The organization of the conference takes a limited amount of time, which is
fixed at the beginning. We distinguish the following main phases:
reviewing, consensus finding about the selection of the submission
The phases themselves are ordered linearly, the exact duration or distance
of the single events should be adaptable. In the following, we discuss the
purpose of the phases the outcome of each. Most (but not all) phases are
separated by events.
Configuration serves a rather simple goal, namely the preparation and setup
for the rest of the phases. After installation, its includes to fix basic
data of the conference, which means it's name, it acronym, the date (begin
and end) and the location of the conference. Furthermore, the chairs of the
program committee are (probably) known.
The assembly is done by the program chairs. The result of the
assembly phase is the program committee, i.e., the collection of
experts or individuals that will, in later phases, decide about the
The program committee is not self-assembled. It is the task of the
program committee to invite members via email.
Invitees are free to decide, whether they wish to participate, which means
they should actively acknowledge participation or they should
reject. Before they acknowledge, they are called program committee
candidates, or candidates for short. By default, candidates are not
members unless they positively acknowledge participation. They can
register with the committee by using a web-interface. By acknowledging,
they also fill in further relevant personal data, such as affiliation
(=professional address), full name, preferred email address, home page.
Once the program committee is fixed the conference is ``advertised'', i.e.,
authors are invited to contribute to the event. The document, basically an
url i.e., the ``web-page'' which contains this advertisement is called the
call for papers. It must announce all information about the
conference relevant for authors, which
The effect of the announcement is that authors decide to contribute to the
conference. The contributions are called papers. The paper is
uploaded by an author onto the appropriate web page, the act of doing
so is the submission.
A paper has at least one author, but may have more than one. One
author may have more than one paper. One author of a paper is considered as
the main author, known as the corresponding author. This is the
author the organization of the conference deals with.
An author can decide to retract a paper. In this case, no older
versions (if any) of the paper are restored, but the paper is removed
The submission phase is terminated by the submission deadline, a
pre-announced time after which no submission is possible. Until that time
an author can submit many versions of the same paper. Only the last one
before the deadline counts, i.e., each later version overwrites the earlier
It is possible for an author to remove a paper even after the deadline (see
Reviewing is the process of selecting from the submission a set of papers.
The selection is done by the program committee in a joint effort using the
web server. The (informal and conflicting) goals are:
quality of paper selection:
Since in general there are more papers
than time on the conference, the best papers are to be selected.
load balance for reviewers:
In order to form an opinion about a
paper, a reviewer must read and understand it. This workload must be
distributed in a fair manner for the members.
load balance for papers:
Each paper gets (in general) more than one
reviewer, to make the decision less random. Each paper should get an
equal share of the reviewing task.
quality of reviewer selection:
Each reviewer gets the papers that he
wants to and/or he is the best expert for.
The above specification obviously is informal and unprecise as it allows a
number of interpretations. We do not fix an exact specification here,
because there are probably many plausible solutions. Instead we discuss
aspects of the mentioned goals. In the specification task, we would like
more explicit proposals to solve this problem.
One task is the assignment of papers to reviewers. It is to be
expected that there are more papers than reviewers, and furthermore one
should cater for the case that each paper gets more than one reviewer.
Preferably, and unlike the selection of the papers, the assignment is done
automatically, i.e., without general discussion.
Furthermore, the assignment should be ``fair'' wrt. the reviewers and wrt.
the papers, in that the load is equally shared. An easy and not very
useful solution would be to make a random assignment, under the side
condition of approximate load balance. The disadvantage is that, in
general, the members of the committee have slightly different fields of
expertise, and preferably a member evaluates papers in a field he is a
strong expert of.
Assignment by topic
Papers are classified according to a finite list
of topics. The topics are predefined for the conference, and the
author must pick those he feels his paper fits in. He might choose
more than just one topic. Also each reviewer, beforehand, chooses a
number of topics which he prefers to read papers from. Once the papers
are in, the software tries to take the preferences of the reviewers into
account, but of course still maintaining load balance concerning the
numbers of papers per reviews and the numbers of reviewers per paper
Assignment by paper
This approach does not rely on predefined
topics.2 Each referee shortly looks at the list of papers and declares
preferences (or dislikes) according to some schema. It this might be very
simple like ``I want 2, 17, and 42''. Also, it should be possible to
state: ``I cannot review this paper.''.3 Again in
this scheme, the selection mechanism should take the choices into
account, but adhering to the side condition of balance. In other words:
if someone only picks one paper, it does not mean he will get only one.
If 15 people find paper 76 very interesting, it does not mean that paper
76 gets 15 reviewers.
One can imagine to combine those approaches, or to make it a chooseable
In general there are more papers than there's time, so the intention is, of
course, to pick the best of them. To talk about finding the ``best
papers'' is misleading, though, because this uses the idealistic assumption
that there are best papers and one just does not know yet which ones they
are. On the other hand: even if it is more than questionable whether there
is a globally and universal quality scale to be applicable to the papers,
it does not mean that some papers are better than others, in the sense that
most everyone would agree on that. The task is to come fast and efficiently
to an agreement about this issue.
Let's assume two fundamentalistic approaches, which sheds light about the
range of possibilities. Both sketched approaches are in practice not very
useful and should be avoided. In order to talk about the best papers, one
obviously assumes an (imaginary) linear order which needs to be
determined by consensus and now the question is, how to reach this order.
One standpoint is: all participants discuss all
papers in a free-form manner until all agree on some order, and this
fixes the best papers. This solution is impractical: A rational
agreement, i.e., an agreement based on common understanding, would
require that all reviewers read all papers (which one wants to avoid
...). And even if all papers are read and discussed by all committee
members, to reach at a common order lead to endless dispute.
The opposite standpoint is: There is no
discussion at all. Each reviewer gives the paper(s) he reviews a
numerical value, say a mark. At the end the marks for each paper are
averaged,4 the results are ordered linearly, and then the best are
chosen.5 That is the most efficient solution but it might
easily lead to bad decisions. In general, there is more than one reviewer
per paper but there are in most cases not more than 4, and this makes the
mean value of ratings rather random.
As perhaps from the discussion, there will not be a clean, mathematically
optimal solution for the problem; basically the decision finding requires
human intelligence and social interaction. The trick will be to
assist in this social process, to make it more efficient than free
discussion but more rational than random selection.
Next we discuss which general states a paper can have during the reviewing
phase. Ultimately, the judgment for each paper will be:
``accepted'' or ``rejected'', which is when all the papers
are decided. A proposal for a schema of states could be:
decided | undecided
accepted | rejected
unreviewed | unclear
conflict | inconclusive
There, a paper is yet undecided if it's not yet reviewed or the situation
is unclear. Two causes are that there is a serious disagreement about the
quality. For instance if one reviewer thinks the is very good in one
category, and another one says it's very bad in the same category, this is
an indication that one better looks at this point again. One could
distinguish from that a situation where a paper is in the
``so-la-la''-range. In general, most submissions are in the middle-field.
In this case there might not be enough statistical evidence to distinguish
between two contributions with slightly different ratings.
The core of a solution is to focus the process. Certain discussion
is unavoidable/wanted, but the participants should focus (or rather helped
to be able to focus) on the right, i.e., discussion-worthy things. Since
the goal of the discussion is to find an agreement, discussion-worthy
things, in first approximation, are those which are not yet decided.
Basically, the ones taking part in the discussion, must be assisted to get
a good overview of the status of the debate and what things profitably to
do next. This includes some form of visualization (which might be as
simple as a table) of relevant information. Relevant information could
A reviewer will (if not ``forced'' otherwise)
concentrate on ``his'' papers perhaps his reviews. So he should be
presented ``his'' part of the task first. If not restricted, he might of
course look also at other parts/aspects of the information.
short, high-level overview over the status and
progress (how many papers are decided, how many still to be discussed.)
Indication about missed deadlines (someone has not yet send
his reports or similar)
Some papers are chosen (for instance by the chair) to
be discussed next.
Of course, the access to the information must obey the restrictions
concerning the various user groups mentioned in
As said before, the reviewers study the paper to come to an opinion about
the quality of the contribution. In general one does not wish (only) a
uniform single numerical value, but a (reasoned) rating in various
categories. Those categories could include
A single numerical value which expresses the overall
quality of the paper, taking all aspects into account
how new is the result/content?
Is the technical content sound or are there serious
errors in the argumentation/proofs/results ...
how good does the paper fit into the theme of the conference
How well is the paper written? How sloppy is it? Is the
English (or German ...) ok?
How confident is the reviewer about his own opinions?
This depends on whether he understood most of it, whether he considers
himself an expert in the topic etc.
The list should be adaptable per conference, but the above could be taken
Notification is the event which informs the authors about the final
decision of the reviewing process. There are only two possible outcomes,
namely yes or no for each paper. Besides the binary decision,
the author is informed about the ``opinion'' concerning his submission.
Concerning what information the authors are allowed to see, cf. also
As the call for papers (cf. Section 3.3), the call for
participation is basically an advertisement. This time the addressees are
not the potential authors, but potential participants of the conference
itself. The call for participation contains similar information about the
conference, but as additional information of course the program, i.e.,
the list of accepted papers with authors etc.
This phase is characterized by the interaction of participants of
the conference with the tool. Users can register with the conference, i.e.,
announce their participation. Again this will be done via some interface.
The registration should be acknowledged.
The participant provides the usual personal information (name, title,
affiliation). Furthermore, he is offered a number of options he must choose
in which role he registers: as student (reduced fee) or as full
preferred method of payment (+ credit card info, if applicable)
dietary restrictions (vegetarian, etc)
Furthermore, if a user registers before a predefined deadline
(``early registration''), the fee is reduced.