Open Calls for Volunteering Positions: ACM SIGCHI Policy Guidance

In the interests of ensuring that volunteering positions at SIGCHI go to the best people for the role, there is a need to draw from a wide range of candidates. In addition to pulling on people beyond a search committee’s personal social networks to widen the candidate pool, an effect of this is that we will offer more inclusive opportunities for candidates from a diverse set of backgrounds. In essence, what this will achieve is an increased level of fairness in the opportunities that members should expect from SIGCHI. In parallel with this openness of access to SIGCHI roles, we want to show how this process works: not only must we open our processes to as broad a field of candidates as possible, we must be seen to be open about how this operates, and this requires a degree of openness about our selection processes as well. This process complements the principles and values that underpin SIGCHI and aligns with them through its Strategic Initiatives in widening participation and enabling opportunities.

Summary points

  • Documents recommended content to include in the role description and application materials
  • Addresses application and recruitment issues around Inclusion and Diversity 
  • Considers requirements for improving Accessibility and Global Access
  • Identifies important considerations in the candidate selection processes 
  • Highlights information on Privacy and Data Management (including GDPR) for applicants

At the moment, this policy should be treated as a recommendation and used for guidance as best practice, although we strongly recommend adhering to it if possible. 

What is a volunteer?

SIGCHI provides some indication of what a volunteer is, does, and may hope to get out of their involvement: 

‘A volunteer could be someone who reviews a single paper or someone who manages the track of a specific conference. There are many different opportunities, at different timescales which requires different levels of experience to be able to succeed at…. Being a volunteer gives you the opportunity to give something back to the HCI community or to the worldwide organization of SIGCHI in terms of publications or conferences. In practice being a volunteer is a great opportunity to network, to develop new skills and to enhance your knowledge of HCI and the field.’ (https://sigchi.org/get-involved/volunteering/)

There are many reasons that people volunteer and these may change at different periods of their lives and careers. We also recognise that becoming a volunteer can make a significant impact on people’s lives and careers. In selecting volunteers, we therefore need to ensure that decisions are made on the basis of ability, that all candidates are considered on their merits, and that this follows an unbiased and fully inclusive process.  

Who this applies to

Target Audience: Our intention is that this guidance will be used in all new SIGCHI volunteer positions and for the majority of SIGCHI-related volunteering roles. This applies to both direct applications by candidates and nominations for positions. We are targeting this policy at the following areas:

  • SIGCHI executive committee officers (all unelected capacities)
  • SIGCHI sub-committee members
  • SIGCHI task forces and awards committees
  • SIGCHI sponsored conference committees (all capacities, from GC to AC levels)
  • SIGCHI sponsored editorial roles (ToCHI, Interactions)

Exclusions: This policy does not apply to the selection of officers elected by member vote, and may not apply to people appointed because of:

  • Specific expertise or skills that would be inappropriate for an open call (this includes reviewer selection for published materials)
  • The role arising a direct result of prior experience
  • Very short term roles and interim appointments, where an open call process would eat into the time available to complete the necessary work 
  • New member-led initiatives (such as starting up a Local Chapter)

While these roles are not always suitable for an open call, our recommendation should be that an open call process be the default decision. Where this is not followed, we recommend that a documented case be made for this in writing (although this may be a brief note), and preferably that this is placed on a publicly available repository/website (eg. minuted in the appropriate committee/panel notes). This will allow the broader SIGCHI community to understand the rationale behind the decision made about this. 

If no candidates are forthcoming from an open call process, a decision needs to be made by the search committee about whether the process was suitably advertised or widely distributed. Only if an unsuccessful call is deemed to have been carried out properly would it be appropriate to make a direct offer to selected individuals. The rationale for this should be publicly noted (see above). 

Inclusive criteria, decision making and informing

Selection criteria for volunteer positions need to be defined and explicit, and ensuring that they are based on an inclusive, rather than exclusive, basis. Care should therefore be taken on whether the required selection criteria are necessary for the role. Avoid poorly-defined, inconsistent or subjective criteria. The content of advertising for roles should not be made by individuals, but should be based on collaborative efforts of two or more (as deemed appropriate) committee/panel members or other suitable role-relevant representatives – this is intended to avoid unconscious or unconscious bias in setting out the role requirements so that they are fully inclusive. It should be clear in (or accompanying) the open call documentation which individuals (personally named, or listed by committee/panel role) will be making selection decisions on the candidates. 

Diversity: The ACM statement on diversity and inclusion is that “Anyone, from any background, should feel encouraged to participate and contribute to ACM. Differences – in age, race, gender and sexual orientation, nationality, physical ability, thinking style and experience – bring richness to our efforts in providing quality programs and services for the global computing community.” It is therefore important to stress that the advertising and volunteer selection process for SIGCHI should ensure that candidate information and selection procedures are free of biases related to a candidate’s ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, or other personal characteristics that are unrelated to their suitability for the role. For example, providing an exhaustive list of requirements and skills needed may negatively impact on the number and diversity of applications submitted, especially when these are not essential for the role; emphasising skills and experience as ‘desirable but not vital’ and offering training and development opportunities may further widen the candidate pool. Try to get feedback on the post itself to ensure that and be prepared to make changes where necessary. 

Accessibility: The ACM accessibility statement makes clear that it “is committed to diversity, inclusion and accessibility in everything we do”. Be aware that good applicants may have difficulties in being able to engage with content in the ways that content creators anticipate (for example, because of disabilities or language expertise), and that these could have a wide range of impacts on candidates applying as volunteers. The construction of the advertisement needs to consider its accessibility so that all potential applicants are able to engage with the content. For example, where it is relevant, make sure that all images have alt text tags in web-based content and captions to videos, and add descriptive text. Try to get feedback on the post itself from someone with accessibility experience, and be prepared to make changes where necessary. Use plain English, avoid jargon, and make fonts large enough to be easily read. The ACM style guide offers best practices, examples, and implementation techniques for this.

Effort, anxiety and expectations: Making an application for a volunteer role can be time-consuming and stressful for applicants, and this may lead to otherwise excellent candidates not applying. When creating an advertisement for a volunteer role, please therefore consider the following:

  • Highlight the anonymity of the process and if appropriate, identify the committee/panel members that will assess applicants details.
  • Unless it is strictly necessary for the role, candidates should not be expected to provide references on their suitability. This creates a barrier to applicants putting themselves forward, but also imposes a new referee burden on an overstretched community. 
  • Make the application entry as lightweight and low effort as possible. Usually, the requirements for a volunteer role are not the same as for a paid post, and there is no need for a long and highly polished application. Experience of high-effort application processes under these conditions is that it can lead to very unhappy applicants, especially when they are unsuccessful, who may be less likely to volunteer again. 
  • It should be clear when the application process for the role closes so that candidates do not continue to make unnecessary applications afterwards.  

Hosting advertising posts for volunteer roles

Notices for volunteering roles should be in place for a sufficient amount of time, commensurate with the nature of the post and to the timescale of the role. Bear in mind that different parts of the world have different holiday periods, as people’s availability (or lack of) may impact on the diversity of applications received. 

Hosting the role application should be on a public and open access site. From this, it may be shared more widely across the web and social media, but the original hosting should be both public and in a place that all candidates are likely to be able to access. For example, Facebook’s CHIMeta is a ‘closed’ group, and is unsuitable for this purpose. For similar reasons, Facebook and Google sites are unavailable to some users (eg. China), and should not be the main location for hosting such advertisements. For SIGCHI committee posts, the SIGCHI Blog has been used effectively as an ‘anchor’ host site and will be used for the foreseeable future. For conferences, the conference website blog might be a suitable place to host this advertisement, although this may depend on the start date of the role, in which case another solution may need to be used if the website is not yet operational.

The application process itself also needs to be accessible to all potential candidates. Where a web-based form is used, this will require additional planning as some formats can limit user access. As noted above, Google sites may also be unavailable in some countries, and so using Google Forms may exclude candidates. In this case, the role advertisement should consider an alternative application process (for eg. by direct email). 

Candidate selection processes

Candidate selection decisions should not be made by individuals, but by two or more (as deemed appropriate) committee/panel members or other suitable role-relevant representatives to avoid conscious or unconscious bias. Selection decisions should be made on the criteria specified, and not for other arbitrary reasons, whether this be for long- or short-listing of candidates. 

Candidate lists should be critically examined to see whether the applicants are from a suitably diverse group – this recommendation is not intended to demonstrate complete coverage of all demographic groups in the candidate pool, but where there is a clear imbalance, this should be considered by the selection committee/panel. If necessary, additional action (such as an extension to the application deadline, changes to the role specification, or better targeted advertising) may be taken to ensure that the process is truly inclusive. While gender balance is the most prominent attribute to consider, other inclusion attributes should also be considered, including the candidates’ ages, ethnicity, disability, geographic location, and institutional or industrial bases. It would therefore help decision-making if key demographic criteria is explicitly requested in application or nomination forms so that data is available for analysis, as this is not always easily possible to infer. Care may need to be taken here, as some of this information is considered as highly sensitive according to the GDPR regulations, and therefore may have significant punitive legal implications if the appropriate actions are not followed. The ACM also has a Privacy Policy that applies to personal information collected or otherwise received on behalf of ACM (which includes SIGCHI). 

Once a selection decision is made, the selected candidate needs to be informed: unsuccessful candidates should normally also be informed as soon as reasonably possible after a candidate has agreed to take up the position. Under no circumstances should any of the applicants for a role, or anything that might personally identify them, be released outside of the group directly involved in selection. 

Simplified Template for a Role Opening

This is intended to be used flexibly, but sets out the important options to consider including. 

  1. Role title (bearing in mind that volunteers may be using this in their resumes/CVs)
  2. Responsibilities (may acknowledge that the role is flexible and may change)
  3. Why the role is necessary/important
  4. Reporting criteria (e.g,. who the volunteer will report to)
  5. Selection criteria (necessary expertise/knowledge, prior experience, availability, )
  6. Selection process (interview requirements; anonymity; selection panel membership)
  7. Timescales (covering, as appropriate, application deadlines, selection decision timelines)
  8. Role requirements (anticipated weekly/monthly time commitment; travel; regular meetings; etc.)
  9. Other relevant information (e.g., alternative/email application arrangements; travel expenses covered; applicable policies and bylaws)
  10. Contact details to answer questions (usually the chair of the selection panel)

Previous example illustrating aspects of best practice (Role advertisement)

Please note that the example below is for reference only and may not follow the recommendations above in full or as described. 

Call for nominations for SIGCHI Vice-President at Large

The Officers of the SIGCHI Executive Committee include two Vice-Presidents At Large. Currently, both of these positions are vacant. We invite nominations of candidates to fill the positions (self-nominations are allowed). 

A brief description of the Vice-President At Large role can be found in the SIGCHI Bylaws

The duties of the two Vice-Presidents At Large shall be decided by the Executive Committee. These duties are expected to change in response to issues facing SIGCHI.

The current Executive Committee has identified five Strategic Initiatives and therefore is interested in people who are broadly interested in furthering our progress on these initiatives. Please see the link for details, but in short, the initiatives are:

  1. Grow our membership to reflect the community.
  2. Ensure scalability of our organization and conferences.
  3. Enhance HCI knowledge distribution.
  4. Promote inclusivity.
  5. Support local & global HCI.

Nominations will be reviewed by a committee chaired by the Past President of SIGCHI, Loren Terveen. Send questions and nominations to Loren Terveen at terveen@gmail.com. Nominations will be accepted until May 17, 2019

The committee will follow the process below, which is intended as a general procedure to use for selecting candidates for positions on the SIGCHI Executive Committee. The committee will also follow relevant SIGCHI and ACM policies, e.g., as laid out in the SIGCHI Bylaws, the SIGCHI Conflict of Interest Policy, and the ACM Conflict of Interest Policy.  

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  • At the invitation of the SIGCHI President, the Past President will serve as Chair for the nomination process.
  • The Chair will form a nominating committee consisting of two or four other members, thus ensuring the committee will have an odd number of members.
  • The members preferably will have extensive SIGCHI experience, such as having previously served on the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC). While current EC members can be included, the majority of the committee must not be current EC members. If desired, members may also come from other SIGs, if the Chair believes that their perspective would be useful.
  • The Chair will publicize (using the usual SIGCHI channels) the open positions, the committee, and the process, including timeline. 
  • For each open position, the nominating committee:
    • Will publicly solicit nominations, including self nominations.
    • May identify potential candidates themselves.
    • May approach potential candidates (whether nominated externally or identify by the committee) directly to assess their interest.
    • Conduct preliminary assessments, including interviews, with all candidates
  • If the process is to fill an open position during an EC term, the nominating committee (i) will write an assessment of each candidate for the EC to consider, and (ii) may recommend one candidate or rank the candidates. The EC then will select the candidate to invite to fill the open position; this process will be done according to the SIGCHI bylaws.
  • If the process is to produce the triennial slate of candidates, the nominating committee:
  • Will finalize a slate based on their assessments of the potential candidates.
  • Announce the slate, following ACM rules