Sunday, January 27, 2008


Since every blog with some kind of self-respect is reporting from SODA'08, I thought it would be appropriate for this blog to report from CATS'08.

+ Invited talk by Eric Allender. Eric talked about the P vs NP question, and specifically about the question of separating the classes TC0 and NC1. It is known that, for every d, there is a constant c > 1 such that the formula evaluation problem requires TC0 d circuits of size at least nc. Erik argued that it might be possible to obtain a slightly stronger lower bound, showing that there is a c > 1 such that this same set requires uniform TC0 circuits of size nc. Surprisingly this would be sufficient to prove that TC0 is properly contained in NC1.

As a whole the talk was very interesting and at a good level (at least for me). I didn't know much about these classes before and Eric explained all these classes in detail together with a motivation to why they are so important.

+ Business meeting. A few important and positive decisions were made at the business meeting.

James Harland will approach the steering committee of IWOCA to check if it's possible to co-locate IWOCA and CATS in 2010. In my opinion this would be about time. The overlap between the two small communities is too small to warrant two completely separate events.

Next years CATS will include a set of informally invited speakers. That is, a few researchers that would attend anyway will be invited to give a half hour talk about their main research area (or a tutorial). The aim of this is to improve the quality of the talks.

Finally, CATS will encourage further discussions about the accepted papers by making them available on the website and asking for comments on how to improve the papers (results or presentation). Hopefully, this will also encourage more discussion during the presentation.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SWAT'08 invited speakers

We've been lucky to get two great invited speakers to SWAT 2008: Michael Mitzenmacher and Vijay Vazirani!

The submission deadline for SWAT is on the 17th of February. This still gives you another month - just enough time to put together a good paper!

Filling in reporting forms

December and January seem to be the months when reports are to be written. I just got another one to fill in that is aimed to the federal government. It's not that much to fill in but I find the questions hard to answer. Here are three examples:

- What is special about our approach? (1-2 sentences)

- Relevance of research to business/community (1-2 sentences)

- Technical description of research (1-2 sentences)

I've been staring at these questions for an hour and I don't feel that I'm getting closer to producing any answers. However, I have some some good suggestions that I don't think would be appreciated by the federal government (or NICTA). Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

CATS 2008

CATS 2008 is taking place in Wollongong in two weeks. The PC chairs have been able to attract Eric Allender as the invited speaker. I heard him give a great invited talk almost ten years ago so I'm looking forward to the talk.

There will also be the usual business meeting to look forward to. An interesting question that we've discussed at every meeting I attended is how to make CATS more popular. How can we increase the number of paper submissions and the number of attendants? And where should we focus our attention: on Australia, Australasia or the whole world?

The sad truth is that not even the majority of Australian CS theory community attends CATS. What can we do to attract this community? Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reviewing a journal paper

I'm currently reviewing a journal paper that's interesting but the presentation is very poor. It's badly organised and the misuse of notations is terrible.

The paper is 30 pages long and I've gone through the first 10 pages (I have 4 pages of comments so far) and I'm getting more and more annoyed at the presentation and the authors sloppiness. I know I signed up to referee the paper but on the other hand I feel that I'm not the one that should clean up the paper. The authors should see to it that it's in good shape when they submit it (I know I'm throwing rocks inside a glass house...).

Can I send back a review report of the first 10 pages urging the authors to improve the writing before they resubmit or do I have to continue to review the remaining 20 pages?

This reminds me of my master thesis (30 pages) that I submitted to a journal about ten years ago. I got back two referee reports three years later containing comments up to page 15 together with the rejection letter. I remember I was terribly disappointed :-)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Referee request

Today I got a request to referee a paper for a conference (which will remain unnamed). Usually a request is polite and friendly. However, this request was more demanding:

"You have been assigned as a reviewer for the paper XXXXX submitted to XXXXXX'08."

Thus not even asking me if I would like to be a reviewer. Further down in the mail it says:

"The review is due by Jan 26, 2008 10:00 PM, and it is very important that the review be turned in before this deadline."

It then continues:

"If you are unable to complete this review assignment for any reason, please send an email to the TPC chairs indicating the reasons for which you are unable to do this assignment."

So if I won't accept the kind invitation I have to motivate my decision? Can it be that the TPC won't accept my motivation? If so, do I have to referee the paper? What annoys me the most is that I actually sent a polite reply containing a short explanation why I couldn't referee the paper.