computer science publication habits are deadly

Over at Lance Fortnow‘s Computational Complexity Blog is a discussion on the IEEE Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS) conference, which is one of the two “major” conferences in theoretical computer science. Apparently an undergrad at MIT has 3 papers in FOCS, which is somewhat unprecendented. This sparked a long argument about the nature of conference publications and how they are used to measure grad students viz. applying to faculty jobs, and so on.

What is interesting (to an outsider) is that CS Theory and CS in general has this “conference publication is everything” culture. In most every other academic field (from various kinds of engineering to performance studies) conferences are expensive to attend and the real results appear in journals. One exception is the Modern Language Association (MLA) conference to which grad students go for job interviews. Personally, I think a lot of this FOCS/STOC vs. SODA pissing contest would get sidelined if journal publication became the norm rather than the exception in CS. Or am I missing something here?

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