Shaping the future of real-time conferences on principles of transparency, equity, and inclusivity

The TCRTS Conferences Planning Sub-Committee is responsible for determining the policies for TCRTS sponsored conferences including the Real-Time Systems Symposium (RTSS) and the Real-Time and Embedded Technology and Applications Symposium (RTAS). In doing so in 2020, we have been guided by three key principles:

  • Transparency, meaning openly sharing information;
  • Equity, meaning fair and respectful treatment of all people, including changing systems and structures that can lead to disadvantage or exclusion; and
  • Inclusivity, meaning providing equal access to opportunities and resources to those who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized

With these principles in mind, over the past year, the Conferences Planning Sub-Committee has developed a number of important proposals that will re-shape our real-time conferences.

Each of the four proposals has a strong equity and inclusivity action.

  1. No longer permit physical Program Committee meetings that are not co-located at a real-time conference. This avoids the situation where invited Program Committee members have no option but to decline because they cannot, for whatever reason, travel to a separate PC meeting. Survey data from the RTSS 2018 PC meeting shows that the financial cost to the real-time community of a single large PC meeting that is not co-located with another real-time conference can exceed USD 60,000, while estimates from the RTSS 2019 PC meeting show that the environmental cost of the additional air travel can exceed 40,000 Kg CO2. Neither is sustainable.
  2. Free-of-charge registration for non-author participants in virtual conferences (whenever financially viable). Free-of-charge registration enables everyone to participate in our virtual conferences irrespective of whether or not they have funding, making the conferences accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Even nominal fees can act to exclude participants from third world countries. Further, it was considered proportionately fair that authors, who gain the benefits of having a published paper, are the ones who cover the costs of their paper’s presentation and publication. Free-of-charge registration causes the least externalities, in terms of extra work and cost, for participants, administrators in their organizations, and for the conference organizers. It encourages participation from adjacent research domains, and from industry practitioners by removing financial and administrative barriers to joining.
  3. Two-year trial of virtual program committee meetings. The two-year trial of virtual program committee meetings will open up program committee membership to those who could not otherwise attend a physical PC meeting due to financial, visa, family/care responsibilities, health, or any other reasons.
  4. Two-year trial of hybrid conferences once circumstances allow. The two-year trial of hybrid conferences will mean that everyone, both authors and other participants, will have the option of either physical or virtual attendance. This will eliminate substantial barriers to access enabling diverse and underrepresented minority groups to fully participate in our conferences.

The TCRTS Executive Committee carefully considered each of the four proposals, with an overwhelming majority of the votes going in favor of the proposals, which I am pleased to say have now been adopted.  Further, if successful in the above trials, virtual program committee meetings and hybrid conferences are expected to be adopted as future policy.

In addition, a transparency proposal is currently being actioned, with all non-confidential TCRTS EC decisions (e.g. accepted proposals) published on the TCRTS website.

We hope that these improvements will help ensure that all researchers in our community have equal access to our major conferences, and equal opportunities to succeed.

Rob Davis (On behalf of the TCRTS Conferences Planning Sub-Committee)

Author bio: Robert Davis is a Reader in the Real-Time Systems Research Group at the University of York, UK. His research interests include scheduling algorithms and analysis for single processor, multiprocessor, and networked real-time systems. Robert has also been involved in founding three start-up companies, all of which succeeded in transferring real-time systems research into commercial products. He is Chair of the TCRTS  Conferences Planning Sub-Committee 2020-2021.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal, belong solely to the blog post authors and do not represent those of ACM SIGBED or its parent organization, ACM.

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