The scheduling of conferences is a challenging task that aims at creating successful conference programs that fulfill an often wide variety of requirements. In this work, we focus on the problem of generating conference programs that organize talks into tracks: subevents within the conference that are group-related talks. The main contributions of this work can be organized into three scopes: literature review, problem formulation and benchmarking, and heuristic approach. We provide a literature review of conference scheduling approaches that organizes these approaches within a timetabling problem taxonomy. We also describe the main characteristics of the conference scheduling approaches in the literature and propose a classification scheme for such works. To study the scheduling of conferences that include tracks, we introduce the definition of the track-based conference scheduling problem, a new problem that incorporates tracks in the conference program. We provide a binary integer linear programming model formulation for this problem. Our formulation considers the availability of presenters, chairs, and organizers, the avoidance of parallel tracks, and best paper sessions, among other classical constraints of conference scheduling problems. Additionally, based on our formulation, we propose a simple instance-generation procedure that we apply to generate a set of artificial instances. We complete our work by proposing a heuristic method based on the simulated annealing metaheuristic for solving the track-based conference scheduling problem. We compare the results obtained by our heuristic approach and the Gurobi solver regarding execution time and solution quality. The results show that the proposed heuristic method is a practical approach for tackling the problem as it obtains solutions in a fraction of the time required by Gurobi, while Gurobi is also unable to obtain an optimal solution in the defined time for a subset of the instances. Finally, from a general perspective, this work provides a new conference scheduling problem formulation that can be extended in the future to include other features common in conference programs. Moreover, thanks to the instance generation procedure, this formulation can be used as a benchmark for designing and comparing new solving approaches.
- conference scheduling
- integer linear programming model
- simulated annealing
- track-based conference scheduling