The annual SIGMOD Jim Gray Doctoral Dissertation Award recognizes excellent research by doctoral candidates in the database field. This award, which was previously known as the SIGMOD Doctoral Dissertation Award, was renamed in 2008 with the unanimous approval of ACM Council in honor of Dr. Jim Gray.

SIGMOD Jim Gray Doctoral Dissertation Award winners and runners-up will be recognized at the SIGMOD conference, and their dissertations will be included at the SIGMOD Online web site. Winners of the award will also receive a plaque and be given the opportunity to present his or her work together with the winners of the SIGMOD Innovations and Test of Time awards. They will also be invited to serve on an evaluation committee at least once in the subsequent years.

Submitted dissertations must have been accepted by a university department in any country during the previous year as detailed below.


Nominations are limited to one doctoral dissertation per department. Nominated dissertations for the 2020 Award must be submitted by February 29, 2020. For the 2020 Award, we invite submissions for dissertations awarded between September 1, 2018 and August 31, 2019. Each submitted doctoral dissertation must be on a topic within the scope of SIGMOD’s mission, i.e., large scale data management. Each nominated dissertation must also have been successfully defended by the candidate, and the final version of each nominated dissertation must have been accepted by the candidate’s department between September 1, 2018 and August 31, 2019. An English-language version of the dissertation must be submitted with the nomination. A dissertation can be nominated for both the SIGMOD Jim Gray Doctoral Dissertation Award and the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award.

Selection Procedure

This is a two-phase process. In the first phase, nominated dissertations are reviewed for novelty, technical depth and significance of research contribution, potential impact on theory and practice, and quality of presentation. A committee performs an initial screening to generate a short list, followed by an in-depth evaluation by the award committee of the dissertations on the short list. In the second phase, more in-depth discussion of the potential award-winning dissertations will be held, and reviewers will provide justification for their ranking.

The award committee will inform the candidates about the result of the selection well before the ACM SIGMOD Conference takes place each year, to allow the winner(s) to be recognized at the conference the same year.

The award committee shall consist of two co-chairs and five committee members serving staggered three-year terms. A past award winner will be invited on a yearly basis to join the committee as its eighth member. The co-chairs will take turns to chair the process, and a committee member (including co-chair) who has a student as a potential candidate in a given year will be excused from the evaluation that year.

Submission Procedure

All nomination materials must be in English, and must be submitted electronically to the CMT system ( by February 29, 2020. Late submissions or resubmissions will not be considered. A nomination must include:

  1. Title and abstract (limited to 5000 characters) of the thesis, entered directly into the submission system.
  2. A nomination letter, written by the dissertation advisor of the candidate. This letter must include:
    • the name, email address, mail address, and phone number of the advisor,
    • the name, email address, and address of the candidate,
    • a summary of one or two pages of the significance of the dissertation, and
    • for cases where parts of the dissertation are based on joint work (e.g., with other students), a description of the nominee’s individual contribution to the joint work.
  3. An endorsement letter signed by the department head.
  4. A signed statement from the nominee, giving permission for the dissertation to appear at SIGMOD Online if the dissertation is selected as an award recipient.
  5. One PDF copy of the doctoral dissertation.
  6. Optionally, the nomination may include up to two supporting letters from other individuals, discussing the significance of the dissertation. The writers of the supporting letters can alternatively email their letters directly to the chairs of the award committee by the deadline.

Items 1-5 are compulsory – any missing item constitutes ground for rejection without further consideration. Candidates may submit at most 3 zipped files: one for items 2-4, one for the thesis, and one for item 6 (if any).

Either the nominee or the nominator can submit the material. Supporting letters can be included in the submission, and they can also be emailed to the award committee chairs.

Award Committee

  • Pinar Tozun, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark (co-chair)
  • Viktor Leis, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany (co-chair)
  • Peter Bailis, Stanford University, USA (member, 2017 winner)
  • Alexandra Meliou, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA (member)
  • Bailu Ding, Microsoft Research, USA (member)
  • Vanessa Braganholo, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil (member)
  • Immanuel Trummer, Cornell University, USA (member, 2017 honorable mention)
  • Joy Arulraj, Georgia Tech, USA (member, 2019 winner)