Barbara Simons

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Barbara B. Simons
Barbara Simons at a lectern
Born (1941-01-26) January 26, 1941 (age 78)
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Spouse(s)James Harris Simons (ex-husband)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
Doctoral advisorRichard M. Karp

Barbara Bluestein Simons (born January 26, 1941) is a computer scientist and the past president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). She is a Ph.D. graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and spent her early career working as an IBM researcher. She is the founder and former co-Chair of USACM, the ACM U.S. Public Policy Council. Her main areas of research are compiler optimization, scheduling theory and algorithm analysis and design.

Simons has worked for technology regulation since 2002, where she advocates for the end of electronic voting. She subsequently serves as the chairperson of the Verified Voting Foundation and coauthored a book on the flaws electronic voting entitled Broken Ballots, with Douglas W. Jones.

Early life[edit]

Simons was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. In high school, she developed an interest for math and science while taking A.P. Math classes. She attended Wellesley College for a year, before moving to Berkeley, California in 1959 to resume her undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley. There, she married James Harris Simons.[1] At the beginning of her junior year she gave birth to a daughter, Liz, and dropped out of Berkeley shortly thereafter to become a mother and a housewife. In this time she decided to pursue a profession in Computer Programming, and began taking computer science classes part-time, before enrolling in graduate school at Stony Brook University.[2][3] After a year of graduate school there, Harris Simons and she divorced in 1974.[4] She transferred back to University of California, Berkeley for the remainder of graduate school, where she concentrated on studying scheduling theory and helped co-found the Women in Computer Science and Engineering club (WiCSE).[3] In 1981, she received her Ph.D. in Computer Science. She is one of a dozen women in U.C. Berkeley's doctoral program, and the only woman to have been given the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from the UC Berkeley College of Engineering.[3]


1981-1998: IBM

After leaving the University of California, Berkeley in 1981, Simons began her career at Research Division of IBM in their Research Division in San Jose. There, she worked on compiler optimization, algorithm analysis, and clock synchronization, which she won an IBM Research Division Award for.[3] In 1992, she began working as a senior programmer in IBM's Applications Development Technology Institute and subsequently as a senior technology adviser for IBM Global Services.[5]

Over the course of her career at IBM, her interests shifted from research to the policy and regulation of technology. She took early retirement retirement from IBM in 1998.[6]

1993-2002: ACM

After leaving IBM in 1998, Simons served as President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the largest computing society in the world, until 2000.[7] She joined ACM when her career focus shifted from computing research to the politics of technology legislation. Prior to becoming the ACM President, Simons founded ACM's US Public Policy Committee (USACM) in 1993. She co-chaired this committee along with the ACM Committee for Scientific Freedom and Human Rights for 9 years. As President, she co-chaired the ACM study of statewide databases of voters in 1999 under President Clinton, called Voter Registration Databases 2000-2002.[8][9] In 1999 she was elected Secretary of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) as ACM President. In 2001 after her time as President, she received ACM’s Outstanding Contribution Award. She is still a Fellow of ACM and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[10]

2008-Present: The Verified Voting Foundation

Since 2008, Simons has served on the Board of Directors of the Verified Voting Foundation, a non-partisan and non-profit organization that advocates for legislation to promotes the safest and most transparent voting.[11] It aims to verify our future election outcomes, by doing this.[3][12]

Work on voting technology policy[edit]

After leaving IBM and serving as ACM President, Simons began working to reverse the dangers of using unverifiable technology in voting. In 2001 she participated in the National Workshop on Internet Voting under President Clinton, where she helped produce a report on Internet Voting. She subsequently served on the President’s Export Council’s Subcommittee on Encryption, as well as on the Information Technology-Sector of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion.[6] She has gone before state legislatures and the U.S. Senate to testify on hearings for cryptography, Internet intellectual property, and online records authentication. She also co-chaired the ACM study of statewide databases of registered voters.[8] She participated on the Security Peer Review Group for the US Department of Defense’s Internet voting project (SERVE) and co-authored the report that led to the cancellation of SERVE because of security concerns 2004.[13][14][11]

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Verified Voting Foundation, Simons has worked for legislation to remove paperless voting machines and published various work about it. She played a key role in changing the League of Women Voters support and use of paperless voting.[15] Initially the League had seen electronic voting as better for disabled people, then endorsed voting machines that are "recountable" after Simons[15] In 2008 she was appointed by Senator Harry Reid to the U.S Election Assistance Commission Board of Advisors, where she contributed to "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA).[11] With fellow computer scientist Douglas Jones, she co-authored a book about electronic voting machines in 2012, titled “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?”.[16][11] Following this, in July 2015 she published another report about electronic voting for the U.S. Vote Foundation entitled The Future of Voting: End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting. She recently co-authored the League of Women Voters report on election auditing.[17]

Subsequent Involvement[edit]

Simons helped found the Reentry Program for Women and Minorities at U.C. Berkeley in the Computer Science Department.[11] She also serves on the Boards of the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) and the Berkeley Foundation for Opportunities in Information Technology (BFOIT), both which promote minorities to learn and work in computing.[5]

In 2005 Simons became the first woman ever to receive the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from the U.C. Berkeley's College of Engineering.[3][4]

She is a member of the Board of Directors at the U.C. Berkeley Engineering Fund, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and sits on the Advisory Boards of the Oxford Internet Institute.[6]

She has also served as a Professor at Stanford University.

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "James Simons". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  2. ^ Leovy, Jill. "Meet the Computer Scientist Championing Paper Ballots". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Q&A with Barbara Simons". Berkeley Engineering. 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  4. ^ a b Teitlebaum, R. (2008, January). The Code Breaker. Bloomberg Magazine.
  5. ^ a b "Doug Engelbart's Colloquium at Stanford | Biography: Barbara Simons". Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  6. ^ a b c Abate, J. (2002, July 11). Oral-History: Barbara Simons. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from
  7. ^ Admin, MemberClicks. "Home". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  8. ^ a b Paula Hawthorn and Barbara Simons (co-chairs), Statewide Databases of Registered Voters: Study Of Accuracy, Privacy, Usability, Security, and Reliability Issues, U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, Feb. 2006.
  9. ^ "Association for Computing Machinery". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  10. ^ "Association for Computing Machinery". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  11. ^ a b c d e United States, SFGOV. Election Commissions.
  12. ^ "". Verified Voting. 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  13. ^ David Jefferson, Aviel D. Rubin, Barbara Simons and David Wagner, A Security Analysis of the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE), Jan. 20, 2004.
  14. ^ Press Release, [Pentagon Decides Against Internet Voting "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2012-01-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)], American Forces Press Service, Feb. 6, 2004.
  15. ^ a b Ronnie Dugger, "How They Could Steal the Election This Time", The Nation, p.13 August 16/23, 2004
  16. ^ Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simons, Broken Ballots, Center for the Study of Language and Information / University of Chicago Press, 2012. See also [1]
  17. ^ Election Audits Task Force, Report on Election Auditing, League of Women Voters of the United States, Jan. 2009.

External links[edit]