At this point in time I see three possible courses of action.
Remaining an IEEE-Only Conference
This obviously is the easiest option and has the drawbacks mentioned above. There is hope for improvement on some fronts.
Both the return on surpluses and open access are agenda items for the upcoming IEEE TC Board meeting on June 11, 2013. We’ll have to await the outcome.
According to a source that wanted to remain anonymous, an unnamed IEEE conference managed to negotiate a secret arrangement in which a permanent account is held in trust of their community. We could try the same.
In the context of the 2010 funding rule, we could ask TCMF to treat CCC similar to FOCS with respect to student travel awards.
Apart from arguably being a more natural home for CCC, there are a few differences in the way ACM and IEEE handle their conferences.
Funding. The ACM Special Interest Groups (SIGs) such as SIGACT get to keep money permanently but ACM takes a cut of all the money that SIGs spend during the year, including for their sponsored conferences. SIGACT passes the fee on to its conferences as an overhead charge of roughly 15%, which is comparable to the overhead that IEEE charges. Unlike IEEE, where this is a fee that is seen as supporting the central services
provided to conferences, the two are not linked at ACM, and the yearly balance is absorbed by SIGACT rather than by the organization.
Another difference is that ACM requires a contingency of 15% instead of 10%. More importantly, SIGACT shares in the proceeds of the digital library, whereas TCMF does not. Partly as a result, SIGACT currently has a large amount of money in its account (more than $800K).
Proceedings. Whereas IEEE may be willing to close an eye for conference web sites with proceedings papers (as long as these papers are also part of IEEE’s digital libraries), ACM seems less willing. ACM has made some short-term concessions (see the current ACM policy for the details), but has been quite reluctant to allow long-term access other than through the digital library.
Administration. ACM provides reduced fees for on-line registration, handles all the money, and pays the bills. This arrangement works out very well for conferences organized in North-America, but for conferences organized elsewhere the IEEE arrangement works better.
As a current IEEE conference, CCC cannot become an ACM-only conference. However, CCC can become a joint ACM/IEEE conference, like LICS did. Possibly after some transition period, each organization would presumably provide 50% of the sponsorship. Based on the experience of LICS, it seems like it would be relatively easy for CCC to make the change. Compared to the current situation, the advantages would be that CCC gets access to some of the SIGACT services and resources, and that the proceedings also appear in ACM’s digital library. The disadvantage is that the administrative overhead due to sponsorship would essentially double, and that ACM may disallow certain open access initiatives that IEEE would allow. The overhead issue would remain about the same.
Just like CoLT did with ACM, CCC could decide to end its affiliation with IEEE completely and become an independent conference. This would avoid the frustration of local organizers and PC chairs dealing with a large organization, eliminate the overhead on expenses, make it possible to transfer money from one year to the next, and enable free access to the proceedings for everyone. It may also stimulate local organizers to get the best deals, as the proceeds would remain within our community. Downsides are the following:
Start-up funds. We would need to collect enough funds to cover advance payments and potential deficits. Eventually our account balance should reach $40K to $50K, but we could start smaller and build up over a number of years, using donations and registration fees.
I have polled the NSF CCF program directors about such funding. I’ve been told that this is an unusual request, but I haven’t heard the final word yet. In addition, we should obtain donations from other organizations and possibly also individuals.
Set-up work. In addition to obtaining start-up funds, it would take a substantial amount of work to set everything up: banking, insurance, registration, proceedings production. We would probably need to create a non-profit organization like CoLT did. Once the initial phase is over, there would be less administrative overhead than is currently the case, and future local organizers would benefit from things already being set up for them.
Possible loss of prestige. At some institutions being affiliated with a professional organization like IEEE or ACM is viewed as a quality mark for conferences, and the absence of such an affiliation disqualifies publications for consideration in tenure and promotion cases.
Name change. Since IEEE owns the name of the conference, we would need to change it. A not-so-creative alternate name may be “Conference on the Complexity of Computation”. Perhaps even “Computational Complexity Conference” is already different enough.
Next section: Preliminary Assessment and Plan