A conference I have submitted to asks for an "extended abstract" of up to 10 pages, which amounts to pretty much a full paper. Why is it then called "abstract"?

The conference is in the crossing between computer science, biology, and mathematics, so it may be following any of their traditions.

  • 4
    Darwin called "On the Origin of Species," hundreds of pages long, an abstract.
    – Buzz
    Dec 15, 2015 at 12:40
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    @O.R.Mapper If a field calls ten-page articles "full papers", I pity them. At least in TCS, journal papers are usually longer.
    – Raphael
    Dec 15, 2015 at 15:02
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    Because it contains nothing concrete? :p Dec 15, 2015 at 15:08
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    @Raphael not really. When you don't have formal proofs you can get your point across in much less space, and all the implementation details (exactly which dataset, code...) can go in the supplementary material. Sadly, still many papers handwave their way through the important details.
    – Davidmh
    Dec 15, 2015 at 15:22
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    @Davidmh I think it's more about the publication culture. In CS, there is usually no supplementary material. All claims must be justified either in the paper or by referencing earlier work. Hence the full paper should include all the details that are necessary for justifying the results and replicating them. Dec 15, 2015 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


I am guessing you are talking about RECOMB, one of the most important computational biology conferences. The story behind this is a little complicated and can show you some of the difficulties faced by a relatively new interdisciplinary field.

Since computational biology has both computer scientists and biologists, it needs to answer the needs of both cultures. For computer scientists, presentation and publication in the proceedings of an important conference is considered excellent. In biology, however, publication is mainly in journals. A second difference between cultures is that in computer science it is standard to publish extended versions of conference papers in journals. In biology, this is usually not acceptable unless it is a low-tier journal.

So what do you do if you want to get submissions of great work from computational biologists of both sides? This is a challenge that computational biologists have been dealing with not just in this conference but also in other conferences. There have been all kinds of proposed solutions - I will not list them here.

RECOMB organizers have tried different solutions and decided to call the accepted manuscripts "extended abstracts", and these are published only in the conference proceedings (which are not freely available). This way, computer scientists consider it published in the conference and biologists consider it unpublished so they can still submit it to a high-tier journal.

Actually they usually also have other "submission tracks" such as coordinated submission to a specific journal in parallel with the conference.

  • I guess the follow up question would be, do they have a DOI? I'm in a similar conundrum, conference abstracts (1-2 pages), usually do not have a DOI, which is what makes the "citable" and when they count for Tenure package or Grad school. My guess would be that they do not? Also, in my experience, CS conference acceptance rate is way lower then Biology or Planetary Sciences. Dec 15, 2015 at 14:39
  • @Leonpalafox I am not sure about DOI, but if I am not mistaken they are not indexed in PubMed, which is the standard for a biology manuscript to be considered "published". And yes - normal biology conferences don't really have a rigorous review, they usually pick presentations based on a 1-page abstract. The top compbio conferences are more similar to CS conferences in that sense (I think RECOMB acceptance rate is ~20%).
    – Bitwise
    Dec 15, 2015 at 15:15
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    The "extended abstract" is not unique to RECOMB; as explained in Arno's answer, this has been standard terminology in computer science conferences for decades. See for example, the call for papers for FOCS (a top theory conference).
    – JeffE
    Dec 15, 2015 at 22:50

I disagree with Bitwise's conclusion that this terminology is primarily due to a unique situation between Biology and Computer Science. In my experience (mostly TCS), the term "extended abstract" is very common to denote the ~10page conference submissions.

While 10 pages will typically suffice to present the results of a (T)CS paper, e.g. proofs often have to be omitted to make the page limit. This leads to an extended abstract (with no/only sketched proofs) at a conference, and then a full paper including proofs on the arXiv and/or in a journal.

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    How long is a typical TCS paper? In my field rare are the papers significantly longer than 15 pages.
    – Davidmh
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:33
  • Thanks - I do not necessarily think this is mainly due to the compbio situation, but I do think that in the case of a compbio conference it may be more than just an arbitrary choice of terminology.
    – Bitwise
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:34
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    @Davidmh Most papers I've read/written seem to fall into 20-40 pages, shorter ones are more common than longer ones.
    – Arno
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:46
  • Any number of IEEE conferences do the same thing. The best get a request to submit a full paper to an IEEE journal after the conference. It does seem like a lot of work.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:50

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