Stable Crypto Conference Marriages

In my previous post, I argued that there are too many cryptographic conferences. One of the accompanying well-known problems is that if your paper (say) gets rejected from Eurocrypt, then you either have to wait (and risk again) 3 months for Crypto, or you can go for a slightly weaker conference. However, most of those “slightly weaker” conferences (TCC, FSE, PKC, FC, and the next year even CT-RSA) are organized a few months before the Eurocrypt. This means actually that you need to wait for another (say) nine months. Call it the Spring Bundle.

Another well-known bundle is in December, with Asiacrypt organized inbetween 6+ smaller conferences (CANS, ITICS, ICICS, ICISC, Indocrypt, Inscrypt, and may be some more imatinatively named conferences). The good thing about this Winter Bundle is that you can submit papers, rejected in Asiacrypt, directly to ICICS/ICISC/Indocrypt/Inscrypt. The bad thing here is that those conferences are not slightly but much weaker than Asiacrypt.

I have had for quite some time an idea that the conferences belonging to one bundle should have a joint PC, and joint reviewing process, such that the best papers would be accepted to the top conference in this bundle (respectively Eurocrypt and Asiacrypt), while other papers would be somehow distributed among the weaker conferences. (Taking into account that the papers would also be in scope: e.g., block cipher papers not going to TCC.) However, I have never been sure how to distribute papers among the smaller conferences, since at least the 6 Decembery small conferences are all weak, some more than others.

I think Doron Zeilberger has a quite neat idea, albeit in the context of mathematical journals. To translate it to our language, let the authors choose, when submitting a paper, an ordered list of preferred conferences. The conference PCs will agree on either total rejection of the paper, or the ordered suitability list of the paper to different conferences. After that, they just run a stable marriage algorithm on pairs (papers, conferences). If you get a paper matched to conference X, you can’t complain since you still thought X to be ok (and your more favorite conferences rejected you). Analogously, the conference PCs can’t complain: if they don’t like a paper at all (or it’s not in scope), they can refuse to be matched with it.

This would take care of several possible conflicts. May be you as an author cannot travel to (say) TCC at this time – then you omit TCC from your list. If you think FC and CT-RSA are too weak for you and you want to gamble, you can only put Eurocrypt and the suitable IACR workshop in your list. If you are a real gambler, you’ll only consider Eurocrypt.

Obviously, if the authors are not happy with their allocation, they can withdraw their paper, but this happens even now sometimes. Moreover, if you knew you wouldn’t like conference X, so why to list it?

Anyhow. Such a system would increase publishing rate quite a bit. However, I still think it necessary to increase the number of accepted papers in top conferences, since just both bundles are too big.

There’s another point in Doron’s opinion piece: that there shouldn’t be any journals at all, everybody should just publish in arxiv, and let the readers be the referees (e.g., just count the impact, the number of citations). Although I strongly agree in the case of journals, I am not sure if this were implementable in our conference system, where getting there (going to the conference and meeting with the people) is also fun. Still, I think counting the impact (citations) is a much more relevant way of deciding researcher’s impact than counting his or her tier 1 conference papers. (See my previous post for more.)

For another take of this issue, see also the PhD Comics. Doron’s earlier opinion piece was even better.

EDIT: Two more comments. First, in the current system your paper might be the best of the rejected papers (you don’t know it). You will then submit it to say ICICS. Assume ICICS does not have any competent reviewers in this subarea, the paper will get rejected, which may be especially depressing. With this kind of joint reviewing you may get rid of this problem, too.

Second, such a joint system will increase the average quality of the top conferences, too, even if the number of accepted papers was increased. Risk-averse authors (or authors, whose paper has already been rejected from the last big conference) might want to decrease the risk by submitting the paper to a smaller conference. However, may be it would have been accepted to the top conference this time, too – nobody knows? With the joint system, Eurocrypt could get the bestest papers of this spring (assuming that the authors prefer Eurocrypt to say FSE or TCC, of course). This would considerably decrease the gamble element: either risk a lot by submitting to a top conference (where the paper may be rejected), or submit to a non-top conference (which may accept it, but then it doesn’t look so good on CV, or which may reject it because of the lack of good reviewers).

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