Mixed experiences with conferences and traveling

I just made it back to South Africa from the Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13) conference in Vilamoura, Portugal, and subsequent Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13) conference in Amantea, Calabria, Italy. I had two papers at each conference (briefly described here, here, and here, in previous posts) and I suppose I should count myself lucky to have (barely) sufficient research funds to make such a trip.

If I had the choice again but with the foreknowledge of what was in store, I’d skip KEOD’13, regardless of the fact that the Portuguese airline TAP made a bit of a mess of my travel and, jointly with Alitalia, ‘lost’ my baggage for a while (and being unresponsive upon inquiry, and still are). Analysing the twice re-labeled baggage tags once it arrived two days later, though, it appeared to be Alitalia who had let me wait one day more, who did not update on the status of the luggage either, and their lost & found at Lamezia Terme airport could not be bothered to bring it to the hotel, though they ought to have done so. Meanwhile, I’d done a bit of guilt-free shopping in Amantea so as to wear something else than the same clothes I traveled in; and the clothes even fit!

For the remainder of the post: if you want to read about me complaining about a conference, then simply read on, if you want to read a more typical conference report, then scroll to the MEDI’13 section, further below.

KEOD’13

KEOD appeared to be a lucrative business for the organizers rather than a full-fledged conference. It started with an increase in the registration fees after submission, amounting to 525 euro without lunch (another 70 euro) or social dinner (another 75 euro), and another 290 euro for any additional paper. But we were already sucked into it and didn’t want to go through the whole process of resubmitting one of the papers elsewhere, so I ended up forking out 815 euro just for the registration (with a bad Rand->Euro exchange rate to boot). The internet connection was close to zero bits per hour, so that wasn’t taking up the lion’s share of the conference registration either. The ‘welcome reception’—included in the price—consisted of two jugs of ice tea, two jugs of juice, and three bottles of water, with a few snacks—even the alcohol-free welcome receptions in the USA do better than that. Now, I know that top conferences such as KCAP, CIKM and cs. do tend to be pricy, but KEOD is not a top conference, despite the claimed statistics in the proceedings that there was an acceptance rate for the joint IC3K conferences for long papers of 10% and, including regular papers, about 35% overall (the paper with my MSc student, Zubeida Khan [1] was a full/long paper of 12 pages double-column and the other one [2] a regular 8 pages).

The titles of the papers certainly sounded interesting, but most of the presentations did not live up to the promise, multiple sessions had at least one paper where the author had not shown up, and there were only about 20-25 KEOD attendees, which is a generous rough headcount of the attendees in the plenary sessions (quite a few who did show up did not stay for the whole conference). Or: at best, it was more like an expensive and not well-organised workshop-level event. The best paper award went to a groupie of one of the two organizers.

Of course, it’s your call to submit for next year’s installment or not, and my opinion is just that. When inquiring with a few people who had attended a previous installment, the papers were then “a bit of a mixed bag”, so maybe only this year was a temporary dip, not indicative of a general trend. Regardless the relatively average low quality, it’s still too expensive.

On the bright side, Tahir Khan, with whom I have a CIKM’13 paper jointly with Chiara Ghidini [3] (topic of a next post), was attending as well, and the three of us (Zubeida, Tahir, and me) have set out some nice tasks for research and a new prospective paper (assuming we’ll get interesting results, that is).

MEDI’13

Regarding MEDI’13, organized by Alfredo Cuzzocrea and Sofian Maabout, there was a last-minute wobble that got ironed out, and the local organization, the quality of the papers and presentations, and the atmosphere at the conference was substantially better. It was a really enjoyable event.

The conferences organized in Italy that I have attended over the years (among others, AI*IA’07, AI*IA’09, and DL’07) were always good with the food and drinks, and MEDI was no exception and they even had additional entertainment with folkloristic music and dance at the welcome reception and (huge) social dinner. And now I know how tartufo is really supposed to taste (sorry Bolzanini, but none of the restaurants and gelateria up there come even close).

So, let me mention some of the presentations and papers that piqued my interest—what I normally write about when writing a blog post about a conference.

The first keynote was given by Gottfried Vossen from the University of Münster on “Model engineering as a social activity: the case of business processes”, which focused on the role of models in computer science, the move from modeling to model engineering (a more structured and rigorous activity than just modelling), the Horus method from modelling, and closing with ideas about inserting crowdsourcing into the process. A side-note in the presentation, but worthwhile linking here anyway, is that there’s now even also algorithm engineering. The second keynote was given by Dimitrios Gunopulos from the University of Athens about “Analyzing massive streaming heterogeneous data: towards a new computing model for computational sustainability”. This talk was about document retrieval, e.g., newspaper articles, after first having established a baseline of the occurrences of certain keywords over time, and then detecting ‘bursts’ of keyword incidences in certain smaller intervals, whose documents then get ranked higher in the retrieval of relevant documents.

What I’ll certainly read in more detail over the upcoming days is the persistent meta-model system paper [4] that enhances the OntoDB/OntoQL system, as our papers were about metamodels [5] and the model repository ROMULUS [6]. Likewise, I’m biased toward reading the paper presented by Zdenek Rybola [7], for it deals with ontology-driven conceptual data modeling with UML using OntoUML, aiming to port the ontology-driven conceptual model toward improvements in implementations. Further, [8] proposes to use Time Petri Nets to verify temporal coherence in a SMIL (synchronized multimedia integration language, from the W3C) multimedia document presentation through the transformation of the SMIL document into TPN.

I was not the only one traveling to MEDI’13 all the way from South Africa: Kobamelo Moremedi, a MSc student at UNISA, presented his work about various possible diagrammatic notations for Z [9]. Staying with the topic of South Africa, and highlighting some more immediate possible relevance and link to societal use of material presented at the conference (cf. talking about foundational ontologies, ETL, architectural documentation, database integrity and the like, where the chain toward practical relevance is a bit longer): Andrea Nucita presented a Markov chain-based model for individual patients and agent-based model for interaction among individuals so as to predict HIV/AIDS epidemiological trends and simulate the various epidemiological scenarios [10]. They used actual clinical data to test their model and it showed that, as one would expect, expanding access to testing and therapy will influence the evolution of the epidemiology toward limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS, therewith also corroborating other works on the same topic.

In closing

Overall, the experience was quite mixed in the relatively long trip. I haven’t written negatively about a conference before—if it wasn’t great, then I didn’t write about it, although not having written about an event does not imply it wasn’t great (e.g., KCAP’13 got cancelled)—but KEOD really was a disappointment on multiple aspects. I don’t know whether it’s in the same league as WORLDCOMP, IASTED, IARIA and the like, as I’ve never attended those, but going by reviews of those events, if the KEOD organisers don’t get their act together and improve upon it, they will be down there in the same league. As for MEDI, if I have enough research money and suitable material, I may submit again for next year’s installment in Cyprus or thereafter, as the quality, relevance, and experience was better than I thought it would be.

References

[1] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. Addressing issues in foundational ontology mediation. Fifth International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13). 19-22 September, Vilamoura, Portugal.

[2] Keet, C.M., Suárez Figueroa, M.C., and Poveda-Villalón, M. (2013) The current landscape of pitfalls in ontologies. International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13). 19-22 September, Vilamoura, Portugal.

[3] Keet, C.M., Khan, M.T., Ghidini, C. Ontology Authoring with FORZA. ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM’13), San Francisco, USA, Oct 27-Nov 1, 2013.

[4] Youness Bazhar, Yassine Ouhammou, Yamine Aït-Ameur, Emmanuel Grolleau, and Stéphane Jean. Persistent Meta-Modeling Systems as Heterogeneous Model Repositories. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 25-37.

[5] Keet, C.M., Fillottrani, P.R. Structural entities of an ontology-driven unifying metamodel for UML, EER, and ORM2. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 188-199.

[6] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. The foundational ontology library ROMULUS. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 200-211.

[7] Robert Pergl, Tiago Prince Sales, and Zdenek Rybola. Towards OntoUML for Software Engineering: From Domain Ontology to Implementation Model. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 249-263.

[8] Abdelghani Ghomari, Naceur Belheziel, Fatma-Zohra Mekahlia, and Chabane Djeraba. Towards a Formal Approach for Verifying Temporal Coherence in a SMIL Document Presentation. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 132–146.

[9] Kobamelo Moremedi and John Andrew van der Poll. Transforming Formal Specification Constructs into Diagrammatic Notations. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 212–224.

[10] Andrea Nucita, Giuseppe M. Bernava, Pietro Giglio, Marco Peroni, Michelangelo Bartolo, Stefano Orlando, Maria Cristina Marazzi, and Leonardo Palombi. A Markov Chain Based Model to Predict HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Trends. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 225-236.

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