During the SODA Business Meeting I was a bit alarmed at some of the suggestions made for where the conference should be held in future years—some of the locations that even received substantial support were Paris and Buenos Aires. I have nothing against these locations, in fact Paris is one of my favorite cities to visit and Buenos Aires is high up on the places I want to visit. (I also want to visit Chile and Antarctica!) I wanted to make a few remarks about exotic locations.
- The cost of sending students to conferences is already non-trivial. At least with NYC the travel costs are low for many students between DC and Boston. For faculty who are trying their best to stretch limited travel funds to pay for several students, moving the conferences to exotic locations makes life quite difficult. I would like to see major US conferences held in places where there is a substantial presence of students—Boston, Bay Area, NY, DC to name a few. We should move the conferences around, so that each student has an opportunity to attend a major conference in their area during their studies. If someone made a convincing argument about the benefit to Argentina theory grad students that would be an argument for Buenos Aires.
- At a conference I spend 90% of my time indoors. For the 2 hours I spend outdoors each evening, it almost does not matter where one is. There are nice cities in the US to visit and NY, DC and San Francisco have emerged as popular locations, drawing a big audience. If we moved the conference or even alternated between the east and west coasts, that would be terrific.
- There are visa issues for students on F1 visas making it tricky for them to attend meetings outside the US. For some students getting a visa involves them visiting their home country first, since they cannot get a re-entry visa to the US from some random country. There are already a lot of European theory conferences (SWAT, ICALP, ESA, STACS) to name a few. There are fewer conferences in N. America (STOC, FOCS, SODA). We had one STOC in Greece and one FOCS in Rome already. The other theory meetings such as PODC, PODS, LICS, SPAA already move around between Europe and N. America, why are we then taking our major conference and trying to move it to locations that make it harder for our students to attend?
Thanks to Moses Charikar and Sudipto Guha for comments.