ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage
JOCCH publishes papers of
significant and lasting value in
all areas relating to the use of IC T
in support of Cultural Heritage,
seeking to combine the best of
computing science with real
attention to any aspect of the
cultural heritage sector.
essarily consciously, helped set the
agenda with areas that helped their
faculty, students, and graduates. Over
the years these biases became part of
the system and unofficially accepted
behavior in the community.
As CS grew the major conferences
became even more selective and could
not accept all the quality papers in any
specialized area. Many new specialized conferences and workshops arose
and grew to capture these papers. We
currently have approximately a dozen
U.S.-based conferences in theoretical computer science alone. The large
number of conferences has splintered
our communities. Because of limitations of money and time, very few conferences draw many attendees beyond
the authors of accepted papers. Conferences now serve the journal role of
other fields, leaving nothing to serve
the proper role of conferences.
Other disciplines have started to
recognize the basic importance of
computation and we have seen strong
connections between CS and physics,
biology, economics, mathematics,
education, medicine and many other
fields. Having different publication
procedures discourages proper collaboration between researchers in CS
and other fields.
The current situation
Most CS researchers would balk at
paying significant page charges for
a journal but think nothing of committing well over $1,000 for travel
and registration fees for a conference
if their paper were accepted (not to
mention the time to attend the conference). What does that monetary
commitment buy the author? A not
particularly fair review process.
With the tremendous almost continual growth in computer science
over the past half-century combined
with the desire of each conference to
remain small and “competitive,” even
with the increase in the number of
conferences we simply have too many
papers chasing too few conference
slots. Each conference has a program
committee that examines submissions and makes decisions on which
papers will appear at a conference
and which will not. The great papers
almost always are accepted and the
worst papers mostly get rejected. The
problem occurs for the vast majority
of solid papers landing in the middle.
Conferences cannot accept all of
these papers and still maintain their
Even if the best decisions are made,
several good papers will not make the
cut. A variety of factors make the process imperfect at best:
Being on a program committee ˲
(PC) requires a large time commitment because of the number of papers
involved. With the increase in conferences, many researchers, particularly
senior scientists, cannot serve on
many of these committees, leaving
these important decisions mostly to
those with less experience.
As our research areas continue ˲
to become more specialized a few to
none of the PC members can properly
judge the importance of most results.
These specialized areas have a ˲
small number of researchers, meaning
the appropriate PC members know the
authors involved and personal feelings
can influence decision making.
PC members tend to favor papers ˲
in their own areas.
The most difficult decisions are ˲
made by consensus. This leads to an
emphasis on safe papers (
incremental and technical) versus those that
explore new models and research directions outside the established core
areas of the conference.
No or limited discussions between ˲
authors and the PC means papers often get rejected for simple misunderstandings.
Various conferences have implemented a number of innovative and
sometimes controversial ideas to try
to make the process more fair (author
information removed from papers, author responses to initial reviews, multi-level program committees, separate
tracks for areas and quality, higher/
lower acceptance ratios) but none can
truly avoid most of the problems I’ve
In the extreme many of the best scientific papers slip through the cracks.
For example, nearly half of the Gödel
Prize winners (given to the best CS
theory papers after they’ve appeared
in journals) were initially rejected or
didn’t appear at all in the top theoretical computer science conferences.
We end up living in a deadline-driv-