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June 08, 2005


we wuz robbed

While NSF funding is important, it only really matters to people who
are faculty at a US university. I do not think this is a suitable
topic for general discussion at a business meeting at an international
conference. However, perhaps we could arrange a special bitchfest at
the conference over breakfast where the relevant people could drink
beer and figure out why NSF does not want to give buckets of money to
a stagnant subfield where the major conference can only support 40

banquet was not included in the registration fees for FOCS - the price for it was EUR 75.00 and it was outrageous.

Even if I agree with some correlation between the registration fee and the number of attendence, I think what matters more is the location. Brooklyn was a winner because you got a huge number of researchers/students from the neighborhhod (NY, MA, NJ, PA, even the Washington DC area). Hong Kong, Pisa, or Korea will be loosers in that respect. For americans, the difference in the airfare is much more than the $100 difference in the registration fees.


To the anonymous commenter who posted from an IP address at CNR in Pisa, where SOCG is currently being held:

"While NSF funding is important, it only really matters to people who are faculty at a US university." — I disagree. Funding agencies in other countries (and the European Union) are also rearranging their priorities away from fundamental research. The larger problem is increasing the visibility of our field among the general public. Attracting funding agencies are one aspect of this; attracting students to computer science (as opposed to Instant Millionaire Progamming™) is another.

"...buckets of money..." — Buckets? A few cups would be fine. Despite a flood of top-quality proposals, NSF hasn't been able to fund more than a a couple computational geometry grants per year since at least the mid-90s, and even those have almost vanished in the last few years. (I'm not including multi-displinary programs like ITR (which no longer exists in any case); I mean small single-investigator grants that pay for one PhD student for a couple of years, one month of summer salary, and maybe a new laptop.) This year, the only NSF grants for computational geometry will be in the CAREER program. We're not whining because we can't buy a third Mercedes; we're whining because we (or rather, our students) can't eat.

"...a stagnant subfield where the major conference can only support 40 papers." — Stagnant? What the hell are you talking about?

To be fair, the expensive registration fee is partly because of a weak Dollar vs. Euro.

--Stagnant? What the hell are you talking about?

Of course the field isn't stagnant. The point is that this is the message that a 40-paper major conference sends.

I've heard people joke about the "suicidal tendencies" of the computational geometry community. These tendencies include:

(a) small SoCG acceptance numbers. Students are discouraged by high rejection rates and people dabbing in the field are shunned away. [Contrary to what Jeff says this does not make the numbers any harder. The moment the word is out that SoCG is no longer a long shot you-better-know-someone-in-the-PC conference, the number of submissions would go up. ]

(b) no clear second/third tier conference (contrast this with e.g. complexity with CCC/STACS/MFCS or algorithms with SODA/ESA/(WADS/SWAT))

(c) plenty of weakly refereed conferences which are given very little weight by grant review panels such as the European Workshop, the Japan Workshop and CCCG.

(d) weak links to direct application areas such as computer graphics, GIS, robotics, computer vision, protein folding, computational chemistry, etc.

(e) low submission rates to FOCS/STOCS/SODA (as noted by Jeff).

No one is suggesting the standard be lowered. There were 65 papers worthy of publication, only 40 appeared. Is this a desirable situation for anyone?

--At one infamous SODA program committee meeting a few years ago....

Interestingly enough, computational geometry is explicitly listed in the SODA call for papers for at least the last ten years.

--The vote was 8 for FCRC, 57 for Korea, 3 for DC, and 38 for North Carolina.

Add that one to the suicidal tendencies of the CG community. Shun FCRC with its wider exposure for a far away destination? Yes, Korea has a strong and vibrant CG community, so SoCG would eventually had to be held there, but why on the same year as FCRC?

Sanjeev Arora


In the advocacy business, the only option for all of us is to get actively involved. See my comments in the discussion on your remarks that took place on Lance's complexity blog.

Young and ambitious researchers such as yourself (and other readers of this blog) should take a lead in crafting a compelling, forward-looking vision. Feel free to join the TCS advocacy too.

Vladlen Koltun

"One paper in this year's proceedings imminentized the eschaton. Hoopla! Fnord!"

Kudos on the Robert Anton Wilson reference. BTW, which paper do you mean?


Hey, I'll never... never... aaaahhSHEWchuk. Excuse me. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I'll never tell!

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