Machine Learning (Theory)

2/25/2005

Why Papers?

Tags: General jl@ 9:42 am

Makc asked a good question in comments—“Why bother to make a paper, at all?” There are several reasons for writing papers which may not be immediately obvious to people not in academia.

The basic idea is that papers have considerably more utility than the obvious “present an idea”.

  1. Papers are a formalized units of work. Academics (especially young ones) are often judged on the number of papers they produce.
  2. Papers have a formalized method of citing and crediting other—the bibliography. Academics (especially older ones) are often judged on the number of citations they receive.
  3. Papers enable a “more fair” anonymous review. Conferences receive many papers, from which a subset are selected. Discussion forums are inherently not anonymous for anyone who wants to build a reputation for good work.
  4. Papers are an excuse to meet your friends. Papers are the content of conferences, but much of what you do is talk to friends about interesting problems while there. Sometimes you even solve them.
  5. Papers are an excuse to get a large number of smart people in the same room and think about the same topic.
  6. Good papers are easy to read. In particular, they are much easier to read (and understand) then a long discussion thread. They are even easy to read in several decades. (Writing good papers is hard)

All of the above are reasons why writing papers is a good idea. It’s also important to understand that academia is a large system and large systems have a lot of inertia. This means switching from paper writing to some other method of doing research won’t happen unless the other method is significantly more effective, and even then there will be a lot of inertia.

Also note: the “similar sites” link to the right is to other discussion forums, etc…

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