But I fear these efforts have not addressed the most fundamental question: Is the conference-publication "system" serving us well today? Before we try to fix the conference publication system, we must determine whether it is worth fixing.
In 1999, the CRA published a best practices memo about tenure that legitimizes conferences as the primary place of publication.
The reason conference publication is preferred to journal publication, at least for experimentalists, is the shorter time to print (7 months vs 1-2 years), the opportunity to describe the work before one's peers at a public presentation, and the more complete level of review (4-5 evaluations per paper compared to 2-3 for an archival journal) [Academic Careers, 94]. Publication in the prestige conferences is inferior to the prestige journals only in having significant page limitations and little time to polish the paper. In those dimensions that count most, conferences are superior.
Vardi make several points.
- Fast dissemination is not an issue with on-line archives.
- The quality of reviewing is higher for journals than for conferences.
- Every other academic field uses journals as the primary focus of publication.
Moshe ends his letter asking for further discussion.
So, I want to raise the question whether "we are driving on the wrong side of the publication road." I believe that our community must have a broad and frank conversation on this topic. This discussion began in earnest in a workshop at the 2008 Snowbird Conference on Paper and Proposal Reviews: Is the Process Flawed?
I cannot think of a forum better than Communications in which to continue this conversation. I am looking forward to your opinions.