(Guest post by Kamal Jain Resubmitting the rejected papers from FOCS to STOC?
If your paper was rejected by FOCS and you're submitting it to STOC, here
are my thoughts on how you can increase your chances of acceptance. Given the
low acceptance rate for FOCS, I am sure many of us will be resubmitting
our rejected papers to STOC. Many of us will be incorporating the FOCS PC
comments. And there's also a realistic chance that FOCS PC misunderstood our
papers. So what should we do so that STOC committee does not repeat the
Let me first describe the general methods to contain the chances of
misunderstanding. I will then describe why the chance of misunderstanding
has increased for STOC PC on resubmitted papers by giving you an insider view
of FOCS 2007 PC. We can then discuss what we could do to minimize that.
Contain the chances of misunderstanding
Well of course removing the items from the paper which gave rise to misunderstanding
could be beneficial. These items could arise either due to lack of explanation,
positioning of clarification, or overselling the results. Lack of explanation
happens because we fail to realize as authors that our mind is pre-conditioned
while researching on the paper and the reviewer's mind won't be pre-conditioned
in the same way. Therefore things which look clear to us may be confusing to a
reviewer. Positioning of clarification is very important because not every paper
is read word to word. So it is very important to put the clarification or a pointer
to it as close as possible to the place where confusion could potentially arise.
Overselling does not improve the chances of a paper getting accepted.
Overselling of results typically puts the reviewer in a defensive position.
A reviewer could look at other existing papers that have introduced similar
techniques and be at a loss for what is new, unique, and real about what this paper promises.
So how do you address these problems? One thing is to prepare the paper early
and seek feedback. Do not expect somebody, who is not genuinely interested in
your work, to provide you good quality feedback for free. You would need to pay.
How? Offer the same high quality service on their papers as you
expect on your own papers. Posting your papers online, e.g., as a technical
report in some archive could also bring some early readership, which may
provide you feedback and opportunities to exchange feedback.
If you really need to sell your paper, what's the best way? Give talks --
as many as possible. Try to accept every invitation and try to get yourself
invited by marketing the results. In order to market the paper be open to
discussing your results in small chats without pen and paper, e.g., over a
lunch table. Acknowledge all pre-publication discussions, including those which
were not explicitly used in the paper. Mentioning the names of the people
is very important, and in case of explicit usefulness, mentioning it
explicitly is equally important too. This is so that your colleagues feel
acknowledged and positively reinforced to collaborate with you in the future. In
the short term, these colleagues are also likely to see the papers more
positively vs the case if they find their assistance is not fully acknowledged.
What else can you do if you do not yet have enough opportunities to talk about
your paper? We have not done so, but there are cheap as well as free software
using which we can easily make a high quality screencast. For me personally,
a high quality screencast provides 80% of the benefit of watching
the talk in person. Much of the benefit of the remaining 20% can also be
obtained if there is an open forum associated with the screencast to ask questions
which can either be answered by the authors or other viewers in a
relatively short time. Readers do not have the patience unless they are genuinely
interested in your result. And expect to count the number of the latter
on your fingers.:)
An insider's view of FOCS:
What's specific about paper reviewing these days? As part of the FOCS committee
we had access to reviews submitted by the previous STOC committee. We
paid a great deal of attention to whether the version we had had responded
to the STOC PC's reasons of rejecting the papers. Similarly expect STOC 2008
PC to have FOCS 2007 PC's reviews available. The intersection between STOC 2008 PC
and FOCS 2007 PC is non-empty. Even if you think FOCS PC misunderstood
your paper, and responding to those misunderstandings would make the
paper less readable, you should still try to respond to those misunderstandings
instead of ignoring them. In such cases you can respond to those
misunderstandings either in appropriate footnotes or in a one page appendix in
the end. If your footnotes and appendix are just for STOC PC, do mention "for
the reviewers only, will be removed from the published version."
What about the feedback that FOCS PC kept confidential and did not transmit
to the authors? This part of the feedback must not be used by STOC committee
for three reasons. First, it was understood that only FOCS PC share that
feedback. Second, this part of the feedback was a part of the process and
not the net outcome. The net outcome ideally must be included in the "send
to author" part of the feedback. Third, since this part of the feedback was
not transmitted to the authors, they can't be expected to respond. If this
part of the feedback did contain a reason why the paper should be rejected
then authors must be sent the reason. If this was not done in some cases,
then STOC PC must work hard to rediscover the same reason for rejection.
This is my view from both having submitted (and received rejections) papers
as well as been part of various PCs. I hope these give you additional practical
tical tips on how to best position your papers. I welcome other ideas so that
we could continue to improve the quality of our submissions.
Note: FOCS means FOCS 2007. STOC means STOC 2008. Previous STOC means STOC =