We set up the Blue Sky Ideas track as a means to stimulate novel research and initiatives that complement the work commonly submitted into the other tracks of the main conference.
The track is supported by the Computing Community Consortium (CCC). The format is used widely at several top scientific conferences, including AAAI, ACM SIGSPATIAL, ACM SIGSOFT, ACM SIGPLAN and VLDB. By reviving the track, which was organized for the first time at ISWC in 2011, we aimed to give the community a forum to present and promote emerging and, to a certain extent, controversial ideas, which are not yet part of more mainstream scholarly conversations. We wanted to encourage people to think about fundamental, open-goal, curiosity-driven scientific questions, which some of the more established tracks cannot capture.
In designing the track, we leveraged best practices from previous editions at ISWC, reviewed models used by other scientific communities and set up a committee including senior members of the community to provide feedback on application format and selection criteria.
There are many ways to assess novel scholarly work that has the potential to disrupt existing assumptions and methodologies in a field; their advantages and disadvantages have been discussed widely. Our approach, as explained in the call issued earlier this year, included the following dimensions: 1) provocativeness, 2) degree of risk, 3) difference from the mainstream research and 4) time horizon to adoption by the research community. These dimensions were the result of discussions with the committee members, capitalizing on their record of accomplishment and experience.
Successful applicants managed to convince the reviewers along all four dimensions:
1. Is the proposed idea provocative for the ISWC community?
We asked ourselves how different the idea is from existing research. We were guided by the following questions:
• Does the paper present a new problem, methodology or application domain that has not been published in regular ISWC research tracks?
• Does the idea have the potential to create a new research domain or have a significant impact on everyday life?
The papers that scored high in this category made it easy for reviewers to answer these questions, for example, by stating clearly the problem they are addressing, by articulating the impact proposition, scientific, societal or otherwise, and by comparing it to the state of the art.
2. How risky is the idea?
We assessed the degree of risk by considering a number of related factors:
• Does the paper present a convincing line of reasoning? Here we appreciated papers with a compelling narrative, with strong, consistent arguments and critical analysis.
• Is the technical content of the paper coherent? The authors had to convince us that they have thought about how to start working on their idea and to articulate an approach or a solution and explain what it takes to realise it.
• Could a prototype of the proposed research be developed with existing state of the art tools? Do we have all technical and non-technical components in place to realize the idea? In this context, we were looking for major technology bottlenecks, which may influence the feasibility of the idea.
Blue sky research is inherently a high-risk process. The best papers put forward a general, yet interesting and thought-through idea, whose feasibility, short, medium or long term, was not nullified by technical inconsistencies, unrealistic assumptions, or half-baked approaches.
3. How different is the idea from mainstream research?
Here we considered existing publications from our community and beyond. Successful submissions have included citations of related ideas, explaining clearly the commonalities and differences. While four pages do not leave much room for related work, not addressing this point left the reviewers guessing.
4. What is the time horizon to adoption?
In this final category, we wanted to understand when and if the idea could enter mainstream research. While this is somewhat related to the risks in realizing the idea, we were looking to understand in greater detail how the idea could be implemented and to assess its potential impact.
The track received 21 submissions, out of which 19 were considered for review. Two submissions were incomplete or did not follow the submission guidelines.
All valid submissions were reviewed by at least three members of the programme committee. In some cases, we asked for additional views to ensure we have the right expertise and allow consensus to emerge. All papers and decisions upon acceptance were then audited by the entire programme committee. This led to a set of eight papers which will be presented in two dedicated sessions during the main conference.
The papers are also part of a companion proceedings volume published online via CEUR Workshop Proceedings (ISSN 1613-0073), which also includes papers from the industry track, as well as posters and demos.
Three of the eight accepted ideas will receive the CCC award at ISWC.
In deciding the winners, the committee will consider two aspects: the original reviews and discussions, as well as the onsite presentation.
We will also designate a winner according to the popular vote, based on the feedback of the audience – this category will not be sponsored by the CCC, but will hopefully encourage its recipient to continue on a line of work which resonates with the community.
We are looking forward to your presentations – it is a fantastic opportunity for all accepted papers to promote their work to a large audience. The sky is the limit!