Wednesday, July 06, 2016

STOC Theory Fest 2017 (Montreal June 19-23)

As SIGACT chair I announced at the STOC’16 business meeting that starting in 2017, STOC will turn into a 5-day event, a Theory Fest. This idea was discussed at some length in a special session at FOCS 2014 and the business meeting at STOC 2015. Now the event is being planned by a small group (Sanjeev Arora, SIGACT ex-chair Paul Beame, Avrim Blum, and Ryan Williams; who also get guidance from me and STOC’17 PC chair Valerie King). We’re  setting up committees to oversee various aspects of the event.

Below is a brief announcement from the organizing group about their plans! Please feel free to write your suggestions here, though the outline below has been arrived at after a fair bit of deliberation and consultation.

Update:   Here is the web page for STOC 2017:  (


We’re excited to bring you the Theory Fest in Montreal, June 19-23 2017!

The following are the major features (caveat: subject to tweaking in coming years):

(i)  STOC talks go into 3 parallel sessions instead of two.  Slight increase in number of accepts to 100-110.
(ii)   STOC papers also required to be presented in evening poster sessions (beer/snacks served).
(iii) About 9 hours of plenary sessions, which will include: (a) Three keynote 50-minute talks (usually prominent researchers from theory and nearby fields) (b)  Plenary 20-minute talks selected from the STOC program by the STOC PC ---best papers, and a few others. (c) Plenary 20-minute talks on notable papers from the broader theory world in the past year (including but not limited to FOCS, ICALP, SODA, CRYPTO, QIP, COMPLEXITY, SoCG, COLT, PODC, SPAA, KDD, SIGMOD/PODS, SIGMETRICS, WWW, ICML/NIPS), selected by a committee from a pool of nominations. (Many nominees may be invited instead to the poster session.)
(iv) 2-hour tutorials (three in parallel).
(v)    Some community-building activities, including grad student activities, networking, career advice, funding, recruiting, etc.
(vi)   A day of workshops; 3 running in parallel. (Total of 18 workshop-hours.)

Our hope is that workshop day(s) will over time develop into a separate eco-system of regular meetings and co-located conferences (short or long). In many other CS fields the workshop days generate as much energy as the main conference, and showcase innovative, edgy work.

Poster sessions have been largely missing at STOC, but they have advantages: (a) Attendees can quickly get a good idea of all the work presented at the conference (b) Grads and young researchers get more opportunities to present their work and to interact/network, fueled by beer and snacks. (c)Attendees get an easy way to make up for having missed a talk during the day, or to ask followup questions. (d) Posters on work from other theory conferences broadens the intellectual scope of STOC,

We invite other theory conferences to consider co-locating with the Theory Fest. To allow such coordination, in future the location/dates for the Theory Fest will be announced at least 18 months in advance, preferably 2 years. Even for 2017 it is not too late yet.  

Finally, we see the Theory Fest as a work in progress. Feedback from attendees will be actively sought and used to refashion the event.


JeffE said...
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JeffE said...

Announcing the location 18 months in advance isn't nearly enough. Most conferences decide (or at least announce) their location for year n at their business meeting in year (n-2). If you want to give other summer conferences (ahem) an opportunity to colocate, I'd suggest announcing 2.5 years in advance, for example, announcing the 2019 location in January 2017.

Gautam "G" Kamath said...

On the topic of the dates -- I think it's a bit unfortunate that STOC will overlap with ICML, which (as best I can see) will take place from June 19 to 24, 2017. There was a similar overlap this year (2016) as well. I know there is coordination between ICML and COLT timings/locations. Is there a way that all three conferences could coordinate in order to avoid conflicts?

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Jeff -- we're working on getting things decided earlier. (2018 is already approximately decided.) I hear your point and we'll continue to try to get "on track" for 2+ years earlier.

Gautum -- I've asked the ACM this. They check for overlaps with other ACM conferences, but for some reason, do not track non-ACM conferences for checking for overlaps. I agree this seems shortsighted and will continue to ask them to do this.
On the other hand, what I've found is that there are limited dates over the summer (with various graduations, 4th of July, etc.) so that if you want to have a conference in June you're bound to hit something. I don't really see a solution unless we decide to drastically move STOC's traditional dates significantly.

Sanjeev Arora said...

Gautam and Michael:

ICML does not conflict. According to Bob Williamson (local organizer of ICML) it is August 6-11 2017 in Sydney.

I believe you are looking at some website that tries to predict next year's dates using the past years, but it is wrong in this case. (Machine learning does fail sometimes. :)

Sanjeev Arora said...

Jeff, I hear you about advance notice.

One problem with planning future Theory Fests is that we don't know how it will work out. Could attendance go up to 500? 600? Could we have 5 parallel workshops in future? 10? (This could happen if many subcommunities decide to have quick workshop/short conferences around STOC.)

All such details need to be pinned down in the contract with the conference venue. But presumably Michael and ACM will figure out venues which allow some flexibility.

Sanjeev Arora said...

ps For other conferences wishing to colocate even this year, I imagine it is possible to get reasonable rates from the same hotel.
STOC only signed the contract a month or two ago. So it is definitely not too late.

I am not sure you even need a local organizer; you can get info from the Theory Fest organizer.

Luca Aceto said...


For what it is worth, LICS 2017 will be held in Reykjavik in exactly the same week: 20-23 June 2017 with workshops on 18-19 June.

Laura said...

I think this is absolutely a fine experiment to try.

But I do have some concerns about the risks highly concentrated multi-events and schedule diversity. Is there some risk that too many things get swept into just one or maybe two "key" venues each year get most of the visibility?

The fewer venues there are, the greater the cost if someone isn't able to attend one of them due to e.g. visa issues / travel cost / maternity leave / schedule conflict. The more good venues, the lower the cost of having to miss one.

This is probably nor much of an issue for mid-career faculty, but PhD students and even junior faculty may have a relatively smaller window of opportunity...

Just a thought..