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Paper submissions always put weight on our resume, specifically for students who are applying for a Ph.D. Conference papers are different from journal papers, at least in few cases. Which one puts more weight on our resume? For example, if two students have same level of qualifications except one student has a journal paper and the other one has a conference paper, which one gets higher priority?

I'm a computer science graduate, very much interested in publishing a paper. I just wanted to know the pros and cons of paper submission, and more specifically the advantages of journal paper vs. conference paper.

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    That will depend on the quality and reputation of the conference and the journal. (Also, I think this question has been asked several times before on this site?) – Sverre Apr 29 '15 at 17:27
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Computer science is a bit of a special case, in that high-profile conferences can be even better than high-profile journals. Here's an in-depth discussion.

But it's still important to get journal publications because the rest of the scientific community (including perhaps the chair of your department) tends to believe they're better.

Now this distinction is only important once you have a few publications already.

Also, one of the advantages of conferences is that they have set deadlines and processing times, constrained by the conference dates, whereas journal submissions can take months and months to be processed.

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    One of my jobs, as an associate chair of my department (mathematics) is to prepare promotion requests and hiring requests, which go to the dean and executive committee of the college (Literature, Science, and Arts). When the person to be promoted or hired works in theoretical computer science, I include in the cover memo the information that top conferences in that field are at least as prestigious as top journals. After a while, deans learn this, but there's enough turnover on the executive committee to make repeated explanations worthwhile. – Andreas Blass Apr 29 '15 at 22:13
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The only downside to submitting papers is submitting too many. Not only does it require time to write them, if they are of bad quality you will ultimately gain the reputation of a crank or troll.

In terms of journal versus conference, the trade-off is not clear-cut. You want exposure, so you want your paper to be seen, read and cited by as many people as possible.

A good journal (recognizable by a high "impact factor" --- however subjective and error-prone that measure might be) gives you the most exposure. Papers published there also tend to be of higher quality than conference papers because the review process is more thorough.

Conference papers, on the other hand, usually let you present your ideas to an audience that self-selected for interest. Networking opportunities at conferences also increase your exposure and that of your paper.

Bad journals, finally, (and unfortunately there seem to be more and more of those) can actually damage your reputation. The reviewing is shoddy, nobody reads them, your paper won't get cited, and it will be tainted by association.

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My understanding is that, similar to user3780968's answer, CS is a different animal than other areas. But even within CS it may differ. In some of the newer, more applied areas--particularly those in the AI-related fields--conferences are generally better, if only because those fields are evolving so rapidly. In more theoretical work, especially theoretical fields that have been well studied for decades (complexity theory comes to mind here), journals may be a better bet.

Part of the usefulness of conferences is that they generally accept fewer submissions and they allow you to present your work to your colleagues. This is like a PR campaign. In a fast innovating area, even the best ideas can be overshadowed by mediocre ones if they are not picked up on by the community at large (a la VHS and Betamax). In a journal, you may end up on page 945 and nobody will know unless they are looking for your specific topic.

The way I view it is: if your work is novel in a rapidly growing/changing area, conferences are your best bet to get your ideas out there and known now. If that's not the case, then there is nothing wrong with publishing in a prestigious journal. It really just comes down to the circumstances of the topic at hand.

All that being said, it's still important to make sure the conferences you are publishing in are good ones. Otherwise, no matter the field, a top journal should probably take precedence.

  • n more theoretical work, especially theoretical fields that have been well studied for decades (complexity theory comes to mind here), journals may be a better bet. — [citation needed] – JeffE May 1 '15 at 2:17
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    @JeffE Primarily speculation based on conversations with friends in those fields. Based on your profile I presume you have a better idea of the area. I can remove the line – marcman May 1 '15 at 2:20
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There is no such thing as a generic comparison of conference vs. journal in computer science. Both conferences and journals range across a wide spectrum of quality, and so the individual conference and individual journal is what will make all the difference. Moreover, the judgement in some cases is likely to be quite subjective by field as well, based on the opinions that particular PIs have of other sub-disciplines. Bottom line: you can get conferences and journals that are both of very high quality and high respect in a great many parts of computer science.

So, how should you decide? My main criteria is the nature of the work. When I have a relatively terse work, it is suitable for a conference, which typically have strict page limits. When a work is much more lengthy, it should go to a journal instead.

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In CS neither is by itself better or worth more than the other. And I think it's sad, if that is the case in other fields (because it implies judgement of content by superficial criteria). What matters is this:

  1. Does the conference/journal fit your topic
  2. How esteemed is the conference in its field (or the field you want to work in long-term, if your paper is cross-field work)
  3. Can you make your paper good enough to get accepted
  4. How well do the journal/conference's technical requirements (number of pages, code to provide, ...) fit for your work
  5. When is the dead-line, can you make a good enough version till then
  6. Can you obtain funding to get to the conference location (journals may win this)
  7. (Are you happy with the publishing rules of the journal/conference?)

Most of those are also taken into account when people assess you and your scientific qualifications. For instance, if you publish a paper in the totally wrong journal for your topic, this may raise some eyebrows, more likely in a negative than positive way: It could potentially be interpreted as trying to dodge the tougher competition in your field; or as indication that you had no clue what you were doing; or that some other contribution from a co-author of that other field was way more important than yours etc.

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