Thursday, April 18, 2013

Congratulations to Mark Bun and Justin Thaler

Luca Aceto reported the paper awards for ICALP 2013.  But I find it necessary to give a special shout-out to Harvard Ph.D. students Mark Bun and Justin Thaler, who got the Track A Best Paper Award for their work:
Dual Lower Bounds for Approximate Degree and Markov-Bernstein Inequalities

I've asked Justin and he has agreed that he and Mark will write up a post about their paper that will appear in a few days.  But since it was announced I wanted to congratulate them now!  

This brings up an interesting question:  they won the Best Paper award, but not the Best Student Paper award.  Which makes some sense in one way -- if the "Best Paper award" dominates the "Best Student Paper award" (by definition), then there's not need to give the same paper two awards;  it has the nominally higher honor.  On the other hand, you might say that if they won the Best Paper award, by definition they should also have the Best Student Paper, so they should win both.  How do you think awards in that case should be distributed?



Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the current Track A Best Student Paper award winner (Radu Curticapean), maybe this was done because Radu's paper was Best Student Paper award worthy, but no Best Paper award worthy.

Anonymous said...

No, giving "all due respect" to Radu and the other winners would mean not airing this kind of petty speculation on a blog in the first place. I don't understand why the question was raised.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why ICALP has best paper awards anyway. It seems to me a best paper award from ICALP simply means the paper was sent to the wrong conference.
That being said, congratulations to all award winners.

Anonymous said...

Last anonymous: for many employers best ICALP paper will look better at CV then yet another STOC paper. So, congratulations to all winners of best ICALP papers.

And I'm also puzzled by the fact that the student paper who won best paper award didn't win best student paper. Perhaps the committee liked the other student paper a lot and thought its worthy some award, but I still find it strange.

rweba said...

Interesting that everyone is commenting anonymously!

Well it seems to me awarding the same paper "Best Paper" and "Best Student Paper" would simply be redundant and somewhat defeat the purpose of these awards which is to recognize as many papers as are deemed worthy.

I am curious how other conferences handle this situation if it has ever happened.

Anonymous said...

For STOC 2013, "Best Paper" and "Best Student Paper" are given to Siu On Chan for the same paper.

Unknown said...

Different PCs handle things differently. To mention another example, Raghavendra's "Optimal algorithms and inapproximability results for every CSP?" was co-awarded the Best Paper and awarded the Best Student Paper at STOC 2008.

Anonymous said...

Since they are using the word "best", of course it's misleading to give the "best student paper" award to one paper while giving the "best paper" award to a different student paper. The problem is the word "best", which is ridiculous anyway. Nobody can say which paper is really best, and it's offensive to pretend that we can. I would be happier with an "outstanding paper" award, which would avoid all these difficulties.

Luca Aceto said...

Thanks to anonymous #4 for answering anonymous #3. Moreover, many conferences have "best paper awards", so why shouldn't ICALP have its own?

Note also that, unlike other TCS conferences, ICALP covers a very broad spectrum of TCS research. So, presenting a paper at ICALP gives one a chance to obtain some exposure to a wide variety of research areas and to mingle with colleagues from different branches of TCS --- not to mention to listen to five invited talks and to the talks by the award recipients (Martin Dyer and Erik Demaine, this year).

Regarding the main issue raised by Michael, Fedor Fomin (the PC chair for Track A) told me that his PC discussed it at length. The opinion of Fedor's PC was that they had two excellent student papers. Since the PC had an opportunity to support both of them, they decided to do so. For what it is worth, IMHO, they made a very good choice.

Finally, I agree with what the last anonymous commenter wrote on April 19, 2013 at 3:23 PM. However, the term "best paper" seems here to stay. We should, of course, not give too much weight to the attribute "best", just like the fact that some researcher or paper receives some award does not mean that they were the "best" in any objective sense.

I hope to see some of you at ICALP in Riga.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Hi Luca. Thanks for commenting.

To be clear (since I've been told from the post it wasn't clear what my opinion was -- which was intentional) I (like you) think the way the ICALP committee decided to handle the situation makes a lot of sense. If your best paper happens to be written by students, it makes perfect sense to give it the best paper award and another student paper the best student paper award. Of course you should highlight excellent student papers, and this seems the natural way to do so.

And, again, congratulations all around to all the winners.

Sasho said...

I think the optimal solution would be to give the best paper award to Mark and Justin and best student paper award jointly to them and to Radu. This solution would both recognize all who should be recognized, and make a bit more logical sense :)

Congratulations to the winners!