Thursday, September 09, 2004

Data collection...

Chandra asks:
It would be nice to know by some data analysis if we
have more people submitting papers or more papers
being submitted.
and says:
Good survey papers are really needed. CRC handbooks
also seem to do some of this indirectly although I wish the authors put up their articles on the web - who is going to pay hefty sums for these gargantuan sized books?
So I have two responses to this:

firstly, on the data collection issue, it is not as hard as one thinks. the data is available: all we need are PC chairs/members willing to extract and anonymize data appropriately, so no confidentiality is breached (do I really want people to know that I submitted 15 papers to SODA last year and they were all rejected?).

Secondly, although it is not really academically rigorous, I think that even blogs have a small role to play in helping spread the word about interesting developments in the field. Lance has been posting surveys about interesting papers/areas for a long time now, and my recent post on Arrow's theorem forced me to learn at least a bit more about social choice theory than I previously knew (and hopefully had something useful for readers).

I don't think blogs can replace rigorous reviewed surveys though, and somehow ACM Computing Surveys doesn't have the cachet of the various math review journals. There was some site (not that allowed people to discuss the papers that were posted - that's an interesting idea as well.

What I feel (and people who've been around longer can correct me on this) is that we are at a volume level where we need to explore new strategies for disseminating (as opposed to publishing) research. Chandra makes a good point when he says that people are too busy publishing to write surveys (which are essentially useless from the point of view of tenure/grant commitees etc). Maybe all the tenured faculty out there need to step up :)

Update: Jeff Erickson deservedly swats me upside the head with a copy of Geometric Range Searching and its Relatives (incidentally one of the most useful surveys that I have ever read), and points me to (at least for geometry) a good collection of surveys maintained by Sariel Har-Peled. But of course we knew that geometry folks were ahead of the curve...

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