A Personal History of Legion, by Way of Its Papers

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2024-02-12 23:30:02

The path to publication is rarely as linear as the publication record would appear to indicate. For the last 12 years, I have been an active contributor to Legion, a research project originally out of Stanford which aimed to create a programming system for supercomputers that fundamentally and dramatically simplifies the way we program these machines, while providing best-in-class performance and scalability. Through many years of hard work, I believe we have succeeded in this goal. But even so, these years have been anything but straightforward.

This document is a personal history of Legion: the story of the project, told through the lens of the papers we wrote about it, and the journey that brought us to each one.

In research, we rarely talk about the struggle involved in doing research. We especially don’t like to talk about rejection. I think this does the community a disservice by glossing over the challenges we face getting to the results that eventually do get published, trivializing the process and minimizing the (mundane but necessary) engineering work that makes the research possible in the first place—making the process seem simple and almost boring. The real story, is (you guessed it) anything but.

Almost every paper we published along the way was rejected at least once. A majority of papers were rejected multiple times. And some papers were rejected so much that they eventually landed back at the same conferences that initially rejected them. Contrary to what the cynics might say, these rejections made the papers stronger, clearer, and in some cases helped us clarify our own contributions in the work that we ultimately published. But of course that doesn’t mean that receiving those rejections was easy.

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