Last year about this time, we received a conditional accept for the searn paper, which asked us to reference a paper that was not reasonable to cite because there was strictly more relevant work by the same authors that we already cited. We wrote a response explaining this, and didn’t cite it in the final draft, giving the SPC an excuse to reject the paper, leading to unhappiness for all.
Later, Sanjoy Dasgupta suggested that an alternative was to talk to the PC chair instead, as soon as you see that a conditional accept is unreasonable. William Cohen and I spoke about this by email, the relevant bit of which is:
If an SPC asks for a revision that is inappropriate, the correct
action is to contact the chairs as soon as the decision is made,
clearly explaining what the problem is, so we can decide whether or
not to over-rule the SPC. As you say, this is extra work for us
chairs, but that’s part of the job, and we’re willing to do that sort
of work to improve the overall quality of the reviewing process and
the conference. In short, Sanjoy was right.
At the time, I operated under the belief that the PC chair’s job was simply too heavy to bother with something like this, but that was wrong. William invited me to post this, and I hope we all learn a little bit from it. Obviously, this should only be used if there is a real flaw in the conditions for a conditional accept paper.