Discussion Questions: Funding and Sponsorship Principles for Interdisciplinary Work on Computer Science and Law

Questions have been raised about the principles that should guide sponsorships for conferences and other activities to support interdisciplinary work in the computer science and law field. The organizers of this conference have decided to respond to these concerns as follows.

After the conclusion of the ACM Inaugural Symposium on Computer Science and Law, the organizers will prepare a report on a variety of topics related to collaboration between these fields.  The report will include recommendations on funding and sponsorship principles for future work. As a one-time event, this symposium adopted an initial set of sponsorship principles that address governance and transparency questions regarding financial sponsors of this symposium. There will be no change in funding or sponsorship of this event. However, the organizers of any future ACM computer science and law events or activities would consider these questions afresh. Therefore, in order to inform future events, we would like views on the following questions and would also welcome other topics that ought to be considered.

  • Sources: Can funding be accepted from any source? If not, what are the disqualifying factors? 
    • Capabilities or services: Are there certain technical features, capabilities, or services that, if offered by the source, should disqualify it under any circumstances? 
    • Customers or users: Are there certain classes of customers or users who make a company unacceptable as a donor? What fraction of a company’s business would trigger this disqualification?
    • Tools vs tailored services: How should these rules apply in the case of general-purpose services (data analytics systems, office productivity software, etc) that can be used for a wide variety of purposes?
  • Uses: Does it matter what the contribution is used for? Are there any particular uses (student fellowships vs. conference meals and facilities) that might affect whether a particular sponsor should be included?
  • Decision-making: Academic conferences and related activities are generally governed by program committees. Is it ever appropriate for donors to have control over the contents of a program, speakers invited, etc.? Can funders be members of program committees or other planning bodies? 
  • Transparency: Should the identities of donors and amounts (or “tiers”) of their contributions always be made public, or is it ever appropriate to accept anonymous donations? How should one address ‘reputation-washing’ efforts by donors to enhance or rehabilitate their public reputations by being associated with an event or activity in this field?
  • Other questions?

Those who are not attending the symposium are invited to provide comments through this form. The symposium organizers will consider all comments in preparing their final report and recommendations.