In November I (and prob everyone in the ACM) got an email that was a call for proposal from the ACM History committee. Here is a pointer to it.
One of the passages in it just seems wrong to me:
This fellowship program is designed to support research and/or curatorial projects related to ACM's professional and educational activities and/or to ACM's rich institutional history including its organization, SIG activities, and conferences.
I will give examples of history projects that are interesting but do not fit the description. I challenge you to give me a history project that is interesting that does fit the bill.
1) Compare and contrast how NP-completeness developed in America and in the USSR. For the USSR side it would be an expansion of Trakhtenbrot's article here. OH, no good, Leonid Levin was not a member of the ACM.
2) Measure how various CS fields have changed by looking at the topics on the CALL FOR PAPERS for a conference. This would be a MASSIVE expansion of my blog post on how CCC call for papers, changed , see here. OH, I could only do ACM conferences. STOC but not FOCS. Okay, it makes perfect sense to study only ACM conference. Oh wait. IT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.
3) When did mathematicians begin looking at P vs NP seriously? (e.g., In The Handbook of Mathematical Logic from 1977 only one article mentions P vs NP: Michael Rabin's article on Decidable theories mentioned that even decidable theories may take a long time to decide and noted the importance of the P vs NP problem). How did MATH and CS interact early on and now? This would need one to look at math journals. How many of those are ACM? I would guess very few.
4) When did engineers begin looking at P vs NP seriously, or even notice it? Same issue as the last item.
5) Looking at how Programming lang design has changed one would have to only look at conference and journals that were ACM. And for those that were ACM but then dropped ACM you might only be able to use them up to the cutoff year.
6) Which academic studies eventually lead to practical products people can use? This is a really broad topic so one could narrow it down to just academic studies that appeared in ACM journals or conferences. Is that a good way to narrow the focus? Spoiler alert: NO.
7) I recently filled out a survey about the future of theory and if it is insular (the topic of another post surely). Most of the questions were about ``STOC-FOCS'' The people who did the survey clearly do not care that one is ACM and one is IEEE. Does anyone? I ask non-rhetorically.
Despite the capitol letters, I am not so much mad as puzzled. So I ask non-rhetorically:
Q1) Did the ACM really mean for people to do history in a way where you can only use ACM materials?
Q2) If no then please rewrite the Call for Proposals.
Q3) If yes then give examples of studies that would be interesting.
I am not asking to be snarky, I really want to know. And I note that interesting is subjective.
(ADDED LATER- two historians who have worked with this kind of history left comments that indicate the grant is FINE with non-ACM stuff, so Q1 above seems to have the answer NO. Given that they should rewrite the call for proposal next time they do this. ALSO- the historians left pointers to VERY INTERESTING papers they wrote.)