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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Suggestion for STOC /FOCS(guest post)

(Guest post from Shiva Kintali. All capital letters, italics, and boldface are from Shiva.) A request to FOCS/STOC PC members Hi All, I would like to point out a concern I have about the FOCS/STOC conference proceedings. There is a huge gap of around four months between the announcement of accepted papers and the conference date. For example: STOC'07 acceptance date was Feb-18th and conference date is June 11. FOCS'07 acceptance date was July 1st and conference date is Oct 21.

Most of the authors don't upload their drafts/camera-ready papers on their homepages, for some unknown reasons. Some of them are kind enough to send their drafts if you send them an e-mail. Some don't bother to reply. If there is an exciting result (most of the STOC/FOCS papers have exciting results), most of us would like to know the techniques used, as soon as possible. For example, one of the FOCS'07 result helped me a lot in my research. I knew that the result can be used in my research, but I had to wait for four months. Waiting for four months to know the details of a result is really frustrating.

Also, there is a gap of around 40 days between the acceptance date and the deadline for camera-ready submissions. I guess the difference between the submitted paper and camera ready version is latexification and adding the suggestions of the reviewers. This should not take more than couple of weeks. Once the committe is happy with the camera-ready version, the digital proceedings can be uploaded on the ACM/IEEE portals. I think a gap of one month between the acceptance date and uploading the digital proceedings is reasonable. Of course, this would require some hardwork from the authors and the committee. This hardwork would not go waste !!

Can somebody PLEASE propose this in the next FOCS/STOC business meeting !!

30 comments:

  1. That would mean they would have 3 less months to make a camera-ready paper. Some authors *need* those 3 months to write legibly. Many theory papers are hard to read by nature, and getting your preprint early might cost an extra day or two of *your* time parsing their paper.

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  2. How about just posting a short description of the results? I am happy with that.

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  3. In most cases, one doesn't need 40 days to prepare the camera-ready version. But, sometimes, it's necessary. PC-requested mergers of two separate submissions would be one example.

    Andris

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  4. Could someone please explain to me why an author would not respond to a request for a paper? (Even a response saying "contact me again in 1 month" would be fine.) I have had this happen to me on more than one occasion and I just don't get it.

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  5. > Could someone please explain to me why an author would not respond to a request for a paper?

    Some possibilities:

    1) Spamfilters

    2) Email lost in the sea of other emails on that day

    3) He/she does not like you

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  6. Unlike an average student, most faculty members and researchers are juggling many things. 40 days may seem like a lot but sometimes people only have a few days given all the constraints and the coordination with co-authors.

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  7. SODA is even worse than STOC/FOCS. I don't know what's going on with it
    (is it SIAM related ?) but does anyone know why SODA 2007 (!) is not in the ACM Digital Library ? I mean, SODA'08 deadline has already passed.
    Is the printed copy the only option ?

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  8. This is slightly off-topic, but related: after I work a year or so on a result, and after the paper is being reviewed for another year or so, and after the paper is being edited by the publisher for a few months, why do I get only 72 hours to find all the errors the typesetter inserted in my 20-page submission?

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  9. when and if FOCS declares in its accepted list of papers NP \neq P...i am ready to wait another 2 months to see actual proof...i'll be more than happy to know that there is indeed a reviewed accepted paper which proves this result.... 40 days for useful result is really not a long time of waiting.... remember the days when internet did not exist??

    many authors collaborate and in fact need long time to put together the whole result neatly typed...those who have it ready always show the courtesy to pass on the draft when written to them....

    i find the suggestion rather futile...

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  10. Often the technical details can take a long time to put into place, even after you have a good enough idea of how the proofs go forward in order to write a short version of the paper. For instance, chasing epsilons can be a sticky business. Allowing only 1 month would be a great way to guarantee that the camera-ready versions are sloppy and unreadable, to say the least. Also, keep in mind that for most authors, getting that camera-ready version ready is not the only thing on their plate.

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  11. Could someone please explain to me why an author would not respond to a request for a paper?

    Generally, people who don't reply to your emails, are doing this out of selfishness:
    if your just a student, for instance, then your not that important to them, so they don't feel they have any interest in replying to you.

    Typically, these are "also-ran" researchers that have some kind of ego problems, or are just rude people.

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  12. I think giving 40 days for camera-ready is fine, but putting the camera-ready right away (as opposed to waiting 4 months) would be great. Of course, this would require some change in the way things are handled. Not the least of those, it would drastically reduce the usefulness of the proceedings. Why would one need them, if ALL the papers are available electronically 4 months before the proceedings are out? For me, this would be great, but some people might object to it.

    Regarding not sending the copy of the paper, there is one more (unfortunate) reason. Sometimes you are busy doing something else (e.g., have a deadline, or respond to some other email), or the paper is not readily available in a good form (say, you are almost finished with the final version which is better than submission or camera-ready). Then you just postpone replying to email, saying you would do it after the pressing thing is over or the paper is ready. And, unfortunately, with many other things that come, you can simply forget. I realize this is also not nice, but, at least, this is done because of bad organizational skills/memory, but not due to rudeness or selfishness. I have to admit it happened to me once or twice. The moment I would accidentally see such an email (usually after a while), I would immediately respond with an honest apology.

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  13. Some of the papers (especially the ones coming from the industry) contain patentable results, and a suggestion like this changes the date of public disclosure. So legally I don't think the PC can do something like this, unless they clearly state this in the call for papers.

    Besides, I think this is completely pointless.

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  14. On a separate topic, has anyone noticed that there is not one person on the 30 person SODA committee that could be called a "data structures researcher"?

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  15. Regarding the comments of Anons (1) and (3):

    Anon (1) says:

    Some authors *need* those 3 months to write legibly.


    Uh, the post is about an accepted paper - if it was that illegible, it shouldn't have been accepted to begin with.

    Anon (3), Andris, says:
    In most cases, one doesn't need 40 days to prepare the camera-ready version. But, sometimes, it's necessary. PC-requested mergers of two separate submissions would be one example.

    This is a separate topic - PCs have no business suggesting/requesting/requiring mergers of the written version of the papers. It's fair, IMHO, for the PC to decide to include only one time slot for a talk by one of the authors, but it is utterly unreasonable to demand that they will not allot another 10 pages in the proceedings. Paper is relatively cheap, and the effort to merge is often enormous, and kills individuality.

    Andris

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  16. This is Anon (15).

    Apologies for leaving the name "Andris" at the bottom of the comment - it was a cut-and-paste from Andris' comment, and was meant to be edited out before hitting "Publish your Comment".

    Comment #15 was not by Andris.

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  17. Some of the papers (especially the ones coming from the industry) contain patentable results

    Most ToC papers don't have any patentable results. I am too don't really understand those people that don't publish their results deliberately.
    (Could somebody please explain to me what is the reason behind this? If there's a good reason, maybe I'll conceal my papers too!)

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  18. Shiva,

    You're complaining about 4 months? I know networking conferences (such as INFOCOM) where the gap is much longer (at least six)... theory is actually reasonably good about this!

    Authors may not upload their papers for many reasons. First, the final versions might not actually be done until the due date. Some people like to wait to post their final version. Or, as mentioned, if you work for a company, there are IP hurdles to deal with. Some might actually be working on extensions to the problem, and might not want to release the result quite yet. Or, most likely, 100 other things are higher on the to-do list that month.

    I'm glad you think one month between the acceptance date and uploading to digital proceedings is reasonable. I'd probably (thought not positively) disagree. As others have mentioned, sometimes more time is a big help. Professors are much busier than you imagine. Especially if they write blogs. (As a grad student, I didn't believe it when professors complained about how busy they were; as punishment, now I know...) Consider that a professor who has some travel, classes, etc. might have two weeks before they can even sit down to examine the comments, and now imagine they have more than one paper, and you start to see the need for time.

    I do think authors should work to make their papers available, and there's no call for ignoring e-mail. But keeping in mind professors are busy, have you really exhausted all of your possible approaches? Have you politely e-mailed a second time, in case the mail got lost in their spool? Have you asked your advisor to send an e-mail on your behalf? Have you called and left a message, or asked a grad student at the professor's institution to ask for you? I have found myself that sometimes it takes more than one request to get a response, but most people do want others to read their work, and a little perseverance goes a long way.

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  19. I don't think IP is the issue here. When I worked in industry, the company wanted to clear any IP issues before *submission* of the paper. Is it different at other companies?

    As for Michael's comment:
    "Some might actually be working on extensions to the problem, and might not want to release the result quite yet."

    This may be true, but somehow doesn't seem very in line with the research ethic. (Plus it gives PC members an unfair advantage.)

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  20. Anonymous said:

    "I don't think IP is the issue here. When I worked in industry, the company wanted to clear any IP issues before *submission* of the paper. Is it different at other companies?"

    I have been told submission of a paper is not considered disclosure, since the paper is kept private. So IP issues may still apply. (For example, right now I have a paper that we've submitted that I'm not putting up on my web page until my corporate co-authors give me the OK...)

    "As for Michael's comment:
    "Some might actually be working on extensions to the problem, and might not want to release the result quite yet."

    This may be true, but somehow doesn't seem very in line with the research ethic. (Plus it gives PC members an unfair advantage.)
    "

    I think it's at least debatable whether somewhat has an obligation under "the research ethic" to make public a paper that is ready but has not been otherwise publicly released, although I personally like my papers out as soon as possible.

    Also, if the PC members are acting ethically, it gives them no unfair advantage. PC members are supposed to treat submissions as confidential, and are explicitly NOT supposed to work on things related to papers they've read as PC members until they've otherwise become public in some other manner. (They can always ask the author for the paper, just like anyone else, of course.) In practice, I'm sure it doesn't always work that way, but the suggested advantage only occurs when PC members act unethically, which hopefully is rarely the case.

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  21. To follow up on the IP issues: As I understand it, the disclosure to the PC impacts international patent rights but not US patent rights. Only the public disclosure at the conference (or by posting/distributing a paper)impacts US patent rights.

    As has been mentoned, authors often try to improve their papers significantly between their submitted and final versions. One such example is Cook's paper "The Complexity of Theorem Proving Procedures" which defined and explored the notion of NP-complete problems in the submitted version but apparently did not have the full proof of the NP-completeness of SAT until the final version.

    The real delay is between the final version submission and the conference itself which is typically not much more than two months. (This is dictated by the proceedings production schedule of the publishers and is out of the control of the conference organizaers or PC.)

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  22. For FOCS accepts, you should know that many authors are not only very busy, they are often also traveling during the summer. It takes time to finish and post papers online, and most of the times these tasks get postponed for nonacademic reasons. It usually doesn't mean anything when there is a delay in posting a paper online. Be patient.

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  23. I think the point of the initial post refers to something different. It's very surprising that people only mentioned this indirectly. Someone has a bunch of results. She sends some to a conference but she works in improving them between the acceptance notification and proceedings. During this time interval nobody knows the results (but the PC) and nobody gets notified. It's true that this is the hurt of the problem and such kind of VERY LOW QUALITY researchers should have their names posted on some website, or printed on toilet papers or something of the equivalent (appropriate) nature.

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  24. Sorry, I can't see why such a researcher is "VERY LOW QUALITY." Can you elaborate?

    I've always posted my own papers, but I can understand and respect that some people don't want to or can't. I don't think waiting three months is so big a deal I'd print people's names on toilet paper.

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  25. "VERY LOW QUALITY" might not be the right phrasing, but how about "total jerk" (in my head I'm using a far more offensive term than "jerk")?

    You can keep anything you want secret, and you have no obligation to publish anything. The trade-off is that you don't get any credit for what you don't publish. You can't say after the fact "Oh, I thought of that too", and you can't reserve credit very far in advance of providing the details.

    Some people try to take advantage of loop holes, by submitting a paper and then keeping it secret for as long as possible. There's a gray area here, when the paper is actively being revised, but once the final version of a paper is complete, it is thoroughly despicable to withhold it from the community.

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  26. PS:

    I can understand and respect that some people don't want to or can't

    I'm very skeptical of anyone who "can't" post their paper. In rare cases, there may be real intellectual property concerns, but at least 95% of the time these concerns are nonsense. It's in your best interests to file for patents as soon as possible, after which disclosure is not an issue. If necessary, a lawyer can file a provisional US patent application in one day (although that's a huge rush). There's rarely a good excuse for waiting until the last minute.

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for people who "don't want" to make their papers available before the conference. This takes just a couple of minutes to do (at most!), and it is easy to get a graduate student to do it if the authors aren't up to the challenge of making a web page. The only reasons not to want to are either that the authors simply don't care about the community or that they hope to derive some advantage from keeping the results secret. Neither case says anything good about the authors' character.

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  27. Authors have lots to do and the number of requirements for final submission have become more onerous in the last few years so it is not surprising that they forget to post or don't have time to do so right away. At least with STOC/FOCS/SODA people do typically post their papers on their web pages some time after final submission.

    I have noticed that with conference proceedings published through LNCS a lower percentage of papers seem to get posted and more end up just with pointers to SpringerLink, probably because of less pleasant copyright agreements.

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  28. Hi All,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts !!

    -Shiva

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  29. here's one possible solution: if the largest hurdle is time to post the paper to a webpage, we can have the easychair submission have an additional checkbox: make this submission publicly available on our webpage? and these papers are made publicly available on the easychair webpage, or on the PCs webpage, or on the conference webpage.

    the other reason why i dont buy professors being busy, how come some professors find the time to make their paper publicly available on ECCC while others dont?

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  30. Yeah, business is a bit of a bogus problem. The problem is that being seen as busy gets you a lot of respect (for having many ideas for papers, graduate students to supervise, conferences to attend, etc.). On the one hand, there's pressure to overcommit to things and then blow off whatever seems least important. On the other hand, even if you aren't really super-busy, you look good if you complain about how busy you are and blow off minor things.

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