In a comment on my post SODA 2009 CFP that Shiva Kintali pointed out that SODA is encouraging authors who submit to post their submissions on their own websites. He is correct that they are encouraging it, see here, but is he correct that it is an excellent idea? This raises a few questions.
- You are on the SODA committee. You read a paper that is very good and that you can build on. You make sure it gets rejected from SODA and then write your own paper that is similar. Obviously unethical. But since her paper is on line early she can easily prove that she obtained the results first. Does just having a paper on your website count? I would say yes, and this would be a good reason to post. However, I doubt this scenario is common.
- You are on the SODA committee. You read a paper that you can build on. You really want to get a legit copy of it so you can start working, fully intending to credit previous work. You go to the authors website. Its not there! Perhaps you are motivated to get it INTO SODA so that you can use it and reference it. This might be a good reason for the author to NOT post to give them an edge. However, I doubt this scenario is common.
- If you are on a program committee or a subreferee or refereeing a grant then you are morally obligated to not steal any work that you see in that capacity. You are also not even allowed to build on the work. But are you allowed to look at the authors website to find the work so you can then build on it (and properly credit it)? I would think so. What if the author does not want you to to this. Then she would not put the paper on her website. But now SODA is urging her to do so. Is this appropriate on the part of SODA? Shouldn't the author have the choice of perhaps not going public yet because she wants to work on the problem some more? Of course, at this point its is just urging to post on your website not mandatory. But will this urging turn into mandatory at some point?