DVCon: Building a Community Through Quality Conferences
by Gabe Moretti
April 26, 2016
Accellera System Initiative has held an annual DVCon conference since its inception. Although Accellera is a consortium of companies, its focus is on practicing engineers. One of the ways it creates an environment for professional growth is through its DVCon conferences. Unlike most other conferences covering the EDA industry, DVCon is focused on practicing design and verification engineers. The mission of DVCon is to facilitate networking and professional growth of engineers.
Two years ago, Accellera expanded its services by starting DVCon India and DVCon Europe, making DVCon the only EDA conference held in all three continents. The major reason for this growth is the quality of papers presented at each event, both those delivered in technical sessions and those shown as poster presentations. Accellera pays attention to both process and people in producing and delivering each DVCon. The process of submitting a proposal is simplified by not requiring that the finished paper be submitted for approval. Working engineers must spend the majority of their time working on the job they are paid to perform. They do not have time to develop a complete paper only to see it rejected, for whatever reason. DVCon requires authors to only submit an abstract that details the subject area that will be covered along with the direction and salient contents of the paper. Once the abstract is approved, the authors then spend the time required to develop the final paper or poster. The procedure is exactly the same for papers and posters; the final decision on what form the accepted work will take at the conference is made by the Technical Program Committee.
The role of the Technical Program Committee
The Technical Program Committee (TPC) plays a key role in maintaining a very high level of quality of the DVCon conferences. TPC members represent a variety of skills and professional profiles. They are EDA developers, design and verification engineers, tool users, managers, educators, consultants, and so on. Many members of the committee serve for more than one conference. The knowledge they preserve, from one event to the next, is invaluable in maintaining the core values and the philosophical approach of DVCon. Most conferences disband their organizational structure when the event is over and build a new one with new people as the next event is organized. DVCon has never done this. Instead it has strived to maintain the same personality, from one conference to the next, by not only building on what worked but by learning from what underperformed during the history of the conferences and finding ways to improve it. Dr. Ambar Sarkar, Chief Technologist, ASIC Services, eInfochips, has served as the Chair of the TPC for seven years. "The dedication shown by returning TPC members is exemplary. The amount of attention each individual shows in handling each abstract is so admirable to be a true labor of love," stated Ambar. "The entire conference committee is proud of the level of quality attained, and the TPC plays a key role in that achievement," remarked Yatin Trivedi, this year's General Chair of DVCon U.S.
Of course there is dynamism in the composition of the TPC. Every year a number of new faces join the committee and replace those who for many reasons (new employer, new title or responsibility) have to relinquish their position. The new members bring different experiences, opinions, and relationships to the decision-making process of the TPC. But working with experienced members, they quickly fit into the group. The philosophy of the committee remains the same, while its approach continues to be fresh and in step with the technological changes and the market requirements of the industry.
In the paper selection process, the TPC is guided by one important question: "Will audience members be able to get some ideas from the paper that can be used in their day-to-day work?" The question is more difficult to answer than it appears at first look. Within the TPC, current knowledge of the technology and methods used in a particular EDA function is a must. Each proposal is reviewed by four members of the TPC and receives a score that will be taken into consideration as the sessions are built. Each technical session contains three or four papers, so the sessions are built from proposed content, not dictated beforehand by a program committee guided by corporate or academic interests. When a paper is accepted but does not fit into a session, or when there is an overflow of papers for a particular session, the submission will become a poster presentation. The idea that each proposal is evaluated in the same way allows for flexibility in building the final program. If for whatever reason a chosen paper cannot be presented, a poster presentation can take its place. Since poster presentations offer a greater chance to have a discussion with either one or a small group of interested individuals, some authors indicate that they would prefer a poster session. The reason is that it is understood that at DVCon a poster is not judged as less worthy, unlike most other conferences.
I often hear that there are too many conferences and that it is difficult to establish the relevance of a technical program to one's present assignment before deciding to attend. Having attended a large number of conferences, I know this observation is valid. By establishing and maintaining a consistent philosophy, Accellera has been able to always keep its promise of delivering information that is useful to an engineer in his or her job immediately or in the short term. As many conferences fight to equal their previous year's attendance, DVCon has not only grown but has established two additional events. And just wait until April 2017, when the first DVCon China will open its doors in Shanghai.