Updated August 25: See the bottom of the post.
For almost two years, the steering committees of STOC and SOCG have been considering co-locating the two conferences in 2016, to foster better cross-fertilization between the two communities. The idea received enthusiastic support at the STOC and SOCG business meetings in 2012. After some discussion, the conference leadership settled on Boston/Cambridge as a promising location and convened a join colocation committee to work out the details.
The committee members are Greg Aloupis (SOCG local chair), Venkatesan Guruswami, Sariel Har-Peled, Monique Teillaud, and Daniel Wichs (STOC local chair). Paul Beame (SIGACT chair), Tal Rabin (SIGACT treasurer), and I have also been participating in committee discussions ex officio.
The Boston colocation bid was approved at the STOC 2014 business meeting. The vote at the SOCG business meeting was less enthusiastic, mostly because many of the important logistical details, like precise location and cost, were not yet fixed. (Just like the delay in the SOCG/ACM vote, this lack of detail in the colocation bid is entirely MY fault for not convening the joint committee earlier.) The business meeting vote for SOCG 2016 was tied between Boston and Brisbane, Australia (the only other bid). In fact, there were two votes, both of which were exactly tied. This left the final decision of where to locate SOCG 2016 up to the steering committee.
Since the business meeting, the joint committee has worked out many of the remaining details. The committee agreed on a seven-day schedule, with STOC on the first three days, joint workshops/tutorials held on the middle day, and SOCG held on the last three days. We also discussed possible joint plenary sessions late in STOC and early in SOCG, to be arranged by the respective program committees. Greg (with help from Csaba Toth and Erik Demaine) has located two suitable locations for SOCG and the joint workshops: one at the Stata Center at MIT, the other at Tufts Medical (in downtown Boston, not on the Medford campus where SOCG was held in 2011). STOC will be most likely be held in a hotel in the Back Bay area.
Based on this new information, the SOCG steering committee voted unanimously yesterday to hold SOCG 2016 in Boston/Cambridge, in colocation with STOC.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is the response that I received from Paul Beame, the chair of the SIGACT executive committee, this morning (emphasis added):
This is great, though there is a hitch. We had our scheduled SIGACT executive committee phone conference involving ACM staff yesterday (our first since June). With SoCG leaving ACM we have been told that SIGACT and ACM conferences cannot have any formal arrangements at all with the new conference or do anything official that might support it. (This decision was made at the very top of ACM and not by the staff.) This rules out any joint sessions. . . . It also means that SIGACT will have to end our participation in this formal coordinating group.
Avrim Blum, SIGACT vice-chair, is on sabbatical at UIUC and he can give you more details.
I will spare you my profanity-laden response, but I do want to emphasize the sentence in bold. This is not a decision by the SIGACT executive committee, which has been consistently supportive of colocation even in the face of the SOCG community’s decision to leave ACM. This was not a decision made by Donna Cappo or the other ACM SIG Services staff. This decision was made at the very top of ACM.
It is my personal hope that the two conferences can still come to a reasonable, if unofficial, colocation arrangement, but it is unclear at this point whether this will be possible. Independently of the colocation arrangements, SOCG 2016 will most likely be held in Boston/Cambridge, although even this decision now needs to be reexamined by the steering committee.
Constructive feedback from the SOCG and STOC communities is welcome.
Updated August 25: At Paul’s request, I’ve removed one sentence from his reply, which Paul has clarified was speculation not based on actual ACM policy or instructions.