In these days of research-assessment exercises and cost-cutting measures, if you have not arranged beforehand for the proceedings of your conference to be published, you can expect fewer proposals for papers from experts at the cutting edge of their subject. Many departments will not normally fund attendance at conferences, especially those held abroad, unless there is a concrete outcome which can be added to the departmental publications list. This is why, over the last few years, we have seen such an increase in the number of edited conference papers. Unfortunately (and I certainly do not include this current issue of ALT-J in this statement, because the selection procedure has been really quite cruel), many of these proceedings are of low overall quality. The is no doubt partly because once your paper has been accepted for the conference, you want as much of a guarantee of publication as possible before you turn up and give it, and conference organisers are thus under pressure not to give the copper-bottomed guarantee they cannot of course give, but at least to keep you, as far as possible, in Promise Land. This situation tends to lead to diluted proceedings.
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