Mihai Patrascu

I do regularly attend STOC and FOCS. In many cases, it is because I
have papers there, but I have attended several times without papers.
The reason is that it allows me to meet a large sample of people from
about half of the theory community, with whom I would like to keep in
touch. Thus, I am sympathetic to the idea of a large meeting. I say
half of the theory community because another half (of "my" theory
community) is covered by SODA and SoCG and have no contact with
STOC/FOCS (or vice-versa). I regularly submit and attend to SODA for
this community; but I do not usually attend or submit to SoCG, since I
find the crowd a bit too small to justify it. Again, this indicates
that I would be most happy with a general meeting.

That said, your proposal brings up two issues:
(1) creating a general meeting;
(2) ending the STOC conference.

The proposed hijacking of STOC to achieve (1) is scandalous, in my
view. Reputation dies quite quickly, so just naming it "STOC" would
not boost attendance, as much as you might want this to be the case.
If this proposal is adopted, how would normal CVs look like? Should
one list "Strong STOC" and "Unselective STOC" for conference papers?

Thus, let me discuss the possibility of ending STOC (gracefully) in
order to make time for a new general conference. Since the idea of
selected conferences will not disappear, this could have two effects:

(A) FOCS would become the only strong conference. Experience with
communities that have a single super-strong conference (SIGCOMM,
SIGGRAPH) suggests this is a very bad idea. Having one deadline a year
is not good for quick dissemination, and could lead to unproductive
levels of competition.

(B) Second-tier conferences would be boosted to "top level." SODA is
already not far, while CCC could conceivably reach that level. But
this outcome would be quite unfortunate for TCS, since it would
already deepen a large gap between complexity theory and algorithms.
(One would expect complexity theory to be the bigger loser, as it
would be viewed as "philosophy" by contrast to the "useful
algorithms.")


To summarize, I think the goal of a broad meeting is laudable, but
ending STOC would be a rather unfortunate idea. There are many
alternative proposals. My favorite one would be to create broad
meetings through careful planning and colocation:

* SoCG should colocate with STOC. The time periods are very close, so
this is easily done. At this late stage, it seems that bringing SoCG
kind of geometry back into STOC/FOCS is unfeasible, so this is the
best possible outcome.

* STOC/FOCS should increase in size by ~20%, allowing room for top
papers in areas that are currently SODA-only. The same could be said
about "non-STOC/FOCS cryptography," which seems to be an excluded
brand.

* All conferences should have poster sessions.

1 comment:

  1. "STOC/FOCS should increase in size by ~20%, allowing room for top papers in areas that are currently SODA-only. The same could be said about "non-STOC/FOCS cryptography," which seems to be an excluded brand."

    Increasing the size by ~20% sounds like a good idea. I would recommend to allow papers also from important fields in TCS that are currently banned from STOC/FOCS, and not just SODA-only papers.

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