There are two main reasons why researchers publish papers in conferences and journals. A “real” reason and a “strategic” reason. The strategic reason is an artifact of the current academic situation where researchers are judged according to their publication list, when considered for positions, promotions, grants, etc. Given this state of affairs, we have a strong personal incentive to “publish” whether or not our research is worthwhile and whether or not anyone will ever read it. The “real” reason for publication is dissemination: let other researchers learn about our work, so they can use it, continue it, be influenced by it, etc. This is what the whole “scientific/academic establishment” should aim to promote. Inherent here is the competition for the attention of other researchers who have to decide to spend time and effort reading your paper rather than the countless others vying for their attention.
In my view the main real service that journals and conferences provide in this day and age is exactly the arbitration of this competition for attention: the editors and reviewers of journals and the program committee of conferences look at lots of papers and suggest a few of them for me to look at. When chosen right, this is indispensable: there is no way that I could spot by myself the new important paper of a young graduate student among the hundreds of non-important ones out there. The main reason why I prefer conferences to journals in CS is that the former seem to be doing a much better job (although still far from perfect) of this identification of new important stuff.
The Internet has revolutionized the mechanics of dissemination of scientific work. I can still remember when scientific dissemination worked by putting reprints of our papers in envelopes and sending them in (real) mail. This was replaced by photocopying from conference proceedings, then by sending email attachments, and today we just “put it on the web”. The standard that seems to be emerging now is to put it on the arXiv. In comparison, the “social-scientific” structure surrounding “publication” has hardly changed at all, and putting your paper on the arXiv is not “counted as a publication” , provides no signal of your paper’s quality or correctness, and usually does not suffice for getting much attention for your work. I think that the main ingredient missing from having “putting your paper on the web” be the main form of publication is a surrounding mechanism that can provide a signal of quality and that will help readers focus their attention on the more important work. How exactly this can work still remains to be seen, but I would like to run an experiment in this direction on this blog.
Experiment: Recommend interesting AGT/E papers on the Web
I am asking readers of this blog to put forward — as a comment to this blog post — recommendations for interesting papers in the field of Algorithmic Game Theory/Economics. Here are the rules of this experiment:
- Eligible recommenders: Anyone from the “AGT/E research community”. I will take this in a wide sense: anyone who has published a paper related to AGT in a recognized scientific forum (conference or journal in CS, AI, GT, economics, …)
- Eligible papers: Papers must be (1) Available openly on the web. (2) Not already have been published in a journal or conference with proceedings. It is OK if they were submitted to or accepted by a conference or journal as long as they have not yet appeared yet. (3) Related to Algorithmic Game Theory/Economics, taken in a wide sense.
- What to include: (1) Name of the recommender and a link to their academic home-page — no anonymous recommendations (2) A link to the paper (3) A short explanation of what the paper is about and why you think it is interesting. There is no implicit assumption of having refereed the paper in any sense.
- Conflicts: The recommender should follow the usual rules of avoiding conflict of interest followed in program committees: do not recommend (1) your own papers, (2) papers of someone in own department, (3) papers of a frequent collaborator (4) papers of a family member/lover, etc.
[Update: following a suggestion, to start things off, I entered my own recommendation in the format that I was thinking of — as a comment.]