Friday, July 31, 2009

Workshops: Official or Unofficial Proceedings?

In the process of organizing DBRank 2010, we had to answer the following question: Should the proceedings for the workshop be "official" or "unofficial"?

Official workshop proceedings are undergoing the same process as the conference papers: Specific camera-ready format, submission by a given date to the proceedings chair, and then are officially hosted at the digital library of the publisher, with all the metadata, digital identifiers (DOI), and so on. (For DBRank 2010, that would be IEEE Xplore.) For buraucratic purposes, these papers are considered "publications."

Unofficial proceedings are, well, unofficial. Typically the workshop chair posts the papers up to the website, and potentially brings printed copies for distribution at the workshop. There is no official publisher, there is no DOI assigned to the papers, and in principle this is not more of a publication than a paper posted to a website.

So, should workshops have official or unofficial proceedings?

There are some arguments aganst official proceedings:
  • Increasingly, there is a significant conflict between workshop and conference publications. With some workshops allowing 8- or even 10-page workshop papers, it becomes hard for the authors of these papers to publish the same work in a conference, as there is typically significant overlap. Most database conferences will consider any past paper that is 3 pages or longer, to be a prior publication, and the conference version should have significant new content in order to be considered a "new" paper.
  • As conference become increasingly competitive many authors submit to workshops papers that could not "make it" to a conference. A workshop is typically easier to get into, and at the end "you get a paper" out of it. Needless to say, this pretty much violates the spirit of workshops that are supposed to be places for new, relatively immature research, not an archival publication.
On the other hand, there are advantages in having official proceedings:
  • It makes the workshop more attractive in the eyes of many authors. Authors get an official timestamp for their work and can point to a paper that has at least been lightly refereed, instead of pointing to a technical report or working paper.
  • It makes it easier for someone to locate the papers that were presented in the workshop. The websites for the workshops are not always hosted in "stable" websites and they disappear for various reasons. (For example, the websites for WebDB'99, WebDB 2000, WebDB 2001, and WebDB 2003 are not available any more, because the organizers have moved to different institutions.)
So, what to do? Official or unofficial?