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The State of SIGCHI and CHI

tl;dr: CHI is growing so now CHI has a steering committee; 2017-2019 cities and chairs are in place; we are seeking chairs and venues for CHI 2020 as we return to Asia in 2021.

The past 33 years have seen many successes, developments and challenges for the CHI conference series - most of all due to its growing size and need for streamlined logistics. The first ACM SIGCHI sponsored CHI conference (Human Factors in Computing Systems) was held in 1983 with around 1,000 delegates where 59 papers were presented. Fast forward to today, where CHI 2016 had over 3500 delegates and at times 19 simultaneous tracks. Further, the conference has become more global, and more diverse in terms of topics, methods, and disciplines. As stewards of our community’s flagship conference, we must ensure that the conference changes as necessary to meet these new opportunities and new challenges.

For CHI, the SIGCHI executive committee votes on who becomes the general chairs, technical program chairs, and papers chairs. However, unlike all the other conferences SIGCHI sponsors, CHI has not had a steering committee. Instead the organisation of each year's conference relied heavily on the Vice-President for Conferences, working closely with the General Chairs, Technical Program Chairs, organising committee and the ACM. This approach has enabled the successful CHI conferences we have all experienced, and has allowed SIGCHI to build up a wealth of knowledge and experience with running CHI. However, it also placed a large burden on a single volunteer to maintain support for CHI. Further it did not give the communal ownership and buy-in that a steering committee can. Therefore, to better share the volunteer load, to engage the community more deeply, and to ensure continuity of SIGCHI management of the CHI Conference, the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC) is pleased to announce the formation of a CHI Conference Steering Committee.

New Leadership Structure

The chair of the CHI steering committee will join the SIGCHI EC as Adjunct Chair for CHI. The responsibilities of the CHi steering committee were previously distributed across members of the EC. As a result, we will see changes within the EC itself and beyond. The operational aspects of our conferences, which the Vice President for Conferences formerly undertook for CHI and SIGCHI, will now become the responsibility of the Vice President for Operations. The strategic direction and operational oversight for CHI, and recommendations on such to the EC, which had been the responsibility of the Vice President for Conferences, now will rest with the Adjunct Chair for CHI. Finally, the SIGCHI Vice President for Conferences will have oversight for all SIGCHI conferences, including CHI, and thus will subsume all the responsibilities of the former SIGCHI Adjunct Chair for Specialised Conferences. Thus, the Adjunct Chair for Specialized Conferences role will end.

We also need some structural changes on various committees and SIGCHI boards that assist the vice presidents in their roles. Our intention is to clarify our bylaws and to form ad-hoc committees (rather than standing committees) to support our activities. Changes to our bylaws will first need to be approved by our membership prior to SIGCHI changing our way of working. These changes will allow the various groups to function effectively and at a scale which is suitable for making decisions to support our conferences, members, and community.

How we will achieve the transition

To achieve this, we have brought together a group of future CHI chairs, past CHI chairs, past technical program chairs, and past papers chairs to provide strategy, oversight and management for CHI, along with ACM staff who will act as liaison to the committee. The committee is now being formed and will start to meet regularly from December 2016. Over the coming year, members of the committee will observe and study how CHI is managed and the day to day challenges the organising committee face. The former Vice President for Conferences, Scooter Morris, is now a member of the CHI steering committee and will continue to be the liaison to CHI 2017 to maintain a sense of continuity.

Liaison teams have been identified for CHI 2018 and 2019 and as plans for CHI 2020 and 2021 come online, new volunteers from the committee will be identified to help advise each new organising committee. Our conferences are organised largely by volunteers but even they need help and advice when they run into challenges and problems. Our hope is that this new steering committee will afford a range of support all new chairs need as they plan for a successful CHI. 

Between now and the CHI conference in 2019, the CHI steering committee will operate in a setup phase. This will allow the committee to determine how best to support each year’s conference. The committee will provide advice to the SIGCHI EC during this period of time. After 2019, we expect the CHI steering committee to move into a more steady state of operation. The hope is that shared knowledge and experience can provide a bedrock of support as each future CHI starts its development and planning. We also aim to ensure the CHI steering committee has the necessary support to undertake day to day actions and develop strategy for future CHI conferences.

Beyond support for each year’s CHI conference, there are many long-term and strategic questions this steering committee must face. The first and most obvious is the continued growth in paper submissions to CHI, which is not commensurate with growth in the qualified reviewer pool or the number of delegates who attend CHI. Aspects of the program which may have been intended as single-year innovations have become “baked” into the conference, and there is a perception that this limits the flexibility of the CHI steering committee and future CHI chairs to innovate. This steering committee will consider what is core to CHI and propose various models which can address concerns from the community, delegates and organisers. The steering committee has many other challenges to consider, including how we foster intellectual progress in the field of HCI, registration costs, submission process and deadlines, and future locations given the size and nature of CHI along with costs. 

New Appointees to the SIGCHI EC

These changes, along with the election of Vicki Hanson to serve as the President of the ACM, have precipitated a number of personnel changes within the SIGCHI EC. We are pleased to welcome:

  • Siân Lindley (Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK) to replace Vicki Hanson as a Vice President at Large.
  • The EC has appointed Aaron Quigley (University of St Andrews, UK) as the Vice President for Conferences,
  • Dan Olsen (Sparxteq, USA) as the Vice President for Operations,
  • Anirudha Joshi (IIT Bombay, India) as Vice President for Finances, and
  • Philippe Palanque (Université Paul Sabatier, France) as Adjunct Chair for CHI.   

Where CHI is going in 2018 and beyond

CHI 2018 will be held in Montreal, and will be

  • chaired by Regan Mandryk (University of Saskatchewan, Canada) and Mark Hancock (University of Waterloo, Canada).
  • Their Technical Program Chairs will be Anna Cox (UCL, UK) and Mark Perry (Brunel University, UK) and
  • the 2018 Papers Chairs are mc schraefel (University of Southampton, UK), Ed Cutrell (Microsoft Research, India) and Anind Dey (CMU, USA).


CHI 2019 will be held for the first time in the UK in Glasgow, and will be

  • chaired by Geraldine Fitzpatrick (TU Wien, Austria) and Stephen Brewster (University of Glasgow. UK).


How are the venues for CHI conferences selected?

One question SIGCHI members might have is: how are the venues for CHI conferences selected?  CHI has been held in the USA 22 times, and outside the USA 10 times. As the new SIGCHI Steering Committee is formed, the question becomes, where do we cite future CHI conferences to best suit our global membership? Planning for the future is of foremost concern, to ensure timely venue identification. As such, 2020 will see the conference location ‘heading towards’ Asia while 2021 we plan to return to Asia.


CHI Site Selection Stage 1

Figure 1: First stage of the site Selection Process

Broadly speaking the proposed process for strategically planning for conference locations includes about ten stages spread over a few years. The start of this process is outlined in Figure 1. First, the SIGCHI executive committee develops strategic location requirements which are provided to the CHI Steering Committee. This committee takes this guidance, along with previous CHI data, CHI development forecasting, and community needs to develop a list of potential cities. The forecasts and prior knowledge of CHI feed into our meeting requirements which detail space and facilities needs for CHI. These details along with details of potential cities are moulded into a request for proposals which is sent directly from the ACM on behalf of SIGCHI to a small set of convention centres in the target location for a particular year of CHI.

This process is sometimes a surprise to SIGCHI members who might be familiar with specialised conferences which first select conference chairs or who take complete bids to host a conference. When CHI had a small number of delegates, and a wide range of venues could host the conference, this was possible. Today, the scale of CHI requires us to take a different approach as we try to align community needs with potential cities or convention centre availability along with our space requirements. Once detailed bids are returned from the potential cities, an assessment is undertaken, followed by visits to several potential sites. This leads to Figure 2, where an understanding of the pros and cons of each proposal are considered. These factors include dates, cost, space, accessibility, etc. The CHI steering committee considers this broad range of factors in making a site recommendation to the SIGCHI Executive Committee.


CHI Site Selection Stage 2

Figure 2: Second stage of the site Selection Process

At this stage you might think the planning work for a particular CHI is done? In reality, that is not the case. Next, ACM needs to complete contract negotiation with the site the SIGCHI EC selects. Given the complexity of our requirements, this can be a time-consuming process. In parallel, conference chairs must be identified. Sometimes the chairs for a future CHI are identified around the time potential cities are under consideration but in reality these activities are decoupled to ensure the final site selection process can focus on a fair assessment of the site.

Today, there are hundreds of volunteers involved in the organisation of any one CHI conference, or thousands if you count all the authors and reviewers who give of their time. CHI is also many things to many people. Aspects of the program which are held dear by one part of the community are seen as a luxury to others. What delegates from different types of industries, different academic traditions or different approaches to working with clients want vary considerably. Each year, the CHI chairs need to balance the competing interests, the available space, the budget, etc. as they plan and organize what they hope will be the best CHI ever.

In short, the steering committee for CHI needs to marry the myriad of interests in CHI to ensure it remains the flagship event for the global HCI community.

We hope you join us in offering best wishes and support to the new CHI Steering Committee, and CHI 2017, 2018 and 2019 organizing committees.

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