Luca Trevisan

As our community has grown in numbers and in breadth, the number
of accepted papers in STOC and FOCS has stayed the same. This is
causing more competition for acceptance, with the usual consequences:
"safer" choice by the committee, a feedback effect on the community,
making people focus on the more popular topic, general unhappiness,
some subcommunities splitting off to their own specialized conference,
and so on.

The change that you propose would effectively kill off STOC as
a "prestigious" venue, and so we would double  the pressure
on FOCS. I could imagine that junior people would send their good
papers to STOC, hoping that, despite the five parallel sessions, many
people would come to the talk, but then send it again to
FOCS, in order to have the "stamp of approval" of a selective
conference in their CV.

The net effect is that the competitiveness and general
unhappiness will only get worse.

I also have one general and one concrete objection to big conferences,
such as this new hypothetical STOC.

The big conferences like
the International Congress of Mathematician, or the Modern
Language Association Convention are products of times when
travel was difficult  and expensive, but it was necessary because
conferences were the only ways to see new work. So it made sense
to have a conference that everybody would want to go to, but just one.

Now we have various ways to stay in touch and to obtain papers
without going to a conference, and travel is still hard but it is
not so bad to go to two or three conferences every year. So it
makes more sense to have relatively smaller events where the
quality of the interaction with the other participants (the
main reason to go) is high.

When we have a very big conference, involving four or more
parallel sessions and five hundred or more participants, the
conference cannot be held in a normal hotel, which does not have
the necessary facilities, so it has to be in a place that specializes
in large conventions, which is more expensive, and is often located
in unattractive locations. Eveyrthing becomes more complicated,
from having lunch to finding the people you want to talk to.

Instead of going in this direction of radical change, which could
bring several unintended adverse consequence, I think we might instead
trying to gently increase the number of accepted papers at STOC
and FOCS, and to find ways (for example, co-locating other conferences)
to increase participation.

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