[My Computational Complexity Web Log] Are we too nice?
Steve Smale talked about his experiences in the Economics Theory Workshop at Chicago, particularly the aggressive questioning. I didn't attend his talk but I did go to a few of the econ theory seminars years ago and it forms an interesting contrast to the CS theory talks which have few usually technical questions followed by polite applause.
The econ theory seminar took place in a medium-size conference room with a long table. Graduate students sat in chairs along the walls. The speaker was at one end of the table and econ professors, usually including multiple Nobel prize winners, around the rest of the table. A copy of the paper was sent with the talk announcement and almost from the first slide the faculty aggressively attacked the speaker with questions about the validity of the model or the importance of the results. (Remember this was the theory seminar, imagine the questions at the political economics seminar). At the end of the seminar time, the talk ended and everyone left the room. No applause.
I don't recommend that we follow this model in theoretical computer science. However we usually go to the other extreme and (outside of crypto) rarely ask negative questions in a seminar. Typically the only negative feedback we get in our field is from anonymous referees and reviewers. If we were forced to defend our research in an interactive setting, we would establish a better understanding of the importance of the models and results of our own research.
Posted by Lance to My Computational Complexity Web Log at 10/3/2004 03:27:16 PM