- While CS should have a stronger Journal system, why should that come at the expense of quality conferences?
- Is this problem really that acute in all communities? Can't it be solved at the community level?
- Why would industrial researchers and scientists participate in publications with such long time cycles?
- Why do we want ANY such top-down forcing of CS organization?
- Obviously the current system is serving a need, doesn't that speak for itself?
The reputation of CS conferences as a method of publication means that it is both acceptable to publish and cite papers from these confs. The result of this is that one can read a conf paper, compose a citing follow-up and publish it within 1 year. This fluidity of ideas without the sometimes 18 month to 2 year wait on Journal publication is a great advantage!
Yes other disciplines publish pre-prints to arXiv.org.. is this really a solution when a paper has been rejected yet avail on arXiv.org for 18 months?
Certainly in AI, Machine Learning, Data Mining and Evolutionary Computation I perceive that the Journals are held in high regard (all papers are great) and that the conference proceedings can be a mixed bag with strong and weak papers. I am getting strong pressure from my advisors and peers to consider Journal versions of some of my conf papers. EC specifically has a non-proceedings conference to meet and discuss less settled results.
If Dr. Fortnow feels that his area of theoretical computer science is too fragmented, then a solution would be to found more Journals and push the best conference papers into those Journals more heavily. Perhaps that would mean that the conference system of that area would shrink in response as the Journals established themselves.
Again the fluidity is an advantage. Were CS suddenly to switch to a soft conference system (low benefit to participation other than networking) I fear that participation of industry in publication venues would suffer. The time scales of Journals in general mean that at publication time the results were done an eternity ago in industry terms. Convincing your supervisor that participation and publication in a conference is a far easier sell than an extended Journal submission effort.
One also wonders if the Journal system is not implicitly biased towards academic communities where participants are chasing tenure. This 'ranking of people' referenced by Dr. Fortnow is very much for academic institutions and not of much value to industry IMHO.
The culture of CS is much more aligned with self-organization and communities forming out of a bird-of-a-feather effect. This also aligns with the changing face of corporate cultures and culture in general. Such a top-down driven reorg would likely both fail and break the inherent fluidity of ideas and results in CS.
I also have an unfounded suspicion that such a top-down forced re-org would result in a clustering of power and influence towards traditional centers of power in academia. If one picks up conference proceedings in my favorite CS areas and does a frequency count of the author's institutions the distribution is very much long tail. The 'elite' universities are not dominating the results meaning that the 'in crowd' effect is much lesser in CS.
Feudal systems are dying fast for a reason.
If CS researchers and scientists continue to attend, publish at and found conferences is this not evidence that it is serving a real need?
While Dr. Fortnow is correct on his points w.r.t. the problems faced by conference 'PC' committees... the correct response is best done within that community. Found some Journals and compete with the conferences for publications and reputation. I don't accept that a strong Journal system can only be created by first wiping away a very fluid and successful conference system.
My personal solution to strengthening the Journal system? I'll set a goal of submitting a Journal publication or two in the next year. I am completely remiss in not yet submitting anything to a Journal.
As a counter point to the above arguments.. if I could have a wish it would be a Journal system with fast review times, immediate publication of accepted papers and that markets itself by cherry picking great papers from conferences and encouraging those authors to submit to the Journal. Something like the Journal of Machine Learning Research. The publishing of referee reviews also sounds interesting.