UbiComp 2013 Social Media ChairLast week I had the chance to sit down for a short Skype interview with the PC-Chairs of this year’s UbiComp conference. Getting them all online at the same time wasn’t that easy: there are 16 hours of time difference between the three of them!

Thanks for finding the time in your busy schedule to talk to me. How are your preparations coming along?

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJohn: We finished assembling an outstanding cast of committee members and are now preparing the PC meeting, which will be held beginning of May in Paris. The logistics aren’t exactly easy, as Paris is a popular holiday destination and we have some 70 PC members to work with!

That is a considerably larger committee than in any Pervasive or UbiComp conference in the past – why so many?

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairMarc: We consciously enlarged the committee this year for three reasons: Firstly, we do expect a higher submission turnout than previously, due to the merger of the two conferences. Secondly, we added a new “revise & resubmit” cycle that will add considerable workload to the review process. And last but not least, we wanted to keep the overall workload for committee members manageable.

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJun: The review process lies at the heart of a scientific conference, that is why we tried hard to evolve and strengthen it. This larger committee will ensure that we can offer authors a rigorous and highly productive review process!

Can you explain this “revise and resubmit” process a bit more?

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJohn: A problem of many conference review processes is that there is not enough time to engage in a dialog with the authors. Unlike a journal process, authors usually only get a single shot, and if their submission leaves too many questions open, the PC usually has to reject the work. While CHI and other conferences have introduced a rebuttal process to address this problem, this is often not enough to cope with more complex cases. In many situations, a potentially significant contribution cannot be accepted because it would require authors to actually redo some of their analysis, or even experiments.

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairMarc: So when we will meet in Paris for our PC meeting, we will try to identify submissions that have the potential for a significant contribution, but which are not there yet. These will get not only the detailed feedback in the reviews, but also a “second chance” to re-submit a significantly revised version in some 4 weeks time. These resubmissions will then be re-reviewed in a sub-committee and might get ultimately accepted, too.

This sounds exciting! What else is new this year?

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJohn: Everything! It’s a new conference! Even though it kept the name of the previous UbiComp conference, the “new” UbiComp conference represents now the heritage of two conferences – Pervasive and UbiComp. While these had considerable overlap in both committees and attendees, they nevertheless had their own identity.

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJun: We are trying to make sure that this year’s conference can offer something for everybody. Both for people who previously attended Pervasive and for those who attended UbiComp. And of course for those who never attended any of the two before! So another novelty will be our “contribution types” this year, which we hope will help with attracting the best work out there in the area.

A lot of conferences have these, no?

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairMarc: Yes, but instead of topical contribution types, we have structured them more along “research types”. We have three of them: exploring, building, and refining. These represent the kind of people we love to see at UbiComp: explorers, builders, and refiners! For example, “builders” are those that create large systems or conduct significant deployments, all with a view towards disclosing their research data and software packages for community re-use. There is so much work involved in create large, meaningful systems and experiments, yet they often get dismissed as not offering enough “novelty”. Our “building” contribution types acknowledges the importance of this work!

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJohn: The “refining” category is maybe closest to “traditional” research: a rigorous examination of existing approaches and algorithms with a view towards establishing core principles, robust algorithms, and measurable improvements. In more established fields such as machine learning, almost all work falls into this category. In the much younger field of ubiquitous computing, we don’t see much of this – yet. This is a sign of maturing as a discipline, having these foundational algorithms and approaches that get constantly refined and improved upon, and our “refining” category is encouragement of seeing more of this also at UbiComp.

UbiComp 2013 PC Co-ChairJun: “Explorers” are the game changers, those that come up with some clever new interface, or that offer an unusual real-world deplyoment that gets people thinking. We are not looking for strict academic rigours here – the contribution lies in the inspiration that other can draw from this. This has traditionally been one of the cornerstones of the Pervasive and UbiComp conference series, but as the field matures, this work more and more runs the risk of getting rejected because reviewers have come to expect larger, more detailed evaluations. With this category, we want to reach out to designers and tinkerer out there and get them to submit their wild ideas to the conference. In a scientific format, of course, but we want to emphasize the difference in contribution that such submissions make.

This sounds exciting! So what’s next on the agenda? When should people start submitting?

Marc: We are only two months away from the submission deadline (March 22), so people should fire up their favorite text processors and start their outlines!

John: We have the call for papers online at www.ubicomp.org – and if there are any questions we can of course be happy to answer via email at pc-chairs2013@ubicomp.org

Jun: Or even better: use our social media channels! Post your question on our Facebook or Google+ pages, or tweet it @Ubicomp2013!

Jun, John, Marc – thanks for the interview!