Conferences exist as part of the process of doing research. They provide many roles including “announcing research”, “meeting people”, and “point of reference”. Not all conferences are alike so a basic question is: “to what extent do individual conferences attempt to aid research?” This question is very difficult to answer in any satisfying way. What we can do is compare details of the process across multiple conferences.
- Comments The average quality of comments across conferences can vary dramatically. At one extreme, the tradition in CS theory conferences is to provide essentially zero feedback. At the other extreme, some conferences have a strong tradition of providing detailed constructive feedback. Detailed feedback can give authors significant guidance about how to improve research. This is the most subjective entry.
- Blind Virtually all conferences offer single blind review where authors do not know reviewers. Some also provide double blind review where reviewers do not know authors. The intention with double blind reviewing is to make the conference more approachable to first-time authors.
- Author Feedback Author feedback is a mechanism where authors can provide feedback to reviewers (and, to some extent, complain). Providing an author feedback mechanism provides an opportunity for the worst reviewing errors to be corrected.
- Conditional Accepts A conditional accept is some form of “we will accept this paper if conditions X,Y, and Z are met”. A conditional accept allows reviewers to demand different experiments or other details they need in order to make a decision. This might speed up research significantly because otherwise good papers need not wait another year.
- Papers/PC member How many papers can one person actually review well? When there is an incredible load of papers to review, it becomes very tempting to make snap decisions without a thorough attempt at understanding. Snap decisions are often wrong. These numbers are based on the number of submissions with a computer science standard of 3 reviews per paper.
Each of these “options” make reviewing more difficult by requiring more reviewer work. There is a basic trade-off between the amount of time spent reviewing vs. working on new research and the speed of the review process itself. It is unclear where this optimal trade-off point lies, but the easy default is “not enough time spent reviewing” because reviewing is generally an unrewarding job.
It seems reasonable to cross reference these options with some measures of ‘conference impact’. For each of these, it’s important to realize these are not goal metrics and so their meaning is unclear. The best that can be said is that it is not bad to do well. Also keep in mind that measurements of “impact” are inherently “trailing indicators” which are not necessarily relevant to the way the conference is currently run.
- average citations Citeseer has been used to estimate the average impact of a conference’s papers here using the average number of citations per paper.
- max citations A number of people believe that the maximum number of citations given to any one paper is a strong indicator of the success of the conference. This can be measured by going to scholar.google.com and using ‘advanced search’ for the conference name.
|Conference||Comments||blindness||author feedback||conditional accepts||Reviews/PC member||log(average citations per paper+1)||max citations|
|NIPS||Sometimes Helpful/Sometimes False||Single||Yes||No||113(*)||1.06||891|
(*) To some extent this is a labeling problem. NIPS has an organized process of finding reviewers very similar to ICML. They are simply not called PC members.
Keep in mind that the above is a very incomplete list (it only includes the conferences that I interacted with) and feel free to add details in the comments.