Open Letter November 2013

Dear RSS Community,

In 2014, RSS will take place for the tenth time.  With your help and contributions, RSS has become an established conference in our community.  We invite everybody to partake in this development by sharing some information about recent developments.

Attendance at RSS over the years

Well, there is not much to say, the graph says it all.  It shows the total attendance for every RSS to date.

Attendance chart since 2005

Making RSS transparent to the community

In an attempt to make the workings of RSS transparent to the scientific community, we have begun to collect RSS procedures on the RSS Foundation site at You will find information on how board members and program chairs are selected, how you can bring a future RSS to your home institution, and many other RSS-related things.

What is the role of RSS?

RSS aspires to be the conference where new bold ideas are presented and where lively debates in the community are initiated. RSS also aspires to be the conference that influences people’s future research activities, and advances our field through a scientific discourse based on multiple views and approaches. The RSS Foundation is very much interested in promoting these high aspirations.

Papers at RSS

One critical issue relates to the kinds of papers that are submitted to RSS and to the RSS review process.  In recent years, the RSS review process has shown a bias toward papers reporting ideas that are fully matured and work that is complete. Thus the scope of many RSS accepted papers has resembled that of journal articles. While RSS will continue to accept such papers, we also strongly encourage the submission of exciting, early-stage ground-breaking work. We also recognize that these papers may be somewhat limited on scope, and be unlike a journal article.

Systems papers have also been traditionally underrepresented at RSS. As RSS strives to showcase the best work in robotics to a large audience, the RSS Foundation continues to invite submissions from all areas of robotics. As the “Science and Systems” in the name implies, these papers can focus on theoretical advances, systems development, or both.

The RSS paper format and review process will be changed, starting in 2014, to help reviewers identify those papers that reflect early stage work with the potential of a major impact on a subset of the RSS community. Details of this change will be posted on the foundation website.

What makes a “good” RSS oral presentation?

High-Level Suggestions

  1. Pick your message. You can only communicate a limited amount in the allotted time. If you try to communicate more, you most likely will fail to communicate everything. Focus on the main contribution of your paper.
  2. Know your audience. Your audience will number in the hundreds, most of whom are roboticists themselves. That said, only a few will be experts in your particular sub-discipline. Your spotlight is an opportunity to tell everyone about your research; focus on accessibility. The audience may not be familiar with the specific jargon or mathematical notation/conventions of your subfield.
  3. Give the audiences something. What’s a cool insight/formulation/mathematical tool/result that might be useful outside of your specific sub-area?

Presentation Tips

  1. Avoid high-density slides. The point of slides is not to remind you, the speaker, of what you wanted to say. Slides are a visual aid for you to facilitate making an argument. A simple heuristic: only put on your slides what you would write or draw on a board if you were giving the talk without slides.
  2. Practice. Almost everyone will benefit from multiple practice sessions (some of which ideally with an audience). Your goal in practicing is to be comfortable with what you plan to say on every slide without attempting to memorize a rigid script.
  3. When time is up, stop. No one wants to cut you off in mid-sentence, but the schedule does not allow for “grace periods”. Be done when the timer hits zero, and remember that no one will be upset if you finish 30 seconds early.
  4. Let your enthusiasm come through. Help everyone understand why you are excited about your work.


If you have questions or concerns, comments, or complaints, please contact us at

Best regards,

The RSS Foundation Board