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Questions and Opinions (collected)

Since the following opinions are collected from different sources, please fell free to email me if you are the owner of the post and want me to remove your opinion from my website.

  • The acceptance rates at conferences for theoretical computer scientists tend to run higher than acceptance rates at conferences in other areas of computer science. Does this mean that theory conferences are less competitive than their counterparts in other areas?

    • This question was posted in Lance Fortnow's blog. Some of the opinions I liked are as follows.

      Lance Fortnow: "In non-theory areas like artificial intelligence, the committee must take a subjective look at the papers which means many more papers fall into the second 'possibility of acceptance' category. Many more people therefore take the risk and submit their paper because they can't immediately put the paper in that third 'long-shot' category. This leads to more submissions and a low acceptance rate.

      For theory we do a much better job putting our papers into these categories, as we can self-judge the hardness of the results and have a good feeling of the importance of the results for the conference. Theorists can tell when their papers won't have much of a chance of acceptance and will, usually, not waste their and the program committee's time in submitting these papers to the conference. This leads to a relatively higher acceptance rate in theory conferences.

      David Molnar ... As a contrast, I think cryptography conferences tend to have a much lower acceptance rate than FOCS/STOC. Maybe we aren't doing a good enough job of pre-sorting submissions? or it could be that several distinct communities submit to the same conference sometimes.

      Anonymous ... several systems conferences have anonymous submissions. Thus, people can submit nonsense (which will never get accepted anyway), and get away with it. They do so thinking, "it won't get in, but I'll get some feedback from the committee anyway". That increases the number of submissions, and lowers acceptance rates.

      Michael Mitzenmacher ...But really, isn't this argument painfully self-serving for our community? If we want to make the case that a FOCS/STOC paper with a 30% acceptance ratio is more significant than a conference in subfield XYZ with a 10% acceptance ratio, it seems like we need some evidence to back this argument up soundly. Otherwise, it just sounds like sour grapes.

  • Why the papers in the area of theoretical computer science list the authors in alphabetical order?

    • AMS (2004 Statement) (see the details here) ... In most areas of mathematics, joint research is a sharing of ideas and skills that cannot be attributed to the individuals separately. The roles of researchers are seldom differentiated (in the way they are in laboratory sciences, for example). Determining which person contributed which ideas is often meaningless because the ideas grow from complex discussions among all partners. Naming a "senior" researcher may indicate the relative status of the participants, but its purpose is not to indicate the relative merit of the contributions. Joint work in mathematics almost always involves a small number of researchers contributing equally to a research project.

      For this reason, mathematicians traditionally list authors on joint papers in alphabetical order. An analysis of journal articles with at least one U.S. based author shows that nearly half were jointly authored. Of these, more than 75% listed the authors in alphabetical order. In pure mathematics, nearly all joint papers (over 90%) list authors alphabetically.