Sunday, November 03, 2019

Call for opinions: Length of papes in conference proceedings in TCS

As current chair of the editorial board of LIPIcs, Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics, I have been looking at some data about the length of the papers published in the series. The average length of the articles published in LIPIcs in 2019 so far is of 15.8 pages, including front matter and bibliography. However, three of the published papers are over 40 pages and three conferences have an average article length above 20 pages (22, 23.9 and 28.4, respectively).

I have seen that some conferences in TCS have no limit on the length of the submitted papers. A colleague whose opinions I hold in high esteem wrote to me saying:
Some people in the "conference name removed" community strongly feel there should be no page limit. My opinion may not be as strong as some, but I believe these people have a point.
Whether we like it or not, most papers in the TOC community only appear in conferences. Many of those conferences have no page limit for submissions, and encourage authors to include all proofs while making sure that the key ideas are presented in the first 10 pages or so. Scientific progress is hindered when authors are then forced to take out parts of their writeups for the conference proceedings in order for their papers to fit within the page limits. One may wish that they'd publish a full version of their paper in a journal subsequently, but most of them won't bother. The net effect is that there is no actual paper with all the details, which is no good.
I share the point made in the last sentence, but I am somewhat bothered by the fact that full versions of papers in TCS are increasingly not being submitted to journals. I am probably very old fashioned, but I feel that it is desirable to see our published results vetted by a journal-strength review process. I still view conferences as means for the rapid dissemination of results and as a meeting point for their community of reference, and I consider journals as the media for final archival publication of mature pieces of research. However, with my LIPIcs EB chair hat on and out of personal interest, I am keen to hear your opinion on whether it is good for the TCS community to publish only in conferences and to publish conference papers without page limits, bearing in mind that, quoting from the FOCS 2019 call for papers:
Although there is no bound on the length of a submission, material other than the title page, references, and the first ten pages will be read at the committee’s discretion.
I'd be grateful if you could post your thoughts on this matter in the comment section. Let's focus on what is best for the dissemination of science, even though long articles are more expensive than those whose average length is around 15 pages.

I look forward to hearing your opinions. Thanks in advance!