Q5: Small Conferences

From Health of Conferences Committee

Question 5: CATCH-ALL.

Are there other approaches your community has tried or abandoned that the rest of us can learn from?


As a community, we have been concerned about the lack of uniformity between reviewers. Thus, on more than occasion, papers that should be rejected according to one reviewer were judged to be eligible for the best paper award by others. We have therefore toyed with the idea of a potential reviewer workshop in which experienced reviewers would discuss the reviewing process. Unfortunately, we have not yet implemented this idea.


not that come to mind currently.


We tried and abandoned a conference that consisted of only invited papers. People who were not invited felt snubbed.


It would be great if we could get support from ACM to check for possible overlaps of conference submissions against (1) existing publications in DL; (2)accepted, but not yet published publications; (3) papers under review in other conferences; (4) rejected papers in previous events (in which case, access to previous reviews is needed). In all cases, checking across a secure channel to ensure confidentiality of the information is needed.




It seems that this is survey is focussed on the paper submission/review process. While this formal sharing of content is extremely important we have found that informal ways of sharing/exchanging content by way of discussions, "birds of a feather sessions", etc. contribute to networking among attendees and sharing of ideas. The SIGUCCS discussion listserv list is one way we continually stay up-to-date and have created an online community with one another - not just the conferences.


This may not be part of the technical aspect of a conference, but one thing that is very important for our community is the building of community. To that end, each year the conference is careful to have a number of social events plus conference lunches so that people can meet others in the community. As a somewhat small community who members often feel isolated in their interests at their university, this bonding with researchers of similar interests is crucial. In responses to conference questionnaires, most people indicate that this meeting of other researchers is the most important conference function for them.


"Birds of a feather" sessions (those with like interests sit at tables labeled with their area of interest) during/at the end of lunch have been used to encourage discussion and interaction.
"Table topics" sessions (a session room with a few tables wherein authors seated at a table present to interested attendees who join them by sitting at the table) allow more papers to be presented at a conference. This approach is similar to "poster sessions."


We are finding that we need a better way to deal with paper conflicts. Our current software system, the University of Colorado's Conference Review Package, does not handle conflicts (author to reviewer) well. We have discussed implementing a "reviewer certification" process wherein a reviewer, once selected/invited, must indicate which groups they have potential conflicts with. In this way then the system will track conflicts better than our ad-hoc methods today.
The discussion order of papers at the PC meeting is very important. Also we have experimented with having the program committee "grade" papers before the PC meeting. This sets up a review order for the papers. Unfortunately, the paper grade scores can disenfranchise external (non-PC member) reviewers who may actually, in some cases, know the work in question better than the PC members. This past year, we have started to set the discussion order as the max(PC grades, review score average) so that no PC grading can 'sink' a paper lower in the order, but it can 'raise up' a paper that may have gotten worse than expected scores. This seems to be working well.


The security field, in general, already has a large number of events wordwide. Additional stand-alone workshops will add to the already significant fragmentation. We believe that co-located workshops work well in the sense that they add flexibility: new, hot topics can be introduced while old stale areas can be discontinued without affecting he community in an adverse manner.


If there is one problem it is that it is difficult to find good people to take on the responsibility of conference organization. It's not a problem of finding good people, it just the problem of getting them to take on the responsibility of chairing. Might be worth reflecting on what tangible rewards these people get for taking on such as task.


Not really. Maybe we don't have enough conferences to be able to spot trends or general solutions. For the most part, we let steering committees make local decisions for their associated fora.