Panel Debate "Evolution or Revolution? The Future of Conferences in Theoretical Computer Science"

From: Jamie Vicary
Subject: Panel Debate, Wednesday 2 September @ 3pm UTC: "Evolution or Revolution? The Future of Conferences in Theoretical Computer Science"
Date: Monday, August 17, 2020 at 4:54:13 PM CDT

[TLDR: Panel Debate on the Future of Conferences in TCS – panel Fong, Kesner, Pierce, Vardi – join at 3pm UTC on Weds 2 Sep – – reply now from academic email address to propose a question – please circulate this message widely]

Dear all,

The entire community is invited to participate in a debate on the future of the conference system in theoretical computer science. Organized as a special event as part of the Online Worldwide Seminar on Logic and Semantics (OWLS), this will provide a rare community-wide opportunity for us to consider the strengths and weaknesses of our current system, and consider if we can do better.

The scope of the debate is all aspects of our publishing and community traditions, characterised by prestige earned mostly through publication in competitive conferences, and frequent local and international travel. Possible topics for discussion include the need to publish in conferences for career progression, which usually involves burning carbon; wasted author and reviewer effort when good papers are rejected from highly competitive conferences; the extent of our responsibility as a community to respond to climate change; alternative publishing models, like the journal-focussed system used in mathematics; high costs of conference travel and registration; virtual conference advantages, disadvantages and best practice; improving equality, diversity and access; consequences and response to COVID-19; and the role of professional bodies. These topics have many close relationships, and need to be discussed together to gain a full understanding of the issues involved, and how we can move forward.


To discuss these issues, we have an excellent panel with a wide range of relevant experience:

  • Dr Brendan Fong, MIT ( is a postdoctoral researcher with considerable experience organizing virtual conferences and seminars (, and an Executive Editor of the new open-access journal Compositionality.

  • Professor Delia Kesner, University of Paris ( has served on the Steering Committee of six conferences and workshops, and is currently the SC Chair of FSCD, the most recent iteration of which was organized at short notice as a virtual event (

  • Professor Benjamin Pierce, University of Pennsylvania ( has served as PC chair of a range of events including POPL and ICFP, and has written powerfully on the need for the computer science community to adapt to the reality of climate change.

  • Professor Moshe Vardi, Rice University ( is Senior Editor of the journal Communications of the ACM, and founded the Federated Logic Conference (FLOC). He has long been a vocal commentator on structural problems with computer science publishing.


Questions will be asked by members of the community. That means you! Please reply to this email to propose your question, which could raise any issue in scope. Why not do it right now? Make sure to use an academic email address. We’ll let you know if your question is accepted, and you’ll then have the opportunity to ask it during the debate, and to respond to the panel’s comments.


The debate will take place on Wednesday 2 September at 3pm UTC, which corresponds to the following times in a range of cities around the world:

8am San Francisco / 10am Houston / 11am Philadelphia / 4pm London / 5pm Paris / 9pm Mumbai / 11pm Beijing / midnight Tokyo / 1am Sydney

The event will take place on Zoom at the following address, with no password or registration required:

The debate will be followed by an opportunity to discuss informally with other members of the community in small groups.


This event is organized as part of the OWLS seminar series. For more information, a calendar you can embed into your own, and to sign up for reminder emails, visit the webpage:


Members of the community may enjoy the following articles, related to the topic of the debate.

We hope you will join us for the debate. Please forward this message to members of your research group, and others who may be interested to participate.

Best wishes,

I hope irl conferences are a feature of the 2020s.
But will keep an eye on what academic & industrial CS do, cos the rest of the world usually follows.

Useful links discussed in the panel

Thomas Schwentick shared What's wrong with academia? and: