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Many conferences in my field (theoretical CS) are organised as follows. They are run by academics, as an endowement, scientific association, or some other not-for-profit organization. Each year, submission and reviewing are done on some platform like Easychair, producing a list of accepted papers. The authors of these papers are then requested to submit a final version of their work (or camera-ready) for inclusion in the proceedings of the conference. The proceedings are managed by a for-profit scientific publisher (e.g., Springer, Sheridan Communications, etc.), and the authors are asked to sign a copyright transfer agreement, so that the publisher can sell the final version on their website. The publisher may edit the final version, but in most cases it doesn't: the publisher's only role in the conference is apparently to compile these proceedings.

To make papers more broadly available, it seems to me that authors could prefer to simply host the final version of their work on an open repository like arXiv, as they often do anyway, instead of publishing their work in the conference proceedings. (Alternatively, they could simply submit the title and abstract to the publisher, along with a pointer to the arXiv version.) This would save authors the effort of dealing with the publisher's formatting requirement, and would also avoid any potential legal issues with the copyright transfer (which do not always allow authors to host their work elsewhere). Further, it seems to me that it would make no difference to all the rest of the conference organization.

Hence my question: Are some conferences OK with authors hosting their work somewhere else than in the publisher-run proceedings? More generally, do conferences care whether the authors of an accepted paper actually submit a camera-ready version to the publisher? If yes, why, and what happens when authors fail to obey? If no, why do authors bother?

(I imagine that authors may want to include the accepted paper to their résumé, but instead of listing their paper as being "published in the Proceedings of XYZ", they could point to the arXiv version with a note "Accepted/presented at the XYZ conference": presumably, this should make no difference?)

(Related: this question suggest that some conferences allow what I propose (for different reasons, apparently), but I have never heard about such conferences in my subfield. Why aren't there more of them?)

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    I am not sure about the point of your question. One submits a paper to a conference to be included in the conference proceedings. If you do not want to be included in the proceedings, it makes no sense to submit to a conference. Also this "This would save authors the effort of dealing with the publisher's formatting requirement" is wrong, because (in most cases) when you submit a paper at a conference (through e.g. easy chair), you are supposed to follow the proceedings format. So, there are no extra formatting required for the camera ready version... – Alexandros Jul 10 '16 at 11:27
  • ...Also, e.g., Springer allows the post-review manuscript to be uploaded on Arxiv or your personal web page. Why would not anybody want to also include the paper on the proceedings as well? DBLP for example indexes arxiv as unofficial publications, whereas proceedings are indexed as conference and workshop papers. – Alexandros Jul 10 '16 at 11:29
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    @Alexandros: Thanks for your comments! About formatting, for many conferences in my field, the conference's formatting requirement are different from the publisher's requirement (in terms of font, number of pages...). In terms of rights, many publishers do not allow authors, e.g., to publish my work under an open license anywhere I like (so that anyone can redistribute it). As for the point of the question, for me the main point of submitting your work to a conference is to present the work at the conference, not getting it included in the proceedings, no? – a3nm Jul 10 '16 at 13:04
  • "for me the main point of submitting your work to a conference is to present the work at the conference". If the conference is good, you also need proof that your work was indeed presented in this conference and this is exactly what conference proceedings are for. Without proceedings how can you prove that your work was presented there and how would e.g. DBLP will index your work as presented in this conference? – Alexandros Jul 10 '16 at 14:06
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    Many conferences publish lists of accepted papers besides the proceedings. (e.g., in my field, databases, they are usually mailed out on the DBWORLD list), in addition to the schedules. But alternatively, you could just put the title and abstract and pointer to the full version in the conference proceedings: this gives you a tangible proof, while leaving you free to host the full version elsewhere. (But I'm not sure why you would need a proof, actually. If you say that your work was accepted at conf XYZ, who would doubt it? Who would be so foolish so as to fabricate such a claim?) – a3nm Jul 10 '16 at 14:56
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I don't know if there would be any negative consequences from the conference from refusing to include your paper in the proceedings, but there are several positive reasons to do so. I don't know about theoretical CS, but I understand that for many sub-disciplines of CS, the conference publication is more imporant for your career than any journal publication. So, if yours in one where the conference article is more important than the journal article, you may have already accomplished the most important part for you already by the time you give the talk. That being said however, you might still prefer to put the paper into the proceedings volume since:

  • it should be easier to find and refer to for future researchers and yourself than if it is on your website or the arXiv
  • a journal special issue is probably considered more archival than arXiv.org by some
  • if your discipline is other than I mentioned, you now might be considered to have a more prestigious journal article as well (depending, often, on whether others understand the level of peer review associated with that conference).

If this printing is a free service of the conference and goes in the publisher's digital archive, I'd be inclined to take the opportunity over trying to host it myself or arXiv it, and I have done so, even though CS is not my primary discipline. I'm not a big fan of the copyright transfer that is basically required to allow the big publisher or the professional societies to publish a copy of your work that they did not author (at least in the US and Europe).

I'd say that it's unlikely to be a big problem with the conference for you not to publish in the proceedings, though you might get some pressure from them to include your article. Some of the organizers, if they are common one year to the next, might remember your refusal and hold that against you the next year, but that would be unethical in my view, so they might also just let it go. As long as the paperwork to submit the article to the proceedings comes after the conference, there's not much they can do to you before the conference (like pull your talk), so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Finally, before you sign the copyright transfer with the publisher, you have an opportunity to read the publishing agreement and decide if it currently or ever will meet your standards for openness. If it doesn't or never will, then you can make that call as late as possible if you want to.

  • Thanks for your answer! I am unsure about what you call the "journal article". In CS, as far as I know, conferences have proceedings, not journals, and submitting to a journal is an entirely separate process. Usually, publishing your work in the conference proceedings does not prevent you from publishing an expanded version to a journal later. So I wasn't talking about whether the conference work could be also submitted to a journal or not. – a3nm Jul 10 '16 at 14:59
  • In terms of pressure, conferences in my field usually arrange the proceedings and copyright transfer before the conference takes place, so it would be technically possible for them to pull a talk if the work is not submitted to the proceedings. But I still don't understand: why would they mind? I have a vague feeling that they might, but I do not really understand why. – a3nm Jul 10 '16 at 15:01
  • @a3nm, a) if you look around, there are theoretical CS journals that are separate from conferences, b) it's a package deal. If the conference expects you to put your paper in the proceedings, they might be offended by your snub of the proceedings volume since they put the time and effort into reviewing your article. That might lead them to pulling it. There might be an implicit or explicit agreement that if your article is accepted, you will agree to the publication in the proceedings. – Bill Barth Jul 10 '16 at 15:07
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    Look at the call for papers carefully. You generally have already agreed to show up and present, so the later publication might also be in the submission rules. Also, you might have only signed a copyright transfer to the conference not the publisher that allows them some rights for publishing an abstract or other summary of your paper. Look even more carefully at that before you sign it. – Bill Barth Jul 10 '16 at 15:08
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I think this depends very much on the culture of your field.

I'm in a field (bio-/medical optical spectroscopy; chemistry) where conference proceedings count much less than "proper journal articles" (and they are subject to muss less strict reviewing). Consequently, we don't have much proceedings volumes (some conferences try to enforce submission of a proceedings paper if they have). I think this is because conferences are often comparably small and consequently try to get as many participants as possible. However, travel funding is usually tied to presenting at the conference. Thus, almost all participants typically present either a talk or at least a poster. The review process decides who gets an oral presentation (unless you opt out and immediately say you'd like to have a poster) rather than who presents and who should not present at all.

Instead, there often is a special issue in one of the normal journals where the paper is subject to the normal peer-review process. These themed issues are more or less tightly bound to the conference (we once were asked whether we'd want out paper to be put into one such issue. The paper wasn't presented at the conference, but it would have been on topic).

Also, it is quite common to present preliminary results at the conference. As it may take more time to finish and write up the study, it is quite normal to submit the manuscript to a suitable (other) journal when it is ready.

To give an example with numbers: Spec 2014 had 62 oral + 191 poster presentations with 282 participants. The Analyst themed collection has 53 full papers + 3 communication papers.

arXiv counts even less as there is no peer review. arXiv is considered only for depositing a manuscript in addition to the publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Fortunately, most publishers nowadays allow arXiv, and even if they don't in my country (Germany) the copyright law now has a clause that allows to make the manuscript publicly available after some embargo period.

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