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Communications of the ACM


The Pros and Cons of the 'PACM' Proposal: Point

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The Pros and Cons of the 'PACM' Proposal, illustration


Make no mistake, computer science research is a resounding success. Its research advances, peer reviewed and published in conferences, created new billion-dollar industries, changing how we do science, business, government, entertain ourselves, and communicate.

While many universities accommodate the rigorous, conference publication culture of CS, others do not. Our practices differ from other sciences that only peer review articles in journals, using conferences for unreviewed talks, posters, and articles.


Rajesh Purohit

Yes agreed to this view as conferences are to be encouraged as well.

Scott Whitmire

Interesting comments, but the main thrust seems to be that the conference-preference currently in place in the ACM is preferable because of the program committees. Having participated in a conference program committee for over a decade, I will agree that the PC format for reviewing submissions is better than the typical peer-review process used by most journals.

However, the conference format suffers from one major issue: the limited agenda space. Time limits imposed by the conference format necessarily limit the number of submissions that can be selected. Larger conferences can select more submissions, but necessarily limit the exposure of each submission. The result is that valuable research is not published, or if it is, not widely seen. Publication in a journal can remedy both of these issues.

Conferences are good for fostering dialog in situations where problems have not been solved and researchers submit position papers or preliminary research. In these cases, the dialog is the goal, not the publication.

Journals also have an advantage of a stable brand and more permanence as a place to find research. I've been on both sides of the research problem and find that locating relevant research in a conference proceeding is much more difficult than a journal. That may be caused by the way libraries select their subscriptions, but it does affect the ability to find information.

A compromise appears to be in order here. If the program committee concept is a superior peer-review process, why not use it to select submissions for journals?

Conferences and journals are both necessary, and I am in favor of the proposal, but the arguments given in the article are not necessarily relevant to the issue. It is not an either-or-situation.

Kathryn McKinley

Thank you for your comments! While Journals and Conferences could have similar reviewing processes, currently they do not.

In theory, both Journals and Conferences are not limited in what they accept, but in practice they are, because being "selective" is one metric of quality and the best venues are selective. If there is valuable research in a submission, it is easy for journals and conferences to include it. Conferences do have more strict physical limits (presentation slots vs pages on the web). However, many have added parallel sessions to address this problem and are adding more. Furthermore, conferences could simply publish more papers and not give all of them a speaking slot.

Kathryn S. McKinley
Principal Researcher Microsoft

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