Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another reason to diversify your publication venues - drama insurance

Recently I wrote about how to select a publication venue, and in the post suggested that it's good to have a "diverse portfolio" by aiming for a mix of top conferences, journals, and workshops that you publish in each year.

Another aspect I should have mentioned - it's also very good to diversify within each of these groups, in order to have drama insurance.

Whenever groups of humans get together to organize something, there is drama. And it's not always due to cantankerous individuals, I think it's somehow in our nature as human beings. I've seen it emerge in every organization I've ever participated in, from work projects to bake sales. It just happens, like rain.

As an author trying to get your name out there, you don't want to get caught in the crossfire of other people's drama. You just want to publish your paper. But as we've discussed before, a lot of getting your paper accepted at a top conference often has an element of random chance associated with it. For example, at many conferences, the majority of papers are "borderline", and it is up to the whim of your paper chair to decide whether or not to spend precious minutes discussing it. But this PC member likely has an agenda - perhaps s/he is involved in a posturing contest with another PC member. Perhaps there is some talk that too many papers from Podunk University have been accepted recently, and the PC member is afraid to advocate too strongly for your paper because Author #2 is affiliated with Podunk. And so on.

All of these goofy things happening that have absolutely nothing to do with your science!

An unbelievable amount of drama goes on underneath the hood of many conferences, and by diversifying you have extra insurance against this silliness. If Conference A gets caught up in a self-destructing snowball of doom, you still have Conferences B and C.

The best thing about Computer Science is we pretty much can work in any field. Physics. Music. Psychology. Astronomy. History. Architecture. Really, anything. So if your sub-field conference implodes, and your super-field conference implodes, branch out a bit. It's fun to solve problems in other disciplines, and in my experience they're always very glad to have you! Unless you're cantankerous.

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