Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Special Issues

Journals dominate the non-research talk at STOC. We had a long discussion at the business meeting about the special issue of STOC. A little background: For the past 24 years the STOC program committee selects 6-10 papers from the conference and one of the PC members serves as editor of a special issue of a journal where all these papers are invited to appear. The Journal of Computer and System Sciences (JCSS) has always hosted the special issue for STOC as well as a few other conferences including FOCS and Complexity.

JCSS became an Elsevier journal a few years ago when Elsevier bought Academic Press. Elsevier has come under attack over the past few years in our field for their pricing policies, an issue discussed in this weblog before. Some editorial boards have resigned and many others are considering it. The current PC chair (and fellow U. Chicago Professor) Laszlo Babai has strong negative feelings towards Elsevier and spearheaded the issue at the conference.

The STOC Executive Board has final say on the future of the special issue but based on the business meeting discussion, the special issue for STOC will likely move to SIAM Journal on Computing (SICOMP) perhaps as early as this year.

My concern, which I expressed at the meeting, is that we already have a culture where too many papers never appear in a journal, i.e., never get written with full proofs and go through a rigorous refereeing process. The more negative press we give towards journals the more likely authors will take the easy solution of no journal. When was the last time you downloaded the journal paper never written?

Update 6/18: Hal Gabow, chair of SIGACT, has set up a website containing additional information on the meeting and subsequent procedures.


  1. Was the option to publish the special issue in the newfounded electronic journal "Theory of Computing" discussed? If so, why did people decide against this?

  2. Excellent idea, Jan. This sounds like a great way to provide the newly founded journal with the exposure it deserves.

    Victor Glazer

  3. Free electronic journals are not always successful
    as the Chicago Journal of Theoretical Computer Science
    shows. Stability is important for journals
    and given a choice between a prestigious and
    very low cost journal from an established society
    such as ACM or SIAM and a free journal started very recently, most people would choose the former. This
    was reflected in the business meeting voting - SICOMP
    was chosen over ToC.