Posted by: jonkatz | June 25, 2009

What’s wrong with FOCS

More proof that something is wrong with FOCS: they didn’t accept my paper. (I guess that means the paper was so innovative, FOCS couldn’t handle it.)

I will post about the paper itself soon; for now, feel free to use the comments to express your own frustrations with the system.


  1. paper(s), you mean? 😦

  2. Thanks a lot for reminding me… =)

    I am much more upset about one paper than the other.

  3. Weren’t you on the stoc committee last time? So how can you be frustrated with a system that you are very much a part of?

    I think it is a problem, because one works on a (hard) problem for a long time, and then gets back dismissive comments saying (frustrating) things such as “maybe there is a better solution” (which can always be said) or that some other techniques can be applied when they can’t be.

  4. I would be interested in hearing opinions on the following question (from Jon and anyone else): to what extent are FOCS and STOC still relevant to cryptography?

    Are the crypto papers at FOCS/STOC the most interesting/best papers of the year (let’s exclude Gentry’s result in order to make the question interesting…)

    How many cryptographers attend FOCS/STOC?

    Is it “fair” to judge a cryptographer on his number of FOCS/STOC papers? Note that I don’t think one should be judged by number of papers but, realistically, this is common practice for hiring committees .

  5. Good questions all.

    asterix: Even if I am a (small) part of the system, that does not mean I do not get frustrated with it.

    I agree completely with your second paragraph; let me wait for the reviews before commenting further.

    altair: Great questions that I’ll address in a future post.

  6. I think one of the big problems is that the number of groups working in theoretical cryptography have probably multiplied by a factor of 5 over the last 5-7 years while the number of slots given to crypto papers in STOC/FOCS have remained the same. Competition has also increased in other fields in theoretical computer science but not by the same factor.

    Since you were on FOCS’08 and STOC’09 committees, I would be interested in hearing the outlook of committee members towards crypto papers (if you think giving out such information would be appropriate). Why were there so few crypto papers accepted in FOCS’08 (around 3-4?). Was it because of the lower quality of submissions?

  7. The Nobel prize winner for PCR was rejected by both
    Science and Nature. He finally published in a not so great journal.

    So be of good cheer.

  8. In hindsight, we should have seen this coming since the call for papers came out — there is only a single cryptographer on the PC.

  9. There we have it — 4.5 crypto papers and twice as many on algorithmic game theory. Perhaps crypto is becoming the new computational geometry.

    * A Parallel Repetition Theorem for Any Interactive Argument
    Iftach Haitner.

    * One bit encryption is complete
    Steven Myers and abhi shelat.

    * Resolving the Simultaneous Resettability Conjecture and a New Non-Black-Box Simulation Strategy
    Yi Deng, Vipul Goyal and Amit Sahai.

    * Extracting Correlations
    Yuval Ishai, Eyal Kushilevitz, Rafail Ostrovsky and Amit Sahai.

    * 2-Source Extractors Under Computational Assumptions and Cryptography with Defective Randomness
    Yael Tauman Kalai, Xin Li and Anup Rao.

  10. I am not sure one should count Iftach’s paper as a crypto paper.

    For what its worth, there seems to be 2 papers in quantum cryptography as well.

    The papers of Ishai et al and Kalai et al can count as either crypto papers or extractor papers.

  11. I just got the referee comments back on my papers, and 2 out of 6 were written by people who were obviously unqualified to read the papers. I’m disappointed by the review process. More in a later blog post. =)

  12. A similar thing happened with a paper of mine that was rejected. One reasonable review and two reviews where it was clear that reviewers had very little idea of any technical aspect of the paper.

  13. There are more crypto papers, like

    Yi Deng, Vipul Goyal and Amit Sahai. Resolving the Simultaneous Resettability Conjecture and a New Non-Black-Box Simulation Strategy

    Jon, you’ve promised a few new posts already

  14. […] am sure Jon Katz will also comment on this, see this for his earlier […]

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