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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

IEEE and the Conference on Computational Complexity

Dieter van Melkebeek, current conference chair of the IEEE Conference on Computational Complexity has set up a forum to discuss the future affiliation of the conference. Read over the manifesto and update. You can give general comments on the about post. Dieter discusses three options:

  1. Remain with IEEE
  2. Have a joint ACM/IEEE conference in some fashion.
  3. Become an unaffiliated conference.
For most of you this shouldn't matter at all. Most of you readers have never attended the complexity conference (though you ought to give it a try sometime) and those that do would probably continue attending no matter who sponsors the meeting.

There has been a go-it-yourself tendency in this field so as not to pay any organization fees and to publish papers in an open-access format. Just realize this approach has some potential downfalls.
  • Without a sponsor, the conference and in particular the organizing committee, is fully responsible for any deficit. One bad hotel contract can sink a conference. To guard against this, you'll need to budget a surplus far larger than IEEE or ACM would require. Also IEEE and ACM can use their influence to get better deals such as on hotels. 
  • You'll need considerably more volunteer time from faculty to handle the larger administrative load. This time doesn't show up in the financial calculation but it is a real expense.
  • Having a sponsoring organization gives a set of checks and balances to guarantee that the conference retains a consistent mission and be fiscally responsible. If a conference is solo and the organizing committee drops the ball, the conference just disappears. 
I'm not recommendation here, just trying to point out some pitfalls that usually don't get discussed. I'll stay out of the actual debate on the future sponsorship of CCC and leave that to the younger generation.

11 comments:

  1. Slightly off topic, but why isnt the list of accepted papers for CCC (and also STOC) released yet. It has been at least a week since the notifications!

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  2. Your comments make good points. But do these problems appear for "go-it-yourself conferences"? I think this (new) model of conferences works really well, and in my experience, these conferences are cheaper than sponsored ones.

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    1. Cheaper on the backs of the volunteers who are needed. Riskier in terms of longevity.

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  3. I've helped organize over half-a-dozen "go-it-yourself" conferences and neither the first not the last point were ever an issue. In fact it is not hard to budget a conference in a way that has a guaranteed surplus by making some expenses optional (e.g.free drinks in reception/business meeting) and incur those only when all other costs have been covered. The volunteer part is correct.

    I have no opinion as to whether CCC should stay with IEEE or go alone.

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    1. Would you say these conferences were on the same level as CCC in terms of length or needed resources?

      Wouldn't your contract lock you into having drinks at the reception if that was in there? Wouldn't your attendees be very unhappy if they didn't get what they thought they were paying for?

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    2. They were of all types, shorter, same length and longer. There is nothing special about CCC.

      As per the contract hotels do not care if you have a cash bar or prepaid drink tickets. In fact most conferences have both: one or two free drinks per person and cash bar thereafter.

      I have yet to attend a conference where anyone was promised free drinks in the registration. Do you have such any examples?

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    3. For what it is worth, I completely agree with Anonymous 8:02 AM, February 13, 2014. I co-organized the largest ICALP ever in Reykjavik in 2008, and other events in Iceland and elsewhere, and the first and the last point were not an issue at all. Yes, my colleagues and I had to do some work, and we had the help of a few master and doctoral students, as well as of other university staff, but that's par for the course when one organizes a large conference at one's university. (I am old fashioned. I like the feeling of attending conferences in a university environment. I am not a great fan of hotels as locations for conferences.)

      Some of the classic TCS conferences in Europe (ICALP, MFCS and STACS to name but three) have little or no financial support from any organization. Still they have been around for a long time and, IMHO, are in fine shape.

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    4. How would you compare EATCS to ACM or IEEE?

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  4. Hmmm, if enough conferences go independent, they could later be reaggregated under a new overarching society committed to open access. I still think there's hope of taking control back of ACM (not sure about IEEE), but having this threat might be useful.

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  5. What about STOC accepts???

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  6. The most important thing for a conference is the publication. Many participants are coming to a conference for the volume with papers. It is good if the volume is recognized as ISI Proceedings or sometimes accepted papers are published directly in an ISI Journal. Even the price is very high they prefer to have their papers in ISI journals, so they are not interested in a professional organization that will sponsor or technical sponsor the conference!

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