Mihai Pătraşcu wrote an elaborate post on the benefit of prestigious conferences. His arguments are simple enough:
- Top conferences are communities created to increase the efficiency of the scientific community. You only have to monitor what happens at prestigious events instead of having to browse through everything that was published.
- Yes, top conferences are biased toward certain topics, and that’s a good thing.
- It most efficient to assess a researcher by the number of papers he published at top conferences.
- Journals have a worse review process than conferences.
His points are good and well made. But I oppose his ideas nevertheless.
In practice, I do not rely on lists of accepted papers to follow what happens in my field. Tools like Google Scholar allow me to quickly browse all papers matching some keywords. It has proven to be a sufficiently good recommender system. I try hard to avoid having a field or belonging to a fixed community. I try hard to think differently.
Self-reinforcing biases are bad and must be fought against. They are killing Physics and have supported 40 years of ill-fated research in classical AI. I feel we have “too much of the same” and I wish to encourage my fellow researchers to be more daring. I want to read researchers who are challenging preconceived ideas, not researchers carefully copying the trends.
I also think it is deeply wrong to think that you can assess a researcher without reading his work. Parnas said it best:
When serving on recruiting, promotion, or grant-award committees, read the candidate’s papers and evaluate the contents carefully. Insist that others do the same.
In short, I do not believe you should try to belong to the community defined by top conferences. It is akin to trying to fit in with the cool kids in high school. I am sorry, but I was and will remain a misfit for this reason alone:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. (George Bernard Shaw)
Finally, some journals have a terrible review process, but I think that Pătraşcu is just misguided to think that “journal acceptance is determined by one dude (the editor), who’s not even anonymous, based on some inconclusive statement from another dude.”
Note. I have a cool tenured job. Maybe graduate students should follow Pătraşcu’s advice. Myself, I do not plan to apply for another academic job in the near future.