Grigory Yaroslavtsev bio photo

Grigory Yaroslavtsev

Assistant Professor of Computer Science, George Mason University.

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Adding my two cents to the discussion of the new format for STOC/FOCS conferences I would like to propose only one change which I think is also fairly modest: colocate, colocate, colocate. Well, I agree that it sounds like three changes — the point is that the more colocation the better :) In fact, I realized that I once again agree with Matt Welsh (who recently proposed a similar change for conferences in his community here) which often happens when he takes a break from bashing academia. Here are a few fairly straightforward reasons why I think colocation of multiple conferences at the same location and similar time is good:

  • It has been tested and already works pretty well at FCRC. There are things that can happen at a scale of multiple communities that don't happen at the scale of just theory conferences. This year FCRC is hosting SPAA/EC/CCC as well as a few other conferences which might be of interest to theorists. Possible synergies between different communities can be in the form of joint workshops, tutorials, keynotes, award lectures, etc. E.g., I hope that the workshop on massively parallel algorithms that I am co-organizing will benefit a lot from colocation with other conferences at FCRC. Overall, I am pretty sure these advantages are already fairly well understood.
  • Increased number of options among possible talks to attend. I am sure almost everyone has been in a situation when there is nothing interesting happening at their favorite conferences. I would personally much rather attend a great talk on a new topic I don't know much about (even if it is applied) than sit through a mediocre STOC/FOCS talk.
  • Less travel. Well, at a certain stage of their career I believe many of us would like to have to travel less. Now a more subtle aspect here is that there are conferences that I would really like to attend but I don't submit my papers there (e.g. EC, ICML, COLT), so I would really love to see them colocated with other conferences that I usually attend.
  • No structural changes to the format of existing conferences. This eliminates all concerns associated with allocation of credit for publications, presentations, etc. thus ensuring backwards compatibility.

What to colocate?

A possible idea for colocation might be to change the set of colocated conferences in different years which creates a lot of opportunities. Here are some concrete proposals and I am pretty sure you can come up with more:

  • STOC+FOCS+... Possible proposals for ... are: CCC, SPAA, PODC, EC, SOCG, ICALP, COLT, ICML, SIGMOD, PODS since they happen around the same time.
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  • SODA+ITCS. I really try to attend both conferences whenever I can given that SODA and ITCS always happen back to back. Without colocation this always creates a seemingly unnecessary logistical overhead. In fact, I first heard this proposal from researchers at Google NYC who strongly supported it.
  • Other conferences. Some of the conferences that don't quite fit in given the time of the year when they usually happen but I would personally love to see colocated in some way: NIPS, VLDB, KDD, CIKM, WSDM, ICDM. I am pretty sure some people have their own list too (e.g. crypto conferences).