Thursday, May 17, 2012

Meetings/Conferences/Workshops/Seminars- whats in a name?

In June 11-14 will be a new workshop: Algorithmic Frontiers.

How many venues do we have for meetings?
  1. What the call themselves:
    Meetings (e.g., MATHFEST), Conferences (e.g., STOC), Workshops (Barriers), Seminars (e.g., Dagstuhl), Tutorials, Lunches. More?
    (six options)
  2. Criteria for getting a paper in: Refereed (e.g., STOC): lightly refereed (I think MATHFEST), unrefereed, talks-by-invite-only (Algorithmic Frontiers, Barriers)
    (four options)
  3. Participants: Open (most)or by-invite-only (Dagstuhl and Bertinoro) (two options)
  4. Size: This is more informal. However, CCC is small (100), STOC is larger (around 400), FCRC larger still, and Supercomputing is expecting 11,000. Medical conventions can get around 20,000.
    (five options, though could be more or less depending on your mood.)
  5. Variety of activities: A venue can have any combination of the following: contributed talks (unrefereed), refereed talks (typical STOC), invited talks, rump sessions,
    tutorials, workshops, short courses. (128 combinations, though in reality only about 5 options actually happen, so I'll take it as 5)
  6. Length: Number of days can be anything from 1 day to 2 months. However, I don't think all 60 options really exist. I've seen 1,2,3,4,5 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, and 2 months. nine options.
  7. Expense: Either expensive or VERY expensive.
So that would be 6x4x2x5x5x9x2. That's a lot! Of course its far far less since, for example, an invite-only gathering can only have invited talks. I would guess its more like 5 types. And some are inconsistent (e.g., STOC sometimes has tutorials and sometimes doesn't).

Algorithmic Frontiers seems to be a 4-day open workshop that has invited talks only. I don't know how big it will be but I would guess between 100 and 200.

Do the gatherings that we go to work? As my Software engineering friend Jim Purtilo often says If you don't know your goals you are not going to achieve them. So, what are the goals? Ultimately to help both us as individuals and us as a community in our research. The hope is we learn things and get inspired to work on problems. And these can be done by the formal talks in the ballroom and informal talks in the hallways. Does this happen? Yes. Is it cost effective (not just money but time)? Debatable, as this and other blogs have debated. Here are my experiences. What are yours?
  1. DAGSTUHL SEMINARS. These are specialized one-week long meetings by
    invitation only. The talks need not be on the latest/greatest thing and hence are understandable. (I've been to DAGSTUHL- Complexity 3 times.)
  2. Bertinoro is similar to Dagstuhl. I've been to the RATLOCC 2011 and
    RATLOCC 2009 which are on Ramsey Theory and Logic. Here there were even more talks
    that were surveys or historical-perhaps because math moves slower than computer science.
    If the talks were on the INTERSECTION Of Ramsey Theory and Logic then it would be too specialized.
    (I've worked in both, but not quite together.)
    As is, its a nice mix.
    But the main point- I understood the talks.
  3. The Center for Intractability sponsors workshops which anyone can go to
    but the speakers are picked by them. I've been to one of the Barriers workshops and it was very good. The speakers have more time then at conferences,
    which is a plus. The Algorithmic Frontiers workshop seems to be in this model.
  4. The last few CCC's and STOC's that I've gone to I have enjoyed and gotten stuff out of, but not as much as the smaller venues.
    Partly because the talks are shorter.
    which is a plus. The Algorithmic Frontiers workshop seems to be in this model.
  5. MATHFEST is nice in that there is a VARIETY Of activities- workshops, seminar, tutorials, invited talks.
    Very large which is both good (that's why they can have all of these things and bad (I never met the same person twice).
  6. One of my colleagues, Jeff Hollingsworth, is organizing SC12, Supercomputing 2012.
    This will have 11,000 people at it. The program committee has over 100 people
    on it. This seems... large. They seem to have a variety of activities
    so it more like MATHFEST.
  7. Of course the talks are only part of the reason to go to these things. Even so, for me they are a big reason.

What venues to YOU get the most out of? Why or why not?



  2. I tend to judge by the probability of starting a research project that will eventually become a paper, so this would be by opportunities for collaborations and for hearing talks that give new ideas. I usually get the most from invited talk venues like Dagstuhl and DIMACS workshops (in the latter attendance is open to all), and second most from conferences like FOCS/STOC. On the other side very large gatherings usually work the least for me.