ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today named Barbara Simons the recipient of the 2019 ACM Policy Award for long-standing, high-impact leadership as ACM President and founding Chair of ACM’s US Public Policy Committee (USACM), while making influential contributions to improve the reliability of and public confidence in election technology. Over several decades, Simons has advanced technology policy by founding and leading organizations, authoring influential publications, and effecting change through lobbying and public education.
Twenty-six years ago, Barbara Simons founded USACM to address emerging public policy issues around technology, and led the committee for nine years. She worked to build ACM’s policy activities and pioneered bridging the technical expertise of computer scientists with the policymaking of the US government.
Simons recruited an interdisciplinary team for USACM, the forerunner of today’s US Technology Policy Committee (USTPC), ranging from computer scientists and industry leaders to lawyers and experts in public policy. Now part of ACM’s Technology Policy Council (TPC), which serves global regions, the TPC groups have continued Simons’ original vision for ACM: to provide cogent advice and analysis to legislators and policymakers about a wide range of issues including cryptography, computer security, privacy, and intellectual property.
Simons is internationally known as an expert on voting technology, an advocate for auditable paper-based voting systems, and author of numerous papers on secure election technology. Through her publications, reports, testimony to the US Congress, and advocacy, Simons has been a key player in persuading election officials to shift to paper-based voting systems, and has contributed to proposals for reforms in election technologies, including post-election ballot audits. Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?, the 2012 book Simons co-authored with Douglas Jones, is regarded as the best available analysis of the risks of using computing technology in voting.
Simons served as ACM President from 1998 – 2000. In 2001, she served on President Clinton’s Export Council’s Subcommittee on Encryption and the National Workshop on Internet Voting, which conducted one of the first studies of internet voting.
Since 2008, Simons has served as one of two US Senate appointees to the Board of Advisors of the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and she was named Chair of the Board of Advisors subcommittee on election security in 2019. She currently also chairs the Board of Directors of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for legislation and regulation that promotes accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections. She remains active with ACM as a member of the global Technology Policy Council and as Co-chair of USTPC’s Voting subcommittee.
Simons is the only woman to have received the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from the College of Engineering of the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her PhD in Computer Science. Taking a nontraditional path to her degree after returning to school as a single mother, she was a co-founder of the University of California Computer Science Department Reentry Program for Women and Minorities. She then worked as a computer scientist for IBM’s Research Division for nearly two decades. She is a Fellow of ACM and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Simons received the Computing Research Association Distinguished Service Award, the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award, the ACM Outstanding Contribution Award, and the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Norbert Wiener Award.
About the ACM Policy Award
The ACM Policy Award was established in 2014 to recognize an individual or small group that had a significant positive impact on the formation or execution of public policy affecting computing or the computing community. This can be for education, service, or leadership in a technology position; for establishing an innovative program in policy education or advice; for building the community or community resources in technology policy; or other notable policy activity. The award is accompanied by a $10,000 prize.
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.