You know that a program committee failed if …

I had the worst experience with conference reviews in my short scientific career (I’ll not name names but it’s an “A” ranked conference with a reasonable reputation, you better ask me over a beer). I’m trying to take it with humor and share some of the funniest parts here.

So, you know that a program committee failed if …

  1. You receive a one-paragraph review which goes like (this is an original citation, only the scheme has been replaced to guarantee anonymity of the venue):

    “This paper proposes [technique X]. It is a good idea to use [X]. However, it is difficult to understand that [X works in context Y].”

    Yes, that’s it! The final evaluation was a weak accept.

  2. You submit a paper on a programming environment for HPC and you get a comment like:

    “The importance to the field is fair because programmers are easily able to exploit the optimizations to achieve the better execution time of real applications because the optimization can be reused through standard MPI API and the authors showed the speed-up of real applications including [application X].”

    Yes, the system is considered bad if it’s easy to use, portable and backwards compatible :-). Reminds me of “Parallel machines are hard to program and we should make them even harder – to keep the riff-raff off them.”

  3. Your paper receives the scores accept, accept, weak accept, and reject with three reasonable, in fact nice, and encouraging reviews. The reject review is completely unreasonable and it criticizes the writing style while having at least one or two English mistakes in *every single sentence* :-).
  4. You receive (3) and a completely unnecessary and offensive sentence at the end of the reject review which says “The only good thing in this paper is [X]” where [X] is absolutely unrelated (and in fact not even existing or reasonably conceivable).
  5. You received (4) and rebutted the hell out of this completely unreasonable review (which wasn’t even consistent in itself in addition to being offensive). Assume the rebuttal took you a day since you had to interpret the review’s twisted English and strange criticisms and rebut it in a technical and polite way (which seems hard); AND the rebuttal was *completely* ignored, i.e., neither the review was updated nor did you receive a note from the chair about what happened.

  6. You call up some friends who attended the TPC meeting and (1)-(5) are reinforced.

So after all, there is now one conference more that I may not recommend to anyone for a while. On the other hand, I may be spoiled since I received just absolutely outstanding reviews for the submissions before that (where not all were accepted, but most :-)).