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Communications of the ACM


Paper Presentation at Conferences: Time For a Reset

Paper Presentation at Conferences: Time for a Reset, illustration

Credit: Halfpoint

The importance of conferences as a publication medium is now well established in computer science. The methodology of conference reviewing and its role in selecting high quality archival publications has been a subject of much recent discussion. However, there has been little discussion of the role of paper presentation at a conference. This Viewpoint explores this issue and describes an experiment we ran at the VLDB conference.

The traditional paper presentation, at least in the conferences I go to, is 20-plus minutes in duration, most of which time is spent going over details more completely stated in the written paper. These details are also more efficiently understood from the written paper for many of us, who can read technical material faster than we can listen to it. Some attendees may hope for a more in-depth perspective through attending a session. However, when interesting questions do arise, there is usually limited time for discussion. Many would say the goal of a conference presentation should be to convince the audience to read the paper, not to teach them the contents of the paper. But this limited goal can probably be accomplished almost as well in much less time. Consequently, I personally see little value in attending a traditional research talk at a conference.


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