Some of my colleagues and I have a pretty nifty idea that we’ve submitted to SIGMOD 2009. But I’m not gonna tell you what it is. Because my friends at SIGMOD won’t let me.
Blogs democratize publication and reduce delays and friction in scientific dialog. Right? A small step toward Open Notebook Science. Too bad SIGMOD has moved in the opposite direction with double blind reviewing, bottling up ideas for months at a time. Actually, they’d really prefer I didn’t tell you about other ideas I’m playing with that I might submit next year. Then you might guess who I am! As if my work didn’t give me away.
This is no joke. While travelling the last couple weeks (and I don’t travel much), I ran into multiple colleagues — senior, accomplished people — who would not tell me about things they were working on because of SIGMOD’s double-blind policy. The interaction strikes me as a fundamental embarrassment to our field and its research institutions. Research should be (1) a joy, and (2) something that is enriched by chance meetings of enthusiastic people. Imagine Paul Erdos dropping by your place, and you don’t talk about your work because it’s been ensnared in a sticky gray spiderweb of bureaucracy.
Now I’m no Paul Erdos (as my friends and family will happily attest). But it seems to me that even we workaday researchers should be out aggressively swapping ideas, in person and online. Keeping the silence during the SIGMOD review process gets less and less attractive — and sensible — each year.