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[Computational Complexity] A Modest Proposal

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  • Lance
    A guest post by Michael Mitzenmacher Lance nicely invited me to expand on my views on the format for conference submissions. Currently, I am on a PC using the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 13, 2005
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      A guest post by Michael Mitzenmacher

      Lance nicely invited me to expand on my views on the format for conference submissions. Currently, I am on a PC using the standard theory call:

      A submission for a regular presentation must be no longer than 10 pages on letter-size paper using at least 11-point font…additional details may be included in a clearly marked appendix, which will be read at the discretion of the program committee.
      We have actually had discussions on whether to reject out of hand papers that use 10 point font or otherwise violate this standard.

      The problem is that many, including myself, think that this formatting rule is silly, and so it has been widely ignored or at least painfully abused for many years. I would like to propose a simple and logical alternative: conference submissions should be in the same format (or as near an equivalent as possible) as the final conference version. Many other conferences (such as AAAI and Sigmetrics) use this approach with great success.

      The advantages of this approach include:

      1. It reduces the work of the authors. Right now, authors have to create entirely distinct submission versions and final versions of conference papers using various formats. Most authors find this a hassle, and this is my main reason for the proposal. I hate writing the same conference paper multiple times just to cope with formatting issues.
      2. It gives the reviewer a more accurate picture of the conference paper. Reviewers will have a very good idea of what the paper will look like in the conference proceedings, making it easier to judge. When you're staring at 20+ pages of appendices, it is hard to tell what the final paper will look like.
      3. It enhances fairness. Because this is a standard with a clear reasoning behind it -- you cannot have a longer submission than conference paper -- people are more likely both to follow and enforce the rule, avoiding potential unfairness.
      I have heard of some disadvantages of this approach. Let me attempt to dispense with them.
      1. The format is too hard for the reviewers to read.

        My response: If this is the case, then perhaps the conference paper format itself should be changed -- after all, don't we expect many people to actually read the conference version? If the conference paper is packed tight for other reasons (the publishers charge by the page), then for submissions design as near an equivalent format as possible. If we find 10 double-column 10 point pages with style file A essentially equals 20 single-column 11 point pages with style file B, then clearly state that in the call and ask for the latter. (Luca Trevisan pointed out this is done for the Complexity Conference already.)

      2. Appendices are necessary when there are long proofs that won't fit in the paper.

        My response: If the proofs won't fit in the final conference paper, this is something a reviewer should see and know. The PC can either allow appendices, with the knowledge they won't have room to appear, or allow pointers to more complete versions (TRs, arXiv preprints) that the reviewers can examine if they desire.

      3. By having different formats, we force authors to revisit and hopefully improve their paper.

        My response: Nice intentions, but don't people already want to make their published work as good as possible? This seems unnecessary, and not worth the price.

      I ask all PC chairs to please consider this modest proposal.

      --
      Posted by Lance to Computational Complexity at 4/13/2005 09:09:00 PM

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