Opening the Forum

February 2, 2014; updated April 4, 2014 © Dieter van Melkebeek

Purpose and background of this forum.

This forum is intended for the computational complexity community to discuss the affiliation of the Conference on Computational Complexity (CCC) with IEEE.

The discussion was initiated during the business meeting of CCC’13, where a manifesto describing the issues was presented. The manifesto is reproduced in the next post. It is intended as a basis for the community-wide discussion on this forum.

The subsequent posts include a further update since CCC’13, and invited statements in response to the manifesto by IEEE TCMF chair David Shmoys and ACM SIGACT chair Paul Beame. Comments and posts are also invited from all other members of the computational complexity community. Comments on existing posts can be submitted on the respective pages. For new posts, please email Dieter van Melkebeek, the chair of the CCC steering committee.

After the discussion period there will be a voting period. Everyone on the CCC mailing list will have one vote. For instructions on how to subscribe to the mailing list, see here. The vote is non-binding but the forum discussion and the outcome of the vote will be the main factors in the ultimate decision, which by the CCC charter lies with the steering committee.

Here is the time-line for the process:

  1. Forum discussion: February-March 2014.
  2. Posting of the motions: March 14, 2014 April 4, 2014.
  3. Voting window: March 15-31, 2014 April 4-21, 2014.
  4. Decision by the steering committee: before or during CCC’14.

Give Your Opinion

This page collects opinions about the situation and manifesto in general. Look in the comments below for what others have said, and please enter your opinion as well. To comment on specific sections of the manifesto, you can leave comments on those particular pages.

Thanks for your cooperation and participation!

10 thoughts on “Opening the Forum

  1. Boaz Barak

    Aside from my general preference to open access, I do not have a strong opinion on this question, but I do have an opinion on procedure. I would caution against making this decision based on a community-wide vote. Most people really have no basis on which to decide, since they are not familiar with the practical ramifications of deciding one way or the other. Most importantly, there are very few people – namely the steering committee and future local organizers — that will bear the burden of such a decision and the responsibility for keeping the conference running.

    I would urge the steering committee to focus on collecting data from people with first-hand knowledge – past local organizers of CCC and other IEEE-affiliated conferences such as FOCS on one hand, and people involved with conferences that were run independently, or transitioned to being independent, on the other hand. And, if the conference does become independent, some people will need to commit to making the effort to ensure it starts off running well.

    (The blog posts linked above contain two important data points – Luca T’s bad experiences with IEEE as a local organizer of CCC, and Luca A’s good experience as an independepent organizer.)

    1. Dieter van Melkebeek

      These are good points. It is true that only a fraction of the community really knows what is involved in organizing a conference like CCC. On the other hand, there are also aspects that the entire community should have a say on. Open access is the main one that comes to mind. The ballot will ask about the rationale of the voters.

      As mentioned in the post, the vote will be non-binding, and the final decision rests with the steering committee. Besides the outcome of the vote and the main reasons, other considerations will be taken into account, too.

  2. William Gasarch

    I was local organizer with Richard Chang and Marius Zimand for CCC 2008. IEEE didn’t help us with anything, not even helping us get better Hotel Rates (the one thing I thought they would do.) I admit that if that (or any) CCC were to somehow tank it would be good to have IEEE to bail us out, but this seems so remote now that I think we can safely jettison them.

  3. Jacobo Toran

    I have been in the organizing committee for CCC 90 in Barcelona and for CCC 97 in Ulm. In both cases IEEE did not help us with the organization and complicated it by forcing us to do some extra administrative work and to fill many forms. We were also told that the conference should produce some extra money that had to be payed to IEEE. So I agree with Luca and would prefer not to be “supported” by IEEE. I also believe that the financial risks of organizing a conference like CCC on our own are minimal.
    The question of open access to the proceedings is an important one. After some conferences with a long tradition like STACS or FSTTCS decided to publish their own proceeding in the Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics series I thought that many more conferences would follow. There have been other examples but not as many as I thought there would be. I have asked some of the people in the steering committees of conference that still publish proceedings in Springer, for example, and they told me that they are afraid of changing because maybe some universities would not value the Leibniz Proceedings as much as the traditional ones. In my opinion this will change as soon as many conferences adopt the new form. I think that we in CCC are in a good position to change this, because the conference has existed for many years and has a good reputation.

  4. Jan Van den Bussche

    As far as the prestige argument goes, note that quite a few IEEE conferences have been unmasked as fake conferences in recent years. I have been involved in the organization of the EDBT/ICDT series of conferences (International Conference on Extending Database Technology / Database Theory). These conferences exist since 1988, are being organized jointly since 2009, are have always been independent. We are doing just fine. Very recently, the former EDBT executive committee chair (Marc Scholl) started a brand new open proceedings publication initiative, see

  5. Salil Vadhan

    Apologies for joining this discussion so late. I was local arrangements chair for CCC 2010.

    Like others, my interaction with IEEE as a local organizer for CCC was mainly a source of frustration rather than assistance. In particular, the fact that the incentives force us to aim for as tiny a surplus as possible (since further surpluses don’t get returned to the conference) is stressful for the local organizers (since it raises the risk of running a deficit, for which I think the conference gets penalized), and it does not seem like a good business practice. Also, a fair amount of time was wasted with the various on-line forms and bureaucracy. The only benefits I felt from the IEEE as a local organizer is that it provided a set of checklists and deadlines, which were reminders of the many things that need to get done in organizing a conference (as well as many useless things forced on us by IEEE). This of course can be substituted by having good institutional memory within the conference.

    In my mind, the main risk of “going solo” is not any of the things listed in the manifesto, but the way in which having an established scholarly society provides stability in case the conference goes through a period with irresponsible leadership (whether in the steering committee or local arrangements chairs), which could conceivably squander the conference’s money, fail to publish proceedings, or do other disastrous things. Thus, when setting up an organization to run an independent conference, it’s important to put in many checks and balances to prevent these kinds of problems in the future.

    In principle, scholarly societies like IEEE and ACM are supposed to represent the community’s interests, and if we want change, we should do all we can to effect change from within, and only go solo if we conclude that this is not going to work. For this reason, I think it’s really important that we hear from the IEEE TCMF chair on the state of effecting change within IEEE.

    On becoming a joint IEEE/ACM conference: I have interacted with IEEE and ACM in very different ways, so it is difficult to do a real comparison. I was never a local organizer for an ACM conference (and had a relatively painless experience as an ACM PC chair), but I do have a much better understanding of ACM as organization (having served on ACM Council for the past 5 years) than I do for IEEE. I have heard that ACM is better to work with for conference organizers, but I have no direct experience with that. I am familiar with ACM’s reaction to open access, which has been much slower than I’d like, but I don’t know how it compares to what IEEE is doing. It is now possible for ACM SIGs to purchase open access for their conference proceedings, but I think the current cost (at $1000-$1500 per paper) would be prohibitively expensive for CCC. I hope that ACM will find a way to bring these costs down, but it’s hard to predict whether that will happen any time soon.

    1. Dieter van Melkebeek Post author

      I agree about the main risk. I didn’t make this clear, but my concern about the possible transition – are there enough people willing to commit and deliver – applies to the steady state, as well, and is arguably more of a worry for the steady state than the transition period. On the voting ballot, this rationale for not going solo falls under “maintaining continuity”.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure that IEEE provides an effective buffer. The only checks I’m aware of are the budget before the conference and the financial report afterwards. None of the ones I’ve been involved in have resulted in questions let alone changes. There are no checks in place to make sure we stay within budget, nor to make sure the proceedings are actually published. In fact, last year we had to prod IEEE to make sure the proceedings appeared in the digital library; they still only appear in one of the two libraries (IEEExplore but not CSDL).

      I also agree about attempting to make changes from within. We have been trying to do so for a quite a while. The grievances started more than fifteen years ago. About five years ago (I don’t remember the exact year) there was an actual vote during the business meeting with a clear majority to go solo, but we didn’t act on it. If nothing else, this should have sent a clear message. In the mean time there have been some changes but the demand for further changes seems to grow faster.

      In my opinion we (also) need a change in attitude with respect to service to the community. This holds irrespective of whether CCC becomes independent or not. I’m not sure how to affect such a change. Becoming independent may help by increasing the sense of ownership and thereby hopefully also responsibility – we wouldn’t be able to blame IEEE or anyone else anymore – but this may be wishful thinking. On the ballot the last question is intended to get a sense of the level of commitment people are willing to make.

  6. Maurice Cochand

    Computational Complexity is a mathematical discipline, and Computer Science has been one of the main problem-providers for Mathematics in the recent decades. Should a partnership be necessary, then it is in that direction that we should be searching, where we would get the best improvement regarding visibility, one goal being in particular to get CC integrated in the standard mathematical curriculum.

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