Smorgasbord - Politics, Lisp, Rails, Fencing, etc.

My musings on assortment of things ranging from politics, computer technology and programming to sports.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


On this day:

On Reviewers

If you are new to writing research papers then, I will suggest first reading this article. A technical paper should have some standard, before it can be considered worth reviewing; otherwise most reviewers will immediately reject it. Though, my experience of reviewing is only limited to computer science research papers, but I think my analysis here is quite general and should be applicable to other sciences also.

Although, there are occasional exceptions but generally most paper reviewers fall under one of the following categories:

  • Experienced Professor - These people generally know about a wide range of topics, and very likely have an idea about the specific field which the paper addresses. But, generally their knowledge is very high level, and they don't go into or understand the details of the paper. Such reviewers generally pay special attention to the introduction and conclusion of the paper. You should clear state in these two sections what are the contributions of the paper, and why should it be accepted for being published. They will generally never give a strongly favorable reviews, and will always find out some fault or the other, for example the authors should consider some more experimental cases, the paper is weak in theory, or weak proof, not enough contribution, or the authors failed to consider some related research, etc. Extremely tough reviewers, but luckily very seldom do such people review papers, rather they assign this task to their graduate students.

  • Sincere but nescient student - Here I mean a graduate student who knows about the field in large but is unfamiliar with the specific topic which the paper is addressing. Such, reviewers work extremely hard and consult many sources such as Google search and the references mentioned in the paper, to get an overview of what the paper means. These reviewers generally comment on the general quality of the writing, experiments and explanation in the paper. These reviewers are unable to point out if there is any lack of novelty in the paper, or if the technique is some old known method in a new cloak. They generally give neutral review, or if your paper is well written then a favorable reviews. The most common type of reviews.

  • Expert student - Such people rarely review the paper, because generally if a student is expert in some topic then he must be doing research in that area and might have his own papers in that track (or someone else in his research team) and hence not eligible for reviewing papers from that track. These reviewers are extremely harsh, because they can understand and see through everything mentioned in the paper. If you are able to escape with minor criticism then you should consider yourself lucky and quality of your research extremely good, because for such reviewers most contributions seem minor.

  • Lazy and dumb student - These qualities go side by side, these students are generally dumb, due to their laziness. Such reviewers generally look at the general structure of the paper, and will give it a favorable review with maybe some minor criticism. They hardly bother to understand the paper, and require that it should be coherent and easy to read.

  • Inexperienced professors - These are new generally new PHD graduate students who have been just been appointed as a professor in some college. These reviewers have very strong expertise in their research areas, but again they don't review paper in that area, as they will generally also have some submissions in the same track. But unlike experienced professors these people do have to review papers, as they do not have many graduate students working under them, besides they also have the enthusiasm of a new comer.
    These reviewers are generally lenient, because they want other reviewers to be lenient on their work also, and hope that somehow their charity work will help them in return. Overall, their reviews are generally high quality, because even if they don't know much about the specific topic, they do have the experience of reviewing several papers in their student years, and besides they are hard working which helps them in quickly learning and getting acquainted with the field.


If you want to add something to my this categorization or argue against it, then feel free to post it as a comment.

Next, review of selected ICML 2006 papers.

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