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Quitting the Graphics Field Over SIGGRAPH 71

An anonymous reader writes "A Professor at Stony Brook university has quit the field of computer graphics. He claims too much importance is given to one particular conference (SIGGRAPH) and that acceptance of papers in this conference has too much importance in terms of the careers (tenure, grants etc) of a researcher. Furthermore he claims the paper reviewing for SIGGRAPH is not fair and bright and novel papers are summarily rejected because they are either not from a 'hot' field or because the reviewer does not understand the concept and is not willing to spend time understanding it. He has started a discussion forum which has comments from several big names in the field including the papers chair of SIGGRAPH 2007."
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Quitting the Graphics Field Over SIGGRAPH

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  • And? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @02:14AM (#15998276)
    And this guy is changing to which academic field where things are different?
    • Re:And? (Score:4, Funny)

      by cptgrudge ( 177113 ) <> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @02:27AM (#15998300) Journal
      I hear the basket-weaving field is fairly decentralized. I'm afraid it won't get you much academic cred though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Omega697 ( 586982 )
      How about Artificial Intelligence, Security, Compilers, Theory, Distributed Systems, Formal Methods, Programming Languages, or Databases? All of these other subfields of CS have several, if not many healthy conferences to which one can submit papers. I know many people working in graphics and they all have stated repeatedly that unless you get papers into SIGGRAPH, you are nobody. SIGGRAPH is the only game in town for graphics. Did you even read the article summary?
      • by Bombula ( 670389 )
        That whizzing sound you just heard was my point zipping right over your head.

        This guy is complaining about a problem that plagues all of academia. FYI, academia includes a slightly broader range of subjects than just "Artificial Intelligence, Security, Compilers, Theory, Distributed Systems, Formal Methods, Programming Languages, [and] Databases." You know, like physics, biology, geology, English literature, ethnomusicology, and a few others...

        • by usrusr ( 654450 )
          so, how qualified would the average computer graphics scientist be for ethnomusicology? the "broader range of subjects" of academia is off-topic, simply put.

          a switch of fields within computer science would be tough enough in itself, but it seems to be much more feasible than to drop into a discipline where he would completely start at zero. in fact, transferring the CGI people's deep understanding of mind boggingly optimized data structures into other fields of computer science could even prove to be a very
        • by bunions ( 970377 )
          > This guy is complaining about a problem that plagues all of academia.

          Not really. In other fields as large as computer graphics, there are typically several conferences worldwide. I don't have much experience in the matter, but I'd imagine that an industry-driven show like SIGGRAPH that is your sole venue for academic advancement would be a huge pain in the ass to live with, and I can see how it would easily stifle all kinds of interesting but fringe research.
        • Actually, problems like this are much less pronounced in physics. Unlike computer science, physics does not revolve around conferences, but rather journals. Most people read journals online (I've certainly never seen a printed issue of Physical Review Letters since 2001, and then it was older issues sitting on a dusty shelf), where space constraints are essentially nonexistent. Conferences are fun places to go give posters and 10/15 minute presentations of whatever you've been working on for the past yea
      • by usrusr ( 654450 )
        while it's quite obvious that siggraph is monopolising the conference "market" of it's field much more than the top conferences of other fields do, it's easy to understand why:

        the top conferences of other fields might be the most important thing in their field, but they still not known to the general public. most of the people who know that conference will also have heard of the smaller ones. with siggraph things are very different, it's so famous that the number of people who roughly know what siggraph is
    • Things are quite different in other academic fields, at least in computer science.

      There are TONS of AI conferences. IJCA, ECAI, AAAI, then in specialties, SAT, FLOC... so forth. My understanding is that in graphics, you're in SIGGRAPH or you're not published, and that because of a shortage of conferences, only 1 or 2 papers is good enough for faculty positions. Top positions in AI will command many more than that, and we even have our own journals, even for subfields, such as the Journal of Machine Learn
  • Academic Review (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpottedKuh ( 855161 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @02:26AM (#15998299)

    Furthermore he claims the paper reviewing for SIGGRAPH is not fair and bright and novel papers are summarily rejected because they are either not from a 'hot' field or because the reviewer does not understand the concept and is not willing to spend time understanding it.

    In replying to this comment, I know that I'm going to sound like a bitter grad student; but, for some reason, I feel inclined to burn karma and make this statement:

    I sympathize with this professor, and the trouble that he has faced. Although I work in the field of computer security (instead of computer graphics), I have seen many novel and ingenious papers rejected from conferences precisely because they are not from the current 'fad' field. Usually, I require large amounts of caffeine (and alcohol) just to make it through the conferences I attend, because they are filled with uninteresting papers written by hack academics attempting to ride the latest trend.

    Perhaps it is this experience that has influenced the way in which I do academic reviews for conferences, when I am called upon to do so. I have no patience for papers that have nothing meaningful to say. Whenever I give an 'accept' rating to a paper, it is because I feel that the authors have something genuinely interesting to say. Whenever I give a 'reject' rating to a paper, I do my best to give as many constructive comments as I can -- I try to point out what insightful or meaningful things the author has done, as well as things that are genuine technical flaws and should be addressed. But, the thing I am never scared to do? I have never backed down from stating in a review, blatently, that the author's work seems novel and useful, and that some of the details are way over my head and should be subject to further review.

    Given all the (meaningless) talk about reforming the academic review process, I often wonder: how much of the problem described by this professor would be solved if more reviewers had the balls to admit that some of the most novel ideas were over their heads?

    • Re:Academic Review (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @02:43AM (#15998334)
      I think the problem is that all the "glory"(tenure, respect, etc) belongs to the people who write papers, not the people who review them. Everyone is more interested in getting their name out there rather than reviewing papers. I think we could get some meaningful reform if universities and peers held reviewers with more esteem.
      • by drfrog ( 145882 )
        Sadly though this is nothing new

        both tesla or reich are great examples of this

        • At least Tesla is fairly well known now. Although the average man in the street could not name him but could name Edison. Perhaps if the Tesla movie [] is popular things will change. Eventually, with time, the most significant people will always become known in my opinion, as people digging for background information on subjects will eventually go through original papers and learn more. Only for very old works, where eveidence has been hidden or destroyed will this obviously not be possible, but there is alway
    • Caffine is a stimulant. Alcohol is a depressant. How does that work out? Do they cancel each other out, or do you just get jittery AND stupid?
      • That's how I used to do my creative writing--there was a caffeine phase and an alchohol phase. I never actually consumed them both simultaneously though. Oh, and the last two project I worked on ended with a sick phase--where I finished the project with either a terrible headache, bedridden, or otherwise too ill to leave the room. Still, I liked how the last two projects turned out (they can be found at my web site [])--the last two I wrote were Dire Coda (WGA registered--just shy of a full screenplay length)
        • by fotbr ( 855184 )
          He DID volunteer to review papers. They told him to shove it.
          • That's teach me not to RTFA then... If that's the case then I would probably take the same course of action he did... frustration wtih the main conference for the field and no way of helping to influence the reform of said conference would make working in that field and having to put up with the conference unbearable.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It is actually more complicated than whether something is a stimulant or a depressant, because these things are effects.

        Caffeine is a stimulant because it binds to adenosine receptors more readily than adenosine, increasing the levels of dopamine and epinephrine. The latter will increase heart rate and blood glucose levels. It also has other effects, like improving mood through increases in serotonin. In chocolate, drinks that use guarana, and teas theobromine also accompanies caffeine and provides an addit
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oohshiny ( 998054 )
      Given all the (meaningless) talk about reforming the academic review process, I often wonder: how much of the problem described by this professor would be solved if more reviewers had the balls to admit that some of the most novel ideas were over their heads?

      They may well have admitted that, but it doesn't matter: the problem is that if the reviewers don't understand it, the audience doesn't either. While "this isn't hot" is an invalid reason to reject a paper, "the reviewer didn't understand it after 20 m
      • Yet, Slashdot is probably a better model for academic review than the current system, because Slashdot permits many more people to contribute and it permits a true discussion between authors and among reviewers. An even better model might be Digg because it also permits the stories to be peer selected.

        Kuro5hin [] is a great example of how peer review can work very well - most of the time. Articles only make it through the voting queue if they get 70 more "accept" votes than "reject" votes. A typical confe

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        They may well have admitted that, but it doesn't matter: the problem is that if the reviewers don't understand it, the audience doesn't either. While "this isn't hot" is an invalid reason to reject a paper, "the reviewer didn't understand it after 20 minutes" is a valid reason for rejection.

        Not necessarily. It may be that the paper targets a different sub-specialty that will be well represented in the audience. It's perfectly reasonable to say so and pass it to someone else for review.

        It's equally val

    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @06:39AM (#15998722)
      I had a tenured position at a university as well, but I left the system anyway, and it was partly due to issues of the kind described.

      Academia hinges almost entirely on your research karma, your success at obtaining grants, and the funds you can bring in to your department. In computing, it has very little to do with how effectively your work extends understanding in your area, even less to do with using honest scientific methods, and absolutely nothing to do with teaching.

      And since your research karma is in the hands of the high priests in the field and has relatively little to do with your own technical abilities, I can fully understand the frustrations of other research academics. It's a dead-man's-shoes area, and not a good field to be in unless you're good at cultivating your profile through social engineering.

      Fortunately I left early because of the compelling attraction of fat paycheques in freelance contracting, an order of magnitude better than academic payscales. But even without that, I think the social problems within academia might have made me leave in disgust at some point too.

      I don't know anything specific to SIGGRAPH, but that kind of malaise is quite widespread in the academic sector.

      PS. The current publication/conference-based approach in peer review needs change. The author of TFA actually gave one possible avenue, arXiv [], which fits in well with today's greater interest in open systems. I support that.
    • Don't agree that global warming is man-made, severe, and long-term? You lose. Maybe the oil industry will throw you a few bucks for the paper, making your research look tainted.

      The reviewers have their own careers at stake. If you don't support their little club, you're the enemy.
    • Wow,

      I am glad that it isn't just management types that stuck on faddy subjects. this reminds me of all of the sales meetings, training courses, emails, and presentations that I've had to attend/read/view about the latest "breakthrtough" in business philosophy. It seems like every year I have to sit through some presentation about some repackaged, unoriginal bollocks that some arse came up with. Meanwhile, the guy with the real idea is on the phone arranging for some venture capital.

      Glad to hear the acade
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @02:32AM (#15998310) Homepage

    This has been recognized for years. See "How to get your SIGGRAPH paper rejected [], from 1993.

    Some years ago, I stopped submitting papers to SIGGRAPH and started filing patents. It's been much more profitable.

    Anyway, SIGGRAPH seems to have shrunk. I think the show floor peaked in size around 1997. Today, the Game Developer's Conference is where the real technical action is.

    SIGGRAPH is mostly a rendering convention now; there's a little animation, a little behavior, and a tiny bit of physics in the papers this year, but other than that, it's rendering and compression. Which are relatively mature technologies.

    • Exactly. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Travoltus ( 110240 )
      I'm not one to dis peer review, but in this case screw them. Put your money where your mouth is and show them who's boss by showing them the money.
    • by njord ( 548740 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:10AM (#15998376)

      I don't know if SIGGRAPH has shrunk or not (I wasn't in graphics in '97), but I wouldn't say that the GDC has taken its place. I sympathize with Ashikhmin's frustration at the conference (but not his reaction), having been on the receiving end of a few cryptic SIGGRAPH rejections.

      First of all, I don't agree that it's "mostly a rendering convention now". I'd say there were about 20 papers on rendering and compression out of 80 or 90 papers (unofficial page of papers []). I also think that there's lots of "technical action" going on there.

      The real problem is that SIGGRAPH hasn't grown with its field. One major conference was fine for the first 20 years or so, but graphics has grown in size and diversity so much in the last 15 years that it's ridiculous that there's still only one "top-shelf" conference. Look at the proceedings for this year's conference; there are papers on rendering, compression, ray-tracing, image processing, vision, data-driven modelling, GPGPU, procedural modelling, HDR, graphics APIs, fluid simulation, photography, mocap, light fields, pcrt, computational geometry, crowd sim, animation, and npr.

      EACH of these things that are getting lumped into "GRAPHICS" is enough of a field in its own right that it deserves several journals and conferences of its own.

      That's not even the meat of the problem; there ARE conferences for each of these topics, but people generally only submit SIGGRAPH rejects to them! The problem is that everyone wants the prestige that goes with a SIGGRAPH publication, and it's a vicious cycle; there are reviewers who shoot down every paper they feel is a threat to their own work and get away with it, and this forces anyone else who wants to survive there to do the same.

      What needs to happen, in my bull-headed opinion, is for all of those people who write good papers that never make it to SIGGRAPH start submitting the first time around to the other conferences - I3D, Pacific Graphics, SCA, IEEE VIS, Eurographics, et cetera. These are all perfectly viable venues that will become as prestigious as people would like, if only people would take them seriously.

      I say, let the small-minded dweebs have SIGGRAPH; we shouldn't gauge the quality of our work solely based on SIGGRAPH's rejection policy - even if it were a totally fair process, not every good paper can make it in. Submit your awesome paper to the other conferences, and once these other conferences are packed with impressive work, it'll mean as much as SIGGRAPH.

      Just wishful (and a little bitter) thinking.

      I don't think "hardware" was the right category for this...

  • by S3D ( 745318 )
    I for one usually finding SIGGRAPH paper interesting and sometimes useful. I've read TFA and found it mostly non-informative ranting.
    There is one example of the unfair editor behavior in the article - surely not enough to condemn all the conference.
    Auther of the article don't like preferred treatment of the "hot subjects". But that is quite natural - "hot subjects" is what most people interested in this moment. If other researcher/practitioners in the field are not interested in what auther doing,
  • Simple Solution (Score:1, Insightful)

    by xquark ( 649804 )
    I believe the best solution is to have authors of papers that have
    amounted to something important and were rejected by the peer review
    processes (not only be siggraph but also other important conferences),
    to register somewhere, and basically have the person or persons which
    peer-reviewed the paper and then rejected it noted, and to also carry
    out an examination of their past rejections and acceptances and attempt
    to establish a form of behavior with regards to them.

    If said behavior is deemed unacceptable then t
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      People don't get paid to review papers for conferences or journals. They only review papers because of a genuine interest, and because someone asked them nicely. If potential harm (to your career) could come from going out of your way to be helpful, would you still be helpful? It's already difficult to find qualified people who are willing to review papers; if they could be penalized later, I'm sure it will be much harder.

      A good editor will know if the reviewer(s) are fair.

      It is a flawed system, but I don't
      • by Wills ( 242929 )

        "If potential harm (to your career) could come from going out of your way to be helpful, would you still be helpful?"

        I certainly don't agree that it is ok to be more worried about the harm to a reviewer's career from feedback on the fairness of their reviewing, and less worried about the harm to career development for a person whose papers are unreasonably rejected by an unfair reviewer. We are talking about a process that is meant to be peer review; authors and reviewers should be peers. Reviewers curre

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by amide_one ( 750148 )
      Problem is, that strips away the objective response that's possible in *anonymous* review. At least half of the papers I've reviewed in the past few years (since I started doing it) have been seriously flawed in one way or another. I've felt no hesitation in saying so. If there's an open link along the lines of "George thought your paper was utter crap, Bob wanted major revisions, Tim said he didn't know so he passed it to his newest grad student who said it must be great because he didn't understand it
  • Salon des Refusés (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:13AM (#15998383)
    Salon des Refusés []:

    In the 1860s, artists of the nascent realist and impressionist movements submitted works to the Salon de Paris, the official exhibition sponsored by the Académie des beaux-arts, selection committee only to be rejected. The resultant complaints of bias led French emperor Napoleon III to allow the rejected works to be displayed in a separate exhibition.

    The first Salon des Refusés in 1863 invited art-works rejected for display at the Salon de Paris.

    Most were poor quality, leading to ridicule in the press. However, the exhibition included several important paintings including Édouard Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) and James McNeill Whistler's The White Girl. Other artists who showed at the Salon des Refusés include Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Cézanne, Armand Guillaumin, Johan Jongkind, and Camille Pissarro.
  • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:14AM (#15998490)
    One of the main reasons for this difficult decision is my deep disgust for the state of affairs within computer graphics research community and my inability to fit well within existing system.

    You know, up until a couple of years ago, I worked my entire adult life (about 20 years - or so :-)) in IT. Call it mid-life crisis, whatever. I needed a change. I was disgusted with corporate idiocy, among other career-specific reasons.

    I completely changed careers; although I had some studies in my new field (translation), I got another degree to "re-establish" myself, and set out to work for myself. I can honestly say I've never been happier. Is it because I changed careers, or because I now work for myself? I don't know. All I know is I'm a much happier person, and (I'm told) more pleasant to be around.

    I'm one of those people that firmly believes that humans are not meant to do just one thing in life.

    I'm quite certain he'll find something that gives him more satisfaction, if he hasn't already.

    • Well, there were studies around saying that the average job satisfaction and happiness in IT was IIRC lower than anywhere else, including the garbage truck people. So it kinda makes me wonder if you're happy just generically because you're doing something else, or, perchance, it's just moving out of _IT_ that does the trick.
  • As far as I can tell, most of academia is like this. Paper reviews (and conference reviews in particular) are really a bit of a lottery. Since academics don't get paid to review, they will often palm the reviews off to grad students who may or may not have the first clue about the field. And there is generally no rejoinder process for conferences, so you just have to wear it, improve the paper and resubmit it somewhere else. Journals and grant applications generally allow you a right of response, but yo
    • No, most of academia is not like this. Did you even read anything? His complaint is that SIGGRAPH is the only game in town. If your stuff gets rejected, first of all, the only place to resubmit it is SIGGRAPH. Secondly, you have to wait a whole year to resubmit to the same place, because there aren't any other respected conferences in graphics.
    • by usrusr ( 654450 )
      > A colleague of mine recently had a brief paper
      > (restricted to a maximum of two pages) rejected
      > because it was too short - at exactly two pages.
      > I kid you not.

      How could this surprise anyone?

      I don't think anyone would ever claim that the current system was any good at letting the good papers in - but it's job is less to identify all the good papers than it is to identify all the bad ones.

      it's like the exact opposite of an email spam filter: with email, a few "nigerians" in th
  • If there are truly such systematic problems with SIGGRAPH, then there are probably sufficient other researchers interested in a new, improved computer graphics conference.

    Sebastian Thrun and a few others were fed up with the quality of ICRA and IROS, so they started a wholey new conference last year, Robotics Science and Systems []. It was successful, and IEEE is now even helping to organize future sessions.

    Also, this kind of competition works. ICRA was noticeably better this year, as conferences will make c
  • Complex papers! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by QX-Mat ( 460729 )
    Having done my UG dissertation on image processing, i feel somewhat inclined to agree with the assertion papers are complex! Having read my fair share of SIGGRAPH papers... the simpler ones waffle on and on above novel uses for convolution filters, the more complex ones take you to a realm of mathematical uncertainty - they ask for great leaps of faith (specially those that over generalise the pseudo code and dont link to working programs!)

    Computer imagary is a very large and wide ranging subject, and becau
  • by Guysmiley777 ( 880063 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:35AM (#15999624)
    Can I have your stuff?

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard