Monday, April 20, 2020

The Summer Virtual Conference Season

Both STOC and Complexity have announced they will go virtual for the summer. ICALP moved from Beijing to Saarbrücken to online. I expect every major summer conference and workshop will be cancelled, postponed or virtualized.

Most CS conferences serve as publication venues and can't be cancelled or postponed. So how do we virtualize a conference? The ACM has an evolving virtual conferences best practices guide. Putting the talks and poster sessions online is not trivial, but relatively straightforward. Personally I go to conferences mostly not for the talks but for the interactions with other participants--the receptions, meal time and just hanging in the hallways. The ACM document describes some approaches like Dagstuhl-style randomized virtual dinner tables. The IEEE VR conference tried virtual reality through Mozilla hubs. None of these can truly replicate the on-site experience.

Let me mention two other meetings the Game Theory Congress held every four years due to be held in Budapest and the CRA Snowbird Conference, a meeting of CS department chairs and computing leadership, held every other summer in Utah. Both meetings are not archival publications venues though have several talks and panels. But the main purpose of both is mostly to bring people together, game theorists and CS leaders. I hope they postpone rather than virtualize these meetings. Rather get together a year late than pretend to get together now.


  1. Just to emphasize that CRA Snowbird Conference is not an international level conference, but only limited to CS senior administrators from U.S.A industrial and government.

  2. I find it hard to reconcile the hope that meetings will not be virtualized with the concern for climate change expressed in the previous post. Or is always someone else who needs to change?

    1. It's better to see the climate impacts of travel as a cost than a sin. Costs are acceptable, if the benefits are sufficiently high and there are no good alternatives.

      Most CS conferences are only viable as publication venues. If we choose to abolish conference proceedings and replace them with reasonably fast journals (as in bioinformatics), those conferences will disappear. Some conferences will remain, because we are human beings who value face-to-face meetings.

  3. LOL, I also go to conferences mostly for the receptions and the meals!

  4. The ACM Conference on Economics and Computation will be virtual as well.

  5. Just for the record: ICALP would be in Saarbrücken, not in Stuttgart.

  6. The organizers of ICDT 2020 (a major database theory venue) have shared their experiences on having the conference virtual for the first time: