Saturday, November 23, 2002

FOCS and Visas

The FOCS Conference, the major fall theory conference held last week in Vancouver, sounded like a complete success. According to PC Chair Bernard Chazelle there were 320 registrants--quite a healthy number for this conference. Most encouraging was the larger number of students attending as well as a number of strong student papers indicating a solid future for theoretical computer science.

The 320 does not count another 50 "registrants" from Nigeria. They registered with fake credit card numbers in order to obtain letters from the conference organizers to help them obtain visas to go in this case to Canada. Whether they got the visas is unclear and they, of course, never showed up at the conference.

The temptation to help those from Africa is strong, especially since that continent is woefully underrepresented in computer science. However we must as a community be diligent against those who use our conferences as a way to get around standard immigration laws. Whether or not we agree with those laws, if abuses of this nature continue it becomes harder to bring in legitimate scientists, a problem I discussed in my last post.

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