Conference reviewing considered harmful
ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review
Volume 43 , Issue 2 (April 2009)
This paper develops a model of computer systems research to help prospective authors understand the often obscure workings of conference program committees. We present data to show that the variability between reviewers is often the dominant factor as to whether a paper is accepted. We argue that paper merit is likely to be zipf distributed, making it inherently difficult for program committees to distinguish between most papers. We use game theory to show that with noisy reviews and zipf merit, authors have an incentive to submit papers too early and too often. These factors make conference reviewing, and systems research as a whole, less efficient and less effective. We describe some recent changes in conference design to address these issues, and we suggest some further potential improvements.