Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two Inspiring Posts

UPDATE:  Make that three!

Inspiring me to blog, that is....

Matt blogs about the psychology of program committees.  It's one of those things that would be funny except that it's true.  So true.  So, so true...

One of the commenters raises an interesting option.  Every PC member gets one "trump card" to decide to accept a paper unilaterally.  (I suppose one could also allow a trump card to be used to reject a paper unilaterally.  But then what happens if two people play opposing trump cards?)  What do you think?  I like the idea in principle -- if a PC member has such a strong opinion on the paper, it should be accepted -- but I think in practice it's an idea rife with complications.  Gamesmanship in the committee about when/how to use the trump card and potential abuses from conflicts of interest come to mind.  Might you be inclined to use a trump card rather than "go to waste", even if you didn't feel quite so passionately about a paper?  I think if everyone used it in the manner it was intended, it could be a great idea.  On the other hand, if PCs were perfect, we wouldn't have posts like Matt's (and might not need the trump idea in the first place).

Lance complains about traveling too much.  Some academics I know would laugh at the idea that hitting 50K miles gets you anywhere close to being a too-frequent traveler, but (like Lance) that's pretty much my threshold too -- it's roughly a flight across the country or to Europe each month.  Add in some other shorter travel, and it really does up.

At this point, I avoid trips that keep me away overnight if at all possible.  I've turned down a few colloquium talks this year because of this problem.  If we can work out a travel schedule based on my taking an early flight from Boston and a late flight back the same day, I'll definitely try to make it work.  The kids/family can manage school/dinner without me for a day.  (There's also my class to consider, of course, during the semester, but let's temporarily leave that aside.)  I'll take a late flight out the night before sometimes if needed.  But if I have to miss two dinners (or two morning walks to school) it's much, much less likely I'll do the travel.  It just adds up quickly to too much time away.  (Usually the way flights work out you're stuck leaving early the afternoon before, killing the day, or getting back mid-afternoon on the way back, killing the day.  2 days is a lot of time to devote for giving a talk.  And if I'm missing two days in a row, I'm definitely missing a class during the semester...)

Conferences obviously are different -- but it's rare I go to a conference where I don't have a paper, for essentially the same reason.  I do try to arrange longer trips, where I can bring the family -- I arrange a 1-2 week west coast Bay Area tour most every summer and try to give talks at all the major places I can manage -- but it's a difficult balancing act.  I suppose I'll want to travel more again once the kids grow up and leave the house.  I hope I'll still have work worth traveling to talk about then!

A third inspiring post by way of MuthuTim Roughgarden has won the Grace Murray Hopper Award, and Bellare and Rogaway have won the Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award.  Congratulations all around!



Geoff Knauth said...

I don't like a Trump Card acceptance. Do PC members know how the votes tally? What does PC think if 1 accepts (w/trump) and 15 others reject? How will the rest of PC treat the author of an otherwise massively rejected paper? The Trump Card idea would work if the person exercising the privilege had amazing insight and the rest of the PC were ignorant, but I don't think that's typical.

Anonymous said...

I actually like to travel. It shakes me up, often brings new ideas. In Boston I guess that's a lot easier than in the midwest.

The trump card idea is terrible.