[om] OM should not go to ISSAC

Richard Fateman fateman at cs.berkeley.edu
Sun Apr 8 02:13:25 CEST 2001

I thought I'd catch your eye with the subject.

I think it is a mistake to think that ISSAC has an editorial
policy.  The program committee chair makes decisions (ideally
in close consultation with the program committee members, but
it seems that in the past this was not always the case), on what
to accept or not. In some cases this is done without 
apparent reference to the topics
appropriate for the conference, a balance of papers, the
presentation possibilities, etc.

My guess
is that it is a distinct disadvantage, given the usual
program committee membership for ISSAC to be reporting
on software at all, proposed, designed, implemented.  The
bias has been to accept papers with theorems, without any
consideration that the results have no application to
computing anything.  (No one seems to regard the
notion of "applications to pure math" as the obvious nonsense that
it is.) The enthusiasm of theorists for each others' papers
makes them rise to the top; the sniping of software types
criticizing each other makes their papers drop to the bottom.
I have attempted to combat this in my own reviewing, but
no one asks me to referee the theoretical papers (more than
once, anyway).

The computer science theory conferences, STOC and FOCS have
supplanted journals to a considerable extent, and essentially
accept papers that can be understood only by a handful of attendees.
Thus the notion of a conference as a gathering of people to
learn about each others' work has mutated. It is now an
opportunity for authors to get their names into bibliographies,
their papers into proceedings, and to socialize. The rationale
for a non-author to attend a conference has almost entirely

Where does ISSAC and OM fit together? Maybe not at all.  Unless
software types hijack ISSAC back away from the theorists,
my guess is that ISSAC will just dry up. OM could be discussed
at conferences with a different emphasis. The opportunities
include SIAM, web-oriented stuff, programming languages/ compilers,
publishing, education, etc.  Not only are these conferences more
for computer scientists, they tend to have attendance of 10X
or more that of ISSAC  (ISSAC full-paid attendance recently has been
between 100 and 150, I think).

Personal example.  My papers on progress in recognizing/parsing typeset
mathematics (useful for input of integral tables into computer
algebra systems) has been deemed by program committees
recently to be irrelevant to ISSAC. A similar
topic (more versatile scientific documents)
was the subject of an invited plenary talk at an IEEE
conference on document analysis and recognition
(ICDAR) in Ulm, Germany. The attendance at ICDAR was
probably 3,000.  Interested audience, great conference facilities,
vendor displays, many attendees from industry as well as
academia.  A conference with a good program, not just
a sub-niche of CAS.

Looking at the activemath page, it seems rather remote from
the emphasis at ISSAC, and appropriate for a much more general
venue concerned with software systems, web computing, interactive
education, artificial intelligence/ knowledge representation, graphical
user interfaces, for example.
Note that with the possible exception of user interfaces, NONE
of these topics are represented in recent ISSAC.

Since I am not an insider in OM, and in fact have expressed
various criticisms of it, you may discount this advice, but
I hope it gets you thinking, anyway.

Richard Fateman
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