I would like to take the example of QIP 2018 conference. I've always wondered what the roles of committees are. In this conference, for example, there are three.

  • Organizing committee
  • Program committee
  • Steering committee

It's obvious what the Organizing committee is, but what are the other committees for?

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    No, it's not even obvious what the organizing committee is for. Organization is everything. – Leon Meier Dec 31 '17 at 13:03
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    I would assume it would be the local committee responsible for on ground arrangements. At least that's what I can tell from the fact that all its members are from the host institution. – user43236 Dec 31 '17 at 13:05
  • Some conferences even have a "shadow program comittee", e.g. the ASIACCS. An explanation is given there: asiaccs2017.com/organization/program-committee – J-Kun Dec 31 '17 at 13:27

The organizing committee (OC) represents all organizational departments of the conference, such as local arrangements, publications, publicity, satellite events, etc. Typically, for each of these departments, the OC includes one or two chairpersons. The OC is usually coordinated by a General Chair, who is the main responsible "manager" of the conference. Members of the OC usually change between different editions of the conference.

The program committee (PC) selects which papers to accept and to reject. The main task of PC members is to review papers and, afterwards, to take part in discussions of the reviewed papers. The PC is usually coordinated by one or two Program Chairs, who are actually part of the OC. Usually, the PC is more stable across different editions of the same conference than the OC; PC members often stay for 2-5 editions.

The steering committee (SC) steers the direction of the conference, for example, by selecting the location and General Chair of the next edition, and by deciding the direction of future editions (e.g., which topics to include in the Call for Papers). Compared to the OC and the PC, the SC is particularly stable across different editions of the conference. It is often comprised of former General and Program Chairs of the conference.

These considerations assume a typical medium-sized to large conference. There can be variations, especially in small and very large conferences: Small conferences may have a scaled-down OC and no SC. Very large conferences may have several main tracks with distinct PCs, or an additional committee on top of the PC (such as a "Shadow PC" or a "Program Board").

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    This answer assumes that the conference is large. In a smaller conference, the OC chair is often the person who won the bid (or volunteered) to organize the conference. The rest of the OC could be just a mix of general volunteers and people with specific duties. – Jouni Sirén Dec 31 '17 at 15:13
  • @JouniSirén I would say that there are two types of conferences: those with and withou a SC. If there's no official SC, it's usually "somewhat decided" where the next meeting will be by "somewhat the core participants of the series". – yo' Dec 31 '17 at 20:15
  • "PC members often stay for 2-5 editions" — this probably depends on the research area; in theoretical computer science conference one usually selects a different PC chair each year, and it is up to the PC chair to select the PC members. – Jukka Suomela Jan 2 '18 at 16:06

As for the particular conference, ask them. In general, typically:

  • "Organizing" can mean a whole lot of things. Unclear and too broad the way the question is stated. (Sometimes "local" is added, which then changes the meaning toward local arrangements.)

  • "Program committee" decides which papers to include and which ones to reject.

  • "Steering committee" is a senior decision-making body. Made of high-level experts to provide guidance on key issues.

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    As OP suggests, the "organizing committee" normally handles local conference arrangements, including the conference budget, registration, lecture rooms, A/V equipment, accommodation, and the high-level event schedule. Basically everything except the specific scientific content. – JeffE Dec 31 '17 at 13:29
  • @JeffE In this meaning the word local is typically part of the phrase or of the explanation that follows. Simply "organizing committee" (the way it is stated by the OP) without any explanation is still vague. – Leon Meier Dec 31 '17 at 16:10

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