(Samir Khuller Guest Post.)
On Conference Locations:
I recently looked at Orbitz for fares to Japan for SODA 2012 in Jan. The
round trip fare from DC to Tokyo is close to $1700. Together with the
train to Kyoto, we are looking at a $2000 travel cost to attend SODA for 3-4
days. Together with the registration and hotel, I am sure the cost will
exceed $3000. I wonder how many people will be able to attend this
In times of declining budgets, we should make these decisions after careful
thought since our travel budgets are only shrinking.
In 2012, all conferences are likely to be expensive to attend -- SODA in
Kyoto, CATS in Melbourne, STACS in Paris, Complexity in Porto, ESA in
Slovenia, ISMP in Berlin, ICALP in UK, SWAT in Finland, LATIN in Peru,
SIGMETRICS in UK, FST&TCS in India, not to mention all those exciting
Bertinoro and Dagstuhl meetings. At least STOC is in NYC!
I am sure that the same dilemma is faced by people in the far east when we
hold conferences in the US. However, I will be curious to know what
the numbers look like. Are we going to reduce costs for 25 students who
otherwise might not be able to attend SODA because its not in Japan (I
hope this NOT the case, and the numbers look much better)? However, at the
same time we
might be making the cost prohibitively high for 100 students who could
the conference, but are not going due to the high cost.
Wait, we did this once. We had FOCS in Rome! According to
it looks like only 172 people registered for FOCS 2004. Given that
most likely 100 of the attendees were authors, the drop in attendance
of non-authors is by a factor of 50% since FOCS most likely gets close to
I am for the argument that once in a while its not bad to move a
conference around to help people attend who normally might not; but we could
explore other ways of helping such people attend. Once we move a conference to a
place where not much local population will attend, its a problem (FOCS 1991 in
SODA in Israel or Germany makes more sense to me since a large part of the
algorithms community is from those places.
One way to help defray the costs is to use part of the conference funds to
travel support for people whose cost to attend would be too high.
might benefit us more (FCRC, ICALP-STOC 2001 in Crete). If we want to
maximize interaction among people we should aim to have one large meeting
as opposed to lots of small ones - the ISMB and ISMP conferences do this
very well. More edges in a clique of 1000 nodes than 10 cliques of
100 nodes each. ALGO in Saarbrucken makes sense to me.
High density of researchers, several meetings are combined into one along
Frankfurt is easy to get to from a lot of places in the world
(except for the folks in Australia, NZ and Hawaii), and there is great
from the airport to Saarbrucken.
One of the cheapest conferences I attended was the SIAM Conf. on Discrete
Math at the University of Toronto campus. Very low registration cost and we
could stay on campus in the dorms for $20/day. Having looked into (and
having organized) conferences recently, I know that the dinner can cost
$100/person, and the coffee break $20/person. Do we really need to have
academic conferences at such large hotels and hard to reach places? Why
not have a conference that encourages participation, as opposed to one that
discourages it? Even I would not mind a conference in space, lets see if
NSF would approve "foreign travel" for that one.
I am going to have to start a new US "regional" conference, that I can
afford to send my students to! It will be held on a university campus and the reg
fee will be $100/student; and it will be cheap to get to. At least for the
years when SODA is not in the US, such a meeting might be a success.
NOTE: I have nothing against Kyoto and Rome, they are among my favorite
places in world.