Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Ideal Conference

I found the perfect CS conference. A meeting where computer scientists from all its subdisciplines come together. Not with the purpose of presenting their current research and padding their CVs, but to hear about the latest ideas in the field, learn how to be stronger members of the CS community and above all network, meeting other computer scientists making connections and sharing ideas. This meeting draws a large segment of its intended audience, so popular it has to close registration. A conference that fulfills that most important conference mission: building community.

The only problem: I'm not invited to the party, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and its over 2000 attendees.

The Grace Hopper is a great event but why can't computer science also have such a meeting the embraces the entire CS community? Are we just too big? We could have a large meeting in January built around academic recruiting, where job candidates and hiring committees can have initial discussion and narrow the number of interviews needed later on. Many other academic fields, including mathematics and economics, follow this model.

The most important the purpose of this meeting would be for people to meet, build a strong CS community and make us feel proud to call ourselves computer scientists.


  1. Who says you're not invited? Yes, it's primarily aimed at women in computing, but we would love it if more men attended. We need the support of our male colleagues, not just each other.

  2. One of the biggest draws of the Joint AMS/MAA Math Meetings is academic recruiting. A big component of that are contributed presentations, where grad students can present their research and hiring institutions can see a mini job talk without paying for an on-campus interview.

    There does not seem to be a way in CS for hiring committees to see such presentations unless 1) the hiring committee has a researcher in that specific area 2) the grad student presented a paper at a major conference, and 3) they were both at that conference AND the researcher actually watched the talk.

  3. I second Allison's comment - Grace Hopper doesn't have a sign out front saying 'no boyz allowed'.

    Also - Grace Hopper is in Portland next year! Come see how wonderful Oregon is!

  4. For those who have BEEN to the Grace Hopper Conference- does it match Lance's
    description? Please comment.

    Comp Sci would have a harder time with an all encompassing conference then MATH
    or BIOLOGY or other fields since Comp Sci is more diverse. While all fields have subfields that don't talk to each other I trink the gap in Comp Sci is greater.
    All Math people (well most) look to PROOF as the criteria of truth. Diff fields of Comp Sci look at very diff critiera for truth, diff questions, etc,
    more so than other fields.

    Hence an all-encompassing conf would be harder.

    STILL - it would be worth the effort.

    How does FCRC fit into this?

  5. I visited this blog thinking that surely there would be a post about the announcement of the finalists for the Simons theory institute money. I am disappointed.

  6. A meeting where computer scientists from all its subdisciplines come together. Not with the purpose of presenting their current research and padding their CVs, but to hear about the latest ideas in the field.

    Nice dreams, Lance. But this is about as likely as P!=NP being proved in the next 10 years. Without publishing papers in normal journals. Without this "advertising" role of conferences. Not easy.

  7. According to Scott Aaronson, an Ideal Conference in computer science would include a prophet in attendance.

    "Who's the prophet?" obviously is a far less interesting than the crux question "What's her prophecy?"

    Hmmm ... so ... what is her prophecy?

    She can call it a Roadmap for CS if she wants! :)

  8. I have been to Grace Hopper.

    It was less academic than I might have anticipated. Many companies seem to use it as a recruiting opportunity. Which is fine, but it's a very corporate and very different vibe from STOC/FOCS or even the AMS/MAA joint meetings.

    The talks are a mix of 1. technical talks by female computer scientists, 2. panels and whatnot with advice for surviving at different stages of one's career, and 3. work on various kinds of diversity in CS education. There's kind of a division between #1 and #3.

    As a female grad student, it was a novel experience just to be in the company of a crowd that was almost all women. One forgets what it's like to interact with one's gender, sometimes. However, in the end it was a bit too much self-celebration. I'd much rather be in a truly gender-mixed crowd for the purpose of celebrating our own geeky interests. (If you're a male professor, you should definitely go and see what you think for yourself!)

  9. Lance and Billie,

    can you guys let us know on who has one the Simons Foundation grant for the Theoretical Comp Sci Institute ?

    Which institutions do you think applied for it ? did any of yours do ?

  10. Would the event really serve its purpose if 1000 male computer scientists showed up at the Grace Hopper conference? Our department pays to send various female students and faculty to this event. If a male faculty member or student was supported to go I imagine there would be an outcry.

  11. I've heard the same basic comment from several attendees, "Wow, it was so great being surrounded by just other women." Allison and Glencora might be inviting men to join in, but I doubt there would be much happiness if the ratio went to 50/50 (or worse) at the next conference.

  12. like a woman's study class, sure men are not barred from entry, but the event is about women and their interests and needs and men showing up offering their support will be welcomed by some and despised by others