Open Letter

June 3, 2014 © CCC Steering Committee

Open letter to the Computational Complexity Community regarding the move to independence

The steering committee of the Conference on Computational Complexity (CCC) recently announced its decision to pursue a separation of the conference from IEEE. This followed many years of grievances and discussions within the committee as well as with the broader computational complexity community. Below we describe some of the issues, the process that led to the decision, and some of the future hopes for the conference.

The arguments against the current affiliation with IEEE were mainly the following three:

  1. IEEE does not provide free open-access to articles it publishes whereas we would like the publications of CCC to be available freely.
  2. IEEE sponsorship entails a significant financial overhead; the costs do not appear to match the benefits.
  3. IEEE sponsorship adds to administrative complexities of running the conference rather than reducing the load on local organizers.

After years of entertaining these grievances, the committee formally began to investigate the merits of CCC’s affiliation with IEEE at the business meeting in June 2013. Interactions with participants encouraged further investigation, at which point the steering committee started internal discussions. In February 2014, the steering committee launched a public forum and solicited arguments for or against continuing the affiliation. (This forum and any public comments there can be accessed here.) Following the online discussion period, the committee called for a vote from the CCC community. Based on the outcome, feedback and further discussion, the committee made its decision in May 2014.

Roughly 190 people cast their vote, with 60% supporting the separation, and with the remaining favoring a status quo or joint ACM/IEEE sponsorship. The main concerns about the separation were:

  1. Will the conference manage to survive in the long run without the IEEE umbrella?
  2. Will the conference maintain its prestige without the IEEE label?

Supporters of separation considered open-access very important. They were also concerned about the financial overhead, and sympathized with the issue of IEEE adding to the administrative burden on local organizers. Respondents felt that it would be more appropriate for people involved with conference organization (past and future) to have more control — they are the ones with the most information and the ones most affected. Ultimately, the committee unanimously supported the idea of pursuing a separation with the hope of starting an independent conference in 2015 or 2016 at the latest.

The steering committee understands that such a separation comes with risks and increased responsibilities for the committee and the community. However, we feel that organizing the conference will actually be easier once steady state has been reached because no energy will be spent coordinating formalities with an often unresponsive organization. The prestige of the conference is, we believe, principally based on the quality of papers, and the consistency of the conference. The current momentum of the field makes us quite optimistic about the former, and we shall do our best to maintain the latter. As a result, we are confident that prestige will be maintained. Finally, we see no barriers to open-access publications, and we intend to publish all future conference proceedings in this manner.

While in the long run we are confident the conference will be better served by being independent, in the near term there will be additional responsibilities that the steering committee and the community at large will have to shoulder. In particular, we need support from the members of the complexity community. We will forward a request for a public endorsement of our decision and hope many of you will sign it. We also need help with various aspects of setting up the new organization, and encourage everyone to volunteer.

We look forward to a new, independent, vibrant conference on computational complexity that we can all be proud of!

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