Choosing a venue: conference or journal?

by Michael Ernst (
December, 2006


(Also see my advice on writing a technical paper, and a letter to USCIS making the point that in computer science, papers in peer-reviewed conferences are accepted as high-quality scholarly articles.)

(Note: This webpage is oriented toward computer scientists. The information is not necessarily accurate for other scientific fields.)

Should you publish your work in a conference or in a journal? Each is appropriate in certain circumstances. This webpage lays out some of the tradeoffs.

This information is accurate to the best of my knowledge, and it agrees with what all top researchers say. However, it is not intended to impugn any particular conference or journal — there are always exceptions to a rule.

Why to prefer a conference

In computer science, your preference should be for conference publication. Here are some reasons.

Why to prefer a journal

There are situations in which journal publication is desirable.

The best papers at a conference are often solicited for expedited journal publication. I sometimes decline these opportunities, but your circumstances may be different. Whether you accept this invitation should be based on the factors above, such as whether there is value to the community of an expanded version of the paper, and how much more work it is to prepare the journal version. (For example, is there a thesis, technical report, or other document with additional material beyond the conference paper? Even better, are there additions that were suggested by reviewers or during discussions at the conference?)

The journal version of a publication will be cited more than the conference version, because the journal version has a later date and thus seems more authoritative. This is a good thing if the journal version adds real value (or corrects problems!). However, if you have cluttered the paper with a lot of details that aren't crucial (like extra tables of results, experiments that support your point slightly less strongly than the main ones, or discussions of tangential issues), then your paper may actually have less impact because readers will get mired in the irrelevant details. Good writing can avoid such problems.

Other resources

Regarding the impact of conferences vs. journals, see the CRA Best Practices Memo, Evaluating Computer Scientists and Engineers For Promotion and Tenure and Bertrand Meyer et al.'s CACM article Research Evaluation for Computer Science.

My biography indicates my qualifications to have an opinion on publication venues.

A Chinese translation of this webpage is available, thanks to Hao-Chuan Wang.

Back to Advice compiled by Michael Ernst.

Michael Ernst