Monday, June 01, 2009

Innovations in Computer Science Conference

One of the more interesting things to be announced at STOC is a new Innovations in Computer Science Conference.  As it says in this call

Innovations in Computer Science (ICS) is a new conference in theoretical computer science, broadly construed, encouraging new ideas, approaches, perspectives, conceptual frameworks and techniques. ICS aims to regain and support the interest in works that are focused on exploring novel directions in computation and communicating new conceptual messages (e.g., introduction of a novel model, problem, or technique).

Now I think this is interesting in spirit -- after all, it was almost two years ago now on this blog I asked whether there should be a HotTheory workshop, similar to the HotOS and HotNets workshops.  This seems to be a new conference in that spirit.  

I wonder, however, why the steering committee didn't take more of a lead from these already long existing workshops.  Calling it HotTheory, for instance, would have made it consistent with the now many similar workshops in CS, so that it would have an immediate resonance with those outside of theory.  There are, however, other important questions, most of which have been answered by other HotWorkshops, that the ICS call does not make particularly clear:

1)  What kinds of papers are being asked for?  Other Hot workshops are very clear that they are seeking positions papers, which seems to have a fairly consistent translation in systems : you may have done some initial experiments (or just have an idea for experiments to do), but you haven't built the full system and don't have complete results.  Indeed, many such workshop papers seem designed to get feedback on work in progress, although there are some where the paper is more of a statement of a direction that should be followed.  What is the equivalent for theory?  You have some lemmas but only conjectures of a big theorem?  Could you write an ICS paper with no theorems and just ideas of something that should be studied?  Some guidelines would be very helpful.  Perhaps, even, some example papers.  
2)  How will work be disseminated?  The authors mention a printed proceedings from Tsinghua University Press.  Will they also be available on-line, as for other HOTworkshops?  Will there be an effort to get them into an electronic archive (ACM or IEEE)?  
3)  Will these papers be able to be published in other conference (e.g., FOCS/STOC)?  The other Hot workshops typically limit the papers to 5-6 pages, and the assumption is that a more complete, fleshed out version can be sent to a conference subsequently (where the papers are typically 10-14 pages).  [Sometimes the question of "does this have enough more than the Hot paper?" can come up in PC meetings for the big conferences;  in general, in my experience, significant deference is given to the notion that the Hot workshops publish position papers, and that much or even all of a Hot paper can be repeated within a larger conference paper as long as some non-trivial new material is included.]  The ICS call is for 10 page papers;  is it assumed this is the final home of the work?

I'll be trying to get answers to these questions at STOC, and posting them (or having people from the steering committee) answer them here.  If you have questions as well, please post them.  

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me that the "Hotxxx" series is for unfinished ideas, like something an adviser would give a student (an idea plus intuition as to why it might/should work), but maybe this particular person has no students.

My impression from the call for papers is that they want a finished paper with a novel aspect, but where another aspect may not be so novel thus causing the paper to be rejected from a "mainstream" conference. For example, you have a really novel problem, but your solution is not so novel. Or you have a great new algorithmic technique, but not a well-motivated problem to which to apply it, etc. That was just what I picked up from the CFP.

Warren said...

My guess is that (ICS union STOC union FOCS) will contain a set of papers similar to what STOC/FOCS would contain if concepts were valued as highly as the concepts petition signatories would like. As far as I know (which is hardly anything) ICS is not intended as a venue for half-baked ideas.

Warren said...

I suggest that the ICS organizers post a list of the dozen papers at some conference such as STOC 2009 that would have been strong accepts at ICS.

Alan Fekete said...

The naming suggests inspiration from CIDR, the Conference on Innovative Database Research; this was founded by db bigshots like Jim Gray, Dave DeWitt and Mike Stonebraker, when papers with novel ideas kept getting rejected by sigmod/vldb due to insufficient i-dotting in the experimental evaluation. CIDR is now very well established, with interesting special rules (only one submission per author! single track presentation with lots of discussion) and it is widely seen as a great place for forward-looking work in db.

Anonymous said...

Will these papers be able to be published in other conference (e.g., FOCS/STOC)? The other Hot workshops typically limit the papers to 5-6 pages, and the assumption is that a more complete, fleshed out version can be sent to a conference subsequently (where the papers are typically 10-14 pages).
This is an extremely bad idea (i.e. have even more proliferating towers of so called "conference proceedings" papers which are poorly refereed if at all, and many never backed up by proper journal articles).

My take is that the ICS is supposed to be a *strictly* superior conference than FOCS/STOC with a smaller but a *much more distinguished* scientific committee, with funding for paper presenters etc. It is clear from various discussions that many people in the community feel that FOCS/STOC has deviated from their original goals, and no longer serve the interests of the discipline as a whole. These conferences serve more as some sort of "proving ground" for graduates students and young reserachers and these people seem to be constitute the main attendees to these conferences these days. Hopefully, ICS will become a venue where more serious thinkers can present their work, without becoming contaminated by the career-related competitive issues that have ruined the STOC/FOCS conferences. Given the lavish funding, I am hoping that the talks at ICS would also be available online.

Anonymous said...

Funny, my take is that ICS will be a way for a small group of people to keep accepting their friends' papers. Let's see if any "radical new ideas" come from anyone who isn't already a regular STOC/FOCS contributor.

PS: I can't wait for all the great new ideas that have been repressed (?!) under the current system to finally see the light of day.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anon #5:
If your description is what the plan for ICS really is, then I'm against it. Because then it does start to sound like what Anon #6 describes. And it wouldn't solve the problem of the "proving ground" for graduate students; if successful, it would just shift the proving ground. (To get a good job, you'd have to get a paper in this new super-top conference -- which, < cynicism > I imagine, could be easier if your advisor was one of those *much more distinguised* committee members < /cynicism >.)

If these senior researchers in theory are not happy with the direction that STOC/FOCS is going, there's a potentially more immediate and effective fix -- start volunteering for chairing or serving on PCs, and help set the tone you think the community should go in. Don't wall off a new exclusive club.

I am hopeful that a new conference can offer something useful, additional to the community without taking away from the STOC/FOCS conferences, which, at least judging from this year, I don't think are ruined by any means, as you suggest. But perhaps that is worth a post on its own.

Anonymous said...

And it wouldn't solve the problem of the "proving ground" for graduate students; if successful, it would just shift the proving ground. (To get a good job, you'd have to get a paper in this new super-top conference --
Well, the real problem is the expectation thqt graduate students should have papers in the most prestigious venues of the disciplines even before they graduate!! This isn't the case for other scientific disciplines such as math, physics etc. and should not be the case for TCS as well. For instance, in mathematics it is perfectly ok to graduate without *any* publication and still get a prestigious postdoc position (as long as the experts are convinced that the thesis will eventually lead to a good publication). It takes several years after Phd for excellent mathematicians to start publishing in top journals. Even if we do not go that far, there is no need to insist in TCS that graduating students must publish at the top venues. This leads to the mad scramble, careerism and publishing at all cost mentality amongst the graduate students. A more tiered system would relieve them of this stress and in fact give graduate students more time to learn (more math perhaps) instead of constantly worrying what to write in their next FOCS/STOC attempt. Ask any TCS graduate student working in close proximity with math ones, and you will know the difference in the stress levels and outlook.


That having said, I have really no idea what the ICS organzers have in mind for their conference ....

Anonymous said...

I really can't see how graduate students submitting their best work is a problem for the conference. I don't even see how it is a serious problem for the graduate students. If there are problems accessible to graduate students, then that is great!

Anonymous said...

I really can't see how graduate students submitting their best work is a problem for the conference.
I think the point Anon 8 is making is that if a graduate student is expected to compete and even excel over the experts on a regular basis -- then there is something wrong with the field.

The explanation is probably that despite its reputation of being relatively abstruse to other practitioners of CS, by mathematical standards TCS remains quite shallow, and good or even the best works can often be written in less than 10 pages by graduate students whose knowledge, experience etc. are not particularly deep. The same is unlikely to happen in mathematics for example where it takes several years of studying even to understand what the research problems are.

Anonymous said...

I agree that relatively easily accessible problems is a sign that the field is immature. I think we all realize this. From a graduate student's perspective, though, I think this has to be a great thing---the opportunity to push the frontiers of the field from a very early stage. This "problem" can only be fixed by time.

Perhaps for some graduate students this really is too stressful? If so, they can easily switch to more mathematical topics.

Richard said...

Wait, isnt this all organized by Andrew Yao ? He seems to be really pushing it with the creation of new conferences altogether. Seems like the Chinese govt put him under some pressure ... another thing I noticed is that most if not all of the invited speakers are either from cornell or mit. Something aint going rite there ... seems all very wishy-washy.

Anonymous said...

Richard: Where do you see a list of invited speakers?

Anonymous said...

I believe what Richard saw was the Chinese theory week, which has little to do with ICS.

Anonymous said...

"Other Hot workshops are very clear that they are seeking positions papers, which seems to have a fairly consistent translation in systems : you may have done some initial experiments (or just have an idea for experiments to do), but you haven't built the full system and don't have complete results."

That is not an accurate description of
the other Hot workshops. They do not
just accept position papers with
preliminary results. The bar is higher
and the paper has to be about a
substantial system that is challenging
to build or a very novel idea that
offers a new direction - atleast
with HotOS and HotNets.

The paper has to be "original" - say the
papers that could end up as the top 10 papers of the year in that field.

And the purpose of the workshop is for
the researchers in the field to
discuss and debate about ideas rather
than to offer a venue for a presentation of the work.