Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Nothing Like a Deadline to Ruin Your Day

Some upcoming deadlines: STOC (11/4), Complexity (11/18), Electronic Commerce (12/7), the new NSF program Theoretical Foundations (1/5), and ICALP (2/13). Feel free to comment if I've missed something.

Since computer science takes its conferences more seriously than the journals and most conferences have hard deadlines, we have become a deadline-driven field. Most authors submit their papers on the deadline day, if not in the last hour or two. Papers get written to meet a deadline which has both good and bad aspects: good in that papers get written and bad in that they get written quickly and often incompletely.

Sometimes conference organizers see a lack of submissions (forgeting that most papers come on deadline day) and extend the deadline by a few days or a week. I've often heard people complain about losing their weekends if a deadline moves from Friday to Monday. Why? You could still submit on Friday. People feel their papers are never complete and they need to keep fixing it up until the last possible second even though these last minute changes will not likely affect acceptance.

One person I knew once turned down an opportunity to attend a workshop because of a grant deadline on the same week. This was six months beforehand. A little planning is all that's needed to submit the grant one week early but some in our field cannot pull this off even months ahead of time.

Remember that deadlines are upper bounds, no shame in submitting early. And it's not the end of the world if you miss a deadline; there's always another conference with another deadline right around the corner.


  1. At the closing of some conference a couple of years ago, there was a short presentation on conference statistics (number of attendees, number of papers, etc). Among the graphs presented there was a timeline showing number of submissions as time approaches the deadline: the curve was exponential, with very few early submissions and the bulk (>99%) within 1 hour of the deadline.

    The slide also correlated the acceptance rate with the time of submission: it turns out that papers closer to the deadline were more likely to be accepted.

    Yes, correlation is not causation, but this statistic seems to support the general feeling that "papers are never complete" and "need fixing until the last possible second".

  2. I saw the same sort of thing all the time TAing undergrad CS classes. Students would actively complain if a homework deadline was extended, because it meant they had to work on the assignment for longer. I would try to tell them that they weren't losing anything by submitting on time like they had planned, but most people disagreed.

    One time, Spring break was right in the middle of a homework cycle. So we just pushed the deadline back, giving people more than three weeks for a two-week assignment, and still leaving them several school days after break to work on it, so they wouldn't be rushing to make the deadline during break. They still complained.

    I guess that reflects well on our teaching style... we were giving students an opportunity to practice the deadline-skating that's done by all the real researchers... ;)

  3. ESA: April 12, 2005

  4. EUROCRYPT -- November 15

  5. About correlation between early submission and rejection: isn't a likely explanation that papers submitted early are those that were rejected by a previous conference?