFIDET was started by Diane and John Smith, James Rothnie, and others. FIDET was a S.I.C. (Special Interest Committee) on File Description and Translation. In September 1970 it became a SIG. The original mission was ``Taxonomics of data and Storage structures; Data Independence; Data Description Languages; description for large databases and networks; and Description for efficiency of storage use.'' In 1974 the SIG decided to rename itself SIGMOD and the Chair of SIGFIDET, Bernard Plagman, became the Chair of SIGMOD. Over the past twenty-five years the role of data management in industry and indeed in society has grown dramatically, with SIGMOD being an important contributor to that growth.

The SIGMOD conference is the successor of the ACM SIGFIDET/SIGMOD Workshop on Data Description, Access and Control, which started in 1970. The first SIGMOD conference was held in 1975 in San Jose, with Frank King as PC Chair.

By now you should have received the first seven CDROMs of the SIGMOD Digital Library. Michael Ley, Anthology Editor, and Isabel Cruz, DiSC Editor, and their associate editors and students, went way beyond the call of duty in preparing these CDROMs. I ran into Isabel at a PC meeting two months ago, and she looked really tired. She mentioned that she had had only four hours of sleep. What I later learned was that was over the preceding three days (!). She and her students pulled many all-nighters refining the two CDROMs in this year's DiSC. And I know that Michael and his students and staff also worked extremely hard producing the Anthology.

Let me share with you the plans for the next volume of the Digital Library. Very briefly, the goal is to collect all the database literature, as bibliographic entries, as full text for search, as bit-mapped images as they appear on paper, along with all ancillary material, on CDROM and on the web (whew!).

This objective is admittedly audacious. Do I really mean all the database literature, the thousands of database articles that have been written? Yes, I do. Is this even possible? Frankly, I don't know, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't attempt to realize this compelling resource.

Achieving this comprehensive collection of materials requires that database societies work together. SIGMOD simply cannot do it alone. It also requires that publishers become partners. Thirdly, research innovations and newly available technology must be harnessed. Finally, talented people are needed to make it happen.

Fortunately, this effort, which changes the fundamental assumptions under which publishers and societies operate, is proceeding at amazingly rapid pace.

Envision a book case in your office. Now, my guess is that all your book cases are filled to overflowing. This particular book case represents the contents of the SIGMOD Digital Library, which will contain the following.

  • All 25 volumes of the SIGMOD (International Conference on Management of Data) Proceedings, with the digitization funded by SIGMOD.

  • All 18 volumes of the PODS (Principles of Database Systems) Proceedings. We thank Victor Vianu, PODS Executive Committee Chair, and Alberto Mendelzon, past EC Chair, for their help. The digitization was funded by SIGMOD.

  • All 15 volumes of the VLDB (Very Large Data Base) Proceedings. The VLDB Foundation was an early and enthusiastic supporter, and showed that this project was bigger than just SIGMOD. We thank John Mylopoulos, President of the VLDB Endowment, and Stefano Ceri, Publications Chair and VLDB Liaison for SIGMOD, for their help. The digitization was funded by the VLDB Foundation.

  • Seven volumes of the IEEE Bulletin on Data Engineering, 1993-1999. We thank David Lomet, Editor in Chief of this publication, for his help. Dave was also an early and ardent supporter. His involvement helped bring the IEEE along. As one can imagine, publishers are extremely reticent to release their publications, especially to another publisher. These volumes were already in digital form.

  • All 15 volumes of the IEEE ICDE (International Conference on Data Engineering) Proceedings. We thank Erich Neuhold, ICDE Steering Committee Chair, Betty Salzberg, TCDE President, and Matt Loeb, Publisher for the IEEE Computer Society, for their support. The digitization will be funded by the IEEE.

  • All four PDIS (Parallel and Distributed Information Systems) Proceedings, 1991-1996. We thank Sushil Jajodia, Chair of the PDIS Steering Committee, for his help. The digitization was jointly funded by IEEE and SIGMOD.

  • All 11 volumes of the SSDBM (Statistical and Scientific Database Management) Proceedings. We thank Arie Shoshani, SSDBM Steering Committee Chair, and Meral ÷zsoyoglu, SSDBM'99 PC Chair. Arie Shoshani funded the digitization out of his research funds.

  • Five volumes of the EDBT (Extending Data Base Technology) Proceedings, 1988-1996. We thank Paolo Atzeni, President of the EDBT Foundation, Stefano Ceri, EDBT Liaison for SIGMOD, and Alfred Hofmann, Computer Science Editor for Springer-Verlag. The digitization was funded by the EDBT Foundation.

  • Six volumes of the ICDT (International Conference on Database Theory) Proceedings, 1986-1997. We thank Jan Paredaens, Chair of the ICDT Steering Committee. The copyright for the ICDT proceedings is held by Springer-Verlag, another publisher who was initially hesitant to participate. Jan's advocacy was very helpful in getting Springer on board.

    For these volumes to be included, four bodies were involved: the SIGMOD Executive Committee, the ICDT Steering Committee, Springer-Verlag, and the EDBT Foundation, which funded the digitization. All four had to agree for this to happen, a wonderful example of inter-society cooperation.

  • Four volumes of the ADBIS (Advances in Databases and Information Systems) Proceedings, 1994-1997. We thank Leonid Kalinichenko, Chair of the ADBIS Steering Committee. These proceedings were already in digital form.

  • Ten volumes of the ER (Entity-Relationship) Proceedings (1979-1991). We thank Peter P. Chen, Emeritus Chair, ER Steering Committee, for his help. The ER Institute funded the digitization.

  • Recently we asked ourselves, why restrict the Anthology to just conferences? So we decided to include 22 volumes of ACM TODS, 1976-1997. We thank Won Kim, TODS Editor-in-Chief. Digitization was funded by SIGMOD.

  • Four volumes of the VLDB Journal, 1992-1995. We thank John Mylopoulos and Peter Apers, VLDBJ Editor-in-Chief. The VLDB Foundation funded the digitization.

  • Why restrict it to periodicals? So we include two database classics, both unfortunately out of print: Theory of Relational Databases, by David Maier, digitization funded by SIGMOD, and Concurrency Control and Recovery in Database Systems, by Philip Bernstein, Vassos Hadzilacos, and Nathan Goodman, digitization funded by Microsoft. A few weeks ago, Victor Vianu arranged for a third book to be included, Foundations of Databases, by Serge Abiteboul, Richard Hull, and Victor, digital version provided by Addison-Wesley.

So here is our book case, jam-packed with the very best database papers and books. The SIGMOD Digital Library will comprise some 70,000 pages of bit-mapped images, fully indexed, equivalent to 345 lbs (160kg) of material, occupying 4 standard shelves, or 10ft (3m), of our book case.

Of course, every SIGMOD member will get the Digital Library free (volume 2 of the Anthology is scheduled for next spring). You can then clear out your book cases of musty proceedings, knowing that you have it all in a little binder, available for searching and printing anytime.

I estimate that this represents a third to a half of the entire database research literature. So our challenge is clear: to fill out the other book case or two, and to ensure that new material is captured and made available electronically.

Volume 2 of the DiSC is scheduled for February, 2000. It will have proceedings from at least six annual conferences (ACM SIGMOD, ACM PODS, ACM KDD, VLDB, IEEE ICDE, and SSDBM), as well as several publications such as SIGMOD Record and IEEE Data Engineering Bulletin, workshops, and other useful material, such as full audio and video of Jim Gray's Turing address. If you are associated with any conferences or workshops, in 1999 or next year, and would like to be included in the DiSC publication, by all means get in touch with Isabel Cruz.

SIGMOD will be donating 100 copies of the Digital Library to developing countries. If you know the address of any libraries in such countries, please send that information to Nick Kline (, so that he can ensure that we get the CDROMs to them.

I am pleased to announce that SIGMOD will be producing two new publications, in addition to the SIGMOD Record, SIGMOD DiSC, and SIGMOD Anthology. Again, these publications will be free to all members. The first arose out of a workshop last October sponsored by NSF on academic-industry interaction. That workshop is on the DiSC (volume 1). It turned out that a portion of the SIGMOD Executive Committee was at that workshop. We started brain-storming about what SIGMOD could do to help in this area. The result is the ACM SIGMOD Technical Talks, or SIGMOD TechTalks for short, with Tekin ÷zsoyoglu as Editor and Christian S. Jensen as co-Editor. This multimedia CDROM publication will debut next year.

The second new publication is the ACM SIGMOD Digital Review, with H. V. Jagadish as Editor. This novel internet-based mechanism for directing attention to quality work through peer review will debut in the fall.

Much of what SIGMOD does is the result of individual initiative. If you have a good idea, by all means bring it to SIGMOD, which can provide resources for your idea to grow and benefit the database community. The SIGMOD Digital Review is but one example of how this can work. Just contact me or anyone on the Executive Committee.

Please scan the first page of this issue for changes and additions. Here I focus on the SIGMOD Executive Committee. Eric Hanson resigned as SIGMOD Secretary/Treasurer on August 31, 1999. He is taking a sabbatical from the University of Florida during the 1999-2000 academic year. During that period, he will dedicate his time to a software startup. After discussion by the SIGMOD Executive Committee, I recommended Joachim Hammer as his replacement, to Carla Ellis, Chair of the SIG Governing Board Executive Committee, who approved this change. Joachim will serve as Secretary/Treasurer through June 30, 2001.

Eric was a highly effective member of the EC. He generated many ideas, particularly with regard to recruiting student members, and helped with budgeting, both SIGMOD-wide and specifically with the conferences. I appreciate his willingness to remain on the EC for the remainder of the summer, as Joachim came up to speed. I wish Eric the best, as he transitions from busy faculty member to busy start-up founder, and thank Joachim for taking on this important task.

I hope everyone has an enjoyable and productive fall.

Rick Snodgrass
July, 1999

Last update: June 26, 2000
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