Google Analytics

Monday, September 19, 2011

Conferences Again

Lots of conference news and views going around. Let's sort it out.

FOCS early registration deadline is September 29th, fast approaching. Deadline for applying for student support is this Thursday September 22. Apply even if you don't have a paper there and take the opportunity to attend one of theory's most important meetings.

Also the STOC 2012 submission deadline is still November 2. There was a mistaken deadline listed on a theory events site.

The SODA 2012 accepted papers (and links to Arxiv) are out. Program Committee Chair Yuval Rabani explained the PC process. Seems pretty much along the lines of PCs I've been apart of. I wished they did penalize people who had poorly written papers, otherwise there's little incentive to write well. I'm also not a big fan of the "pet paper" idea, people tend to choose papers of their friends and colleagues.

Michael Mitzenmacher posted about the number of good papers not accepted and whether SODA should accept more (an issue at most of our major conferences). In this blog, Sami Khuller guest posted about whether it makes sense to have SODA in Japan. There are a handful of SODA accepts with primarily Japanese and other Asian authors but the vast majority of the authors are US-based.

Some of the comments on Khuller's post talked about having a virtual conference. How about this idea: We don't bother meeting and just collect the accepted papers into a single volume. We can give this idea an innovative name like a "journal".

In this month's CACM article, Moshe Vardi complains about the quality of conference talks. (I like the "journal  that meets in a hotel" quote but it didn't originate with me). You see this at STOC and FOCS too, people giving a talk only to other specialists in their field instead of aiming for a general audience.

Most of you readers know my position on conferences, that we need to get conferences out of the ranking business in CS so conferences can instead play their role of bringing community together and escape from the explosion of conferences just to give people who were rejected from another conference a place to submit their papers.

10 comments:

  1. What happens to those SODA rejected papers that were good?

    ReplyDelete
  2. As long as the time from submission to review to publication remains measured in years, journals will never be able to do what conferences do now. Which is too bad, because I really do think that our insistence on high-quality conference proceedings hurts us as a field by preventing in-development work from ever seeing the light of day.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Geoff- many people who get turned down from Conf A
    then submit to Conf B.

    Anon- Alas. One day there will be a technology
    so that people can ... (looking for a word)
    POST there papers on a ... (looking for a word)
    web-like-knowledge-cener (maybe `web' for short)
    so that works in-development can see the light of day. But until then we must live with the tyranny of high prestige conferences.

    Other thought- There really do seem to be more
    high quality papers (SODA turning down many good papers is NOT a rare event.) I would support
    allowing more papers into conferences in general,which will NOT dilute quality but instead
    let more papers that ought to be out there, get
    out there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like Lance's suggestion "we need to get conferences out of the ranking business in CS so conferences can instead play their role of bringing community together" very much! This alone would eliminate any need of "having a virtual conferences" and many other of "CS conference problems".

    @Anon (11:09 AM, September 19, 2011): it is big secret also for me where this delay in journals comes from. When I receive an invitation to review a paper, there is a clear deadline (2-3 months or so). If I am busy right now, I decline. If not - I do this in these 2-3 months. I know that most of my colleagues act similarly. So, the handling editor should receive all reviews after at most 5-6 moths (taking into account declinations and re-invitations). So, the decision about most journal papers should be done in 6 moths, at most! Why then it takes 2-3 years(!) until the paper is published? A big secret. On the other hand, look at say JCSS or TCS. Most of their issues are "occupied" by conference publications. Regular papers must wait until they can "land" ... So, again, the "conference problem" ... and that of double publications.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As long as the time from submission to review to publication remains measured in years, journals will never be able to do what conferences do now.


    Actually, conferences do not help in fast dissemination of papers. The reason is simply that most papers in any given conference are rejected, and thus enter the re-submission phase, which takes up a lot of time.
    So on average, for any author and any given paper, publishing in a journal or in a conference takes the same amount of time. The difference is that for a conference publication one needs in addition to spend lots of money, and put considerable time and effort to promote the work.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So on average, for any author and any given paper, publishing in a journal or in a conference takes the same amount of time. The difference is that for a conference publication one needs in addition to spend lots of money, and put considerable time and effort to promote the work.

    And in addition the reviews you get from a conference are not nearly as good and thorough as those from a journal.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I find the frequency with which the "conference-centered publishing system is bad" topic pops up annoying and a sign that something is seriously wrong with TCS publishing system. I'm curious what people who make these complaints that often actually do to *actively* participate in changing the system (it's easy to grumble about "FOCS/STOC mania" etc. and at the same go to all these conferences nevertheless, with an air of self-indulgence). I don't mean to offend the authors of this blog or anyone, I'm just curious what people are currently doing to change the trends.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm curious what people who make these complaints that often actually do to *actively* participate in changing the system

    Well, the system is consensus driven, so we have to start by discussing the subject. If you search far back enough in this blog you will find people slowly coming around to the idea of change.

    Secondly, at business/steering committee meetings you will find people making proposals for more parallel tracks, poster sessions, rebuttals, etc. As you know, some of those have been adopted.

    The ITCS conference was, to a great extent, borne out of a consensus that was slowly built both in cyberspace and off-line in face to face meetings.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree with that. However, it is not clear to me that gradual changes like "proposals for more parallel tracks, poster sessions, rebuttals etc." or introducing new conferences, like ITCS, will lead to the field finally "growing up" and moving to journal-publishing system. It may as well lead to more discussions like "should we make 4 or 5 parallel sessions?", "should we increase the number of accepts by 5%?" etc. (see recent discussions about SODA e.g. on Mitzenmacher's blog).

    Anyway, I'm not really a member of the TCS community and I don't want to start an argument, I was just surprised (as an outsider) that the conference subject is brought up that often (in various variants, from "why conference X is in Japan rather than in USA", "why are the conferences so expensive" to "why are they so few/so many accepts" etc.), practically every time a major conference is approaching.

    ReplyDelete
  10. will lead to the field finally "growing up" and moving to journal-publishing system.

    That is just one possible solution to the conference problem and as far as I can tell there is rather low support for it. So the conversation continues until we find a solution we are comfortable with.

    ReplyDelete