Changes I’d like to see in STOC/FOCS

  • Create a “test of time award” going to the paper from the STOC/FOCS ten years prior which has best stood the test of time;
  • Reverse the trend of theoretical cryptography becoming the new computational geometry, splitting off into a self-contained community;
  • Increase the size of the program committee so that no PC member has to review more than 30 papers;
  • Allow PC members to submit papers;
  • Videotape the talks and post them on the web;
  • Hold either STOC or FOCS in Asia at least once;
  • Hold STOC and FOCS in Canada more often;
  • Always have beer at the business meeting and drinks at the reception. No exceptions;
  • Make it a rule that the PC Chair and the local organizer can present at most one piece of statistical data each at the business meeting; their presentations cannot exceed five minutes in total.

On a more practical note:

  • Let a substantial part of the discussion at the physical PC meeting be “caucus” groups in which clusters of papers in a related areas are discussed by the experts, and the controversial papers can be discussed at a technical level. There are about 15 hours of work in a two-day meeting, devoted to the discussion of 100+ papers plus several meta-questions, so most papers must be discussed in less than 10 minutes. With such time constraints, and with a group of 20+ people, the discussion of a controversial paper becomes a debate, in which the point is winning. In a smaller context, in which everybody understands the paper, it is easier to reach a consensus.

9 thoughts on “Changes I’d like to see in STOC/FOCS

  1. I really like your suggestion about time for caucusing early on at the physical PC meeting! We’d have to have pretty fluid groups because the area divisions are far from sharp. We’d also have to have relaxed conflict of interest handling for these discussions to make this work. (Leaving the room is hardly an option.) In a typical PC meeting this caucusing happens too late (overnight after a long day of discussion) on just a few papers.

    The combination of beer and video recording also presents interesting possibilities.

  2. For what it’s worth, I have never been asked to handle 30 papers when serving on the PC of a conference. That seems like a large number to me. How many papers does a PC member for STOC and FOCS typically handle?

    LICS has had a test of time award since 2006 I believe. The award is given to papers from 20 years back. I think that it is an excellent idea to have such an award. Time tends to be the best of judges.

    Based on my little experience as a conference organizer, I think that drinks and some (light) food are a must at a reception. People appreciate this, they mingle, socialize and talk shop and stay longer at the conference location.

    Finally, I believe that ICALP will be held in Asia in the not too distant future.

  3. Reverse the trend of theoretical cryptography becoming the new computational geometry, splitting off into a self-contained community


  4. Do you need to have a PHYSICAL meeting (many conferences don’t)?
    I AGREE with the caucus idea, but could that be done online?.
    NOTE- if you are going to increase the PC size then a phy meeting
    may be harder.

    Excellent post- I agree with all of your ideas in theory and I am
    in theory. I only question the feasibility of the Phy meeting.
    (It probably IS good to have a Phy meeting esp if you caucus,
    but is it possible.)

  5. Luca — in my view, your “Extractors and pseudorandom generators” should be a strong candidate for a test-of-time award if such an award gets instituted at STOC/FOCS.

  6. Luca, I’m curious which cryptography papers of the past 3 years (say) you think should have appeared in STOC/FOCS but didn’t. While I can think of a few papers that could have gone either way, I can’t offhand think of any paper that were “must accepts” to STOC/FOCS but didn’t get in.

  7. Johnathan — I can name one :

    Cynthia Dwork, Frank McSherry, Kobbi Nissim, Adam Smith.
    Calibrating Noise to Sensitivity in Private Data Analysis
    TCC 2006.

    This is a beautiful paper that formalized the definition of privacy, and which is of great interest to the general FOCS/STOC community. Look at the number of FOCS/STOC papers on privacy in the recent year! Of course I don’t know if it was sent to FOCS or STOC to begin with, but this would have made a great FOCS/STOC paper!

  8. Pingback: FOCS Second Day « in theory

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