David Johnson

I sympathize with the goal of establishing a large meeting
that attracts a large proportion of the theoretical computer
science field and its leaders, such as the AMS meetings do for
math and similar meeting do for physics and chemistry, etc.

Unfortunately, I do not think it can be done.  Those meetings
in other fields have the advantage of being long-established
and built into everyone's mindset.  A new such conference does
not stand a chance, given the competition for travel money etc.
by selective conferences that provide prestige and publication
credit.  The current proposal appears to recognize this by
hiding the new conference under an old name (STOC), and essentially
killing the old conference (STOC) so that at least IT does not
provide competition for travel money.

However, even with the old name, the conference is unlikely to
thrive.  CS has a long history of accept-everything conferences
(Computer Science Conference, FJCC, etc.) dying out due to competition
from selective conferences.  The fact is, such conferences do
not tend to be technically rewarding, as anyone who has attended
the annual INFORMS fall conference will attest.  (It was partly
because of this that the selective IPCO conference was established.)

Consequently, I have serious reservations about the up-side of the
proposal.  And the down-side is extreme.  There are already widespread
complaints that many good papers do not get into STOC/FOCS/SODA.
This proposal would reduce the number of slots by 33% (50% if you
do not count SODA), thus greatly exacerbating what is already a
major problem.

So you can expect me to argue strongly against this proposal if
it is raised at the STOC business meeting (although I may not have
to as I do not think it will get much support).

There are, however, other and less drastic approaches that we
could take to address the same concerns.  One possibility would
be to add a half-day of poster sessions to STOC, with a much
less stringent threshold for acceptance.  I'd actually prefer
poster sessions to a series of 10-minute talks, since I could use
my time more effectively in seeking out results of interest to me, and
could have a much more interactive experience with the authors.
Other areas of computer science value such poster sessions highly.

Another idea is to piggyback a general theory conference onto FCRC.
FCRC was set up as our best approximation to a general CS conference,
recognizing that a new, general and non-selective conference was
bound to fail.  The fact that it does not occur every year is also
a plus.  The one non-selective conference that I do find worthwhile
attending is the International Math Programming Symposium, which
is only held once every three years.  Its relative infrequency
makes it less of a financial drain, and so it can attract a high
proportion of the leaders of the field.  Also, people typically
talk about their best work of the last three years, which raises
the level above that of an annual accept-everything event.
(Admittedly, it is also like the AMS meetings in that it has
long established itself as the event that everyone who is anyone
in the field needs to attend.)

Or, if we want to avoid all the competition for attention at FCRC,
we could, on a once-every-3(or 4)-year schedule, colocate STOC (and
perhaps other theory conferences, as we are doing this year in Boston)
with a new conference that combines a major collection of invited
talks (as a draw for the experts) with an accept-everything, multiple
parallel session, schema.  Or perhaps the best thing might be to
do a one-off, in celebration of some noteworthy historical event,
fill it with big name invited speakers, etc., and see what happens.
If it is a success, we could think about doing it again.

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