I wrote a blog post some time ago about conference proceedings, and their widely attributed lesser value than articles submitted to and published in peer-reviewed, refereed journals.
I am often asked by junior colleagues working on their resumes, whether papers published as conference proceedings should be listed separately from “regular” journal articles.
My personal take is that a curriculum vitae should list one’s publications, and I tend to go by a relatively broad definition of the word. In my opinion, for productivity evaluation, as well as promotion and tenure purposes, conference proceedings can and should be regarded as “regular publications”, i.e., fully equivalent to articles submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals, if the following conditions are met:
Proceedings are peer-reviewed.
It is often stated that peer reviewing that takes place at a conference tends to be sloppier, less thorough, due to time pressure. Moreover, because reviewers are conference attendees anonymity cannot always be ensured, and that may result in less rigorous assessments of the quality of the manuscripts. My personal experience does not really support any of that, though.
First off, I happen to think that the average quality of refereeing is low these days, even if referees take weeks to submit their reports, and that ultimately it is the assessment that the community indirectly provides through citations (more about it below) that tells the story. Still, the fact that at a conference one can listen to the talk, or the poster presentation, and discuss with the author of the paper that one is assigned to review, is an advantage, and often allows for more informed reviewing.
Proceedings are published in a regular journal
It is often the case that proceedings are published in a special issue of an international, journal that ordinarily publishes contributed, peer-reviewed articles. In that case, I think it is fair to assume that the Editor of the journal commits to ensuring that all published articles, regardless of whether conference proceedings or regularly submitted manuscripts, be subjected to the same in-depth scrutiny.
Now, curriculum vitae aside, is an article published as part of the proceedings of a given conference, peer-reviewed or not, in a book or in a journal, less “prestigious” a publication than a regular article ? Should it be given lesser weight, for example in assessing the publication record of a tenure applicant ?
To me, the acid test is: Is the article read and cited ?
I really think that this is the bottom line. As Mark Twain would have put it, The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all. If an article published as part of conference proceedings garner hundreds of citations, it is meaningless to ascribe any importance to the format or venue of publication. The community has expressed its judgment, and regards the manuscript as a valuable contribution — that is really what should matter in the end.
Any differing opinion ?