Confessions of a researchaholic

August 8, 2020

Sharing paper source with publisher

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:00 am
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Some publishers like ACM might ask for the source files to compile the camera ready papers. My understanding is that they need the source to tune the paper format, instead of publishing the source. Thus, it should be OK to share the source directly with the publisher.
If you have concerns about internal annotations such as author discussions not meant for the final paper, just clean up the source via arXiv Latex cleaner or something similar.

August 5, 2020

Popularity contest

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:23 am
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A group of interns posted their projects on an internal expo and solicited popular votes with ferocity last seen in the 2016 Republican party presidential primaries.

Meanwhile, one intern submitted a paper to a top venue even before the start of the internship, and is now spending time revising the conditionally accepted paper, filing a patent, and collaborating with a product team, instead of campaigning for popularity among other interns.

Our time is very limited. As a research mentor, it is my responsibility to guide you towards what is important and steer you away from what is less so.

July 17, 2020

How to choose faculty jobs for research universities

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:55 pm
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The first rule, which you will also hear from others, is to choose a place that can attract top graduate students whom you can work with, because that is the main attraction for being a professor in a research university.

After that, consider other factors, like funding and geography (and thus why I went to HKU as a professor).

June 10, 2020

How to pick up drawing

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:34 am
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I skipped most of my art classes in school because I considered it a soft skill less useful than math and science.
Decades later I realized that art can be a good complement to my research and help me relax and create.
Fortunately, unlike languages, I have found drawing quite learnable as an adult, if one is willing to spend enough time practice and experiment.

For beginners, I recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards as a starting guide book.
Practice the exercises as much as you can, and treat the cognitive aspect (e.g., left versus right brain) more from the art than the science side.

I am still learning, and will update this post along the way.
You can see my progress under my blog (which links to Instagram), Pinterest (which links to Behance), and Facebook.

June 5, 2020

Sharing materials under review for job applications

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:03 am
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Question from someone about to graduate with a PhD:
Do you think I can reach out with our paper draft and videos to profs for postdocs? It’s still under review, but I kinda need to send the paper to make my case, and can’t wait any longer.

This is always a yes and no question and we have to make our own judgement. On one hand, we don’t want to let potential reviewers and recruiters feel that we are compromising review anonymity, which can hurt our paper submissions and job applications. On the other hand, we do want to present ourselves in the best possible way.

I never have this problem personally, as during my job hunts so far I have shared only public domain information.
However, if I have to add confidential materials (e.g., under peer reviews or patent applications), I will share vague information, such as an alternative paper titles with high level descriptions and a disclaimer that the work is under evaluation, and let the recruiters decide whether they want to ask for more.

April 28, 2020

External visibility and internal reputation

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:12 am
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External visibility is public domain information for everyone to see, such as publications and patents.
Internal reputation is often proprietary and known only inside our institution, such as design or implementation for a product.

Our internal reputation is more important for the particular jobs (e.g., performance reviews and rewards), but that often contains confidential information which only a few colleagues can vouch for.

Both are important for our careers. For example, when we want to switch jobs, most people can only evaluate our external visibility and will require references to vet our internal reputation.
Thus, it is important to maintain a good balance of both.
I am lucky enough to enjoy doing both (e.g., publications and products).

April 27, 2020

Research continuity

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:34 pm
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Without continual practice, some skills, once mastered, will mostly remain with us, such as driving a car or riding a bicycle, while others tend to atrophy, especially during the early learning stages.

In my observations for computer science, research requires constant engagement to keep top performance.
I stopped research publications around 2001 to 2003 while focusing on GPU architecture, which reduced my research output and took me significant efforts later to get back to form (e.g., single-author a paper during weekends and evenings).
Research (at least in CS) can easily become rusty probably because it involves many delicate skills, such as literature, ideation, algorithm, code, demo, writing, and presentation.
Even if we can more easily get back to some of these (e.g., coding, which feels like riding a bicycle to me), missing any others could still throw us off balance (in particular ideation and familiarity with state of art, which are related).

Thus, if you are a graduating CS student and you want to keep research opportunity open for your future career, it is important to find a first job that you can continue your research in some way.
(Not necessarily academia, as I think I can have more time doing research in a top industry lab than as an assistance professor.)
Otherwise, you might never be able to come back.

April 22, 2020

Remote internship

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:24 pm
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I have experiences in remote collaboration and mentoring.
I did not need research meetings and I did not meet the first authors of some of my papers until before the conference presentations.
(I have yet to meet the first-author of my latest CHI 2020 paper for which the physical conference is canceled.)

However, there are important aspects that are difficult to emulate remotely beyond research and technical works in research internships, such as serendipitous encounters with different people and immersions in different environments.

Thus, I have been thinking about what would be good alternatives or replacements for remote internships (or research collaborations in general) that can best emulate on-site experiences?
If you have ideas, feel free to share with me.

One (Adobe-specific) possibility I have been thinking about is artistic creation via various tools, suitable for remote and asynchronous communications and yet different from and complementary to technical research.

February 20, 2020

How to bring up a research student

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:34 pm
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My approach can be titled as “multi-resolution mentoring”, depending on the skill set and development stage of the student.

For students who can already single-author SIGGRAPH papers, there is not much need for a mentor.

For students who can already develop and implement ideas, guide them on high level direction and building a project from proper components.
A good project often has more potential that can be done for a single paper, and thus it is important to scope it properly so that it contains the right amount of contributions and materials, neither too much nor too little.
We likely need to write the paper (and script the video) to guide this process.
If the direction is big enough, plan several projects/publications.

For students who can develop and implement detailed algorithms but lacks ideas, brainstorm with them as much as possible, to best fit their interests and leverage their strengths.

For students who can implement but not develop ideas and algorithms, give them specific instructions, such as algorithms in the level of pseudo-code via paper drafts.

For students who have difficulty with basic implementation, they are not ready for research and should go back to practice coding, e.g. reproducing algorithms from their favorite papers.
Never write code for them as that would consume our time and hamper their growth.

For students who get stuck in the development ladder, at some point we might have to suggest alternative career options which might be more suitable than research.

At some stage of your career, you might find developing talents even more satisfying than publishing papers or building products.
Guiding a student grow is a magical process (probably like parenting, which I have no hands-on experience yet) and can form a long-term collaboration relationship.

December 5, 2019

Networking/recruiting events

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:23 pm
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Personally, I never found networking/recruiting events very useful, especially those requiring registration fees.
It is OK to go to parties to have fun and increase the chance of random encounters, but networking by itself is a quite shallow goal.
All my best and deepest connections and recruits are established via other means, mostly shared interests.

It is much better to spend time and efforts to motivate others to find us, which in turn can help networking and recruiting.

I am not the only one saying these; see also here and here.

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