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Ethics of Review

Do Reviews in a Serious Way

The paper publishing activity at INSTICC conferences is very serious indeed: careers and reputations, as well as academic tenure decisions, often hinge on these publications.

This means that we have a responsibility to be serious in the reviewing process. You should try to do a solid and constructive review. This is obvious; but one of the complaints we have heard about some instances of the review process is that some reviews can be so sketchy that it looks like the reviewer did not even seem to take the time to read the paper carefully. That would be certainly not professional. In the long run, casual reviewing may be damaging to conferences.

There is no problem in being too busy to do a good review, or to have over-committed yourself and be unable to review all the papers you agreed to review. But in that case please back out early enough to allow recovery. If you cannot do the job, please inform us well in advance so that the Program Chair has time to select another reviewer before the deadline.

Be Relevant and Helpful

Authors seek valuable comments in a review, such as those that help the authors understand the shortcomings of their work and how they might improve it. Be respectful and carefully explain why you like or dislike a submission so the authors can learn from your expertise.

It is expected that you as a reviewer are acquainted with the conference areas and topics and that you take into consideration the following aspects, within the conference context: Relevance, Originality, Technical Quality, Significance and Presentation; Reviewers are also expected to help the authors to improve the paper, should it be accepted, by answering the following questions: Abstract and Introduction are adequate?, Needs more experimental results?, Needs comparative evaluation?, Improve critical discussion?, Figures are Adequate?, Conclusions/Future Work are convincing?, References are up-to-date and appropriate?, Paper formatting needs adjustment?, Improve English?

Remain Anonymous

At an INSTICC conference the review process is double-blind. All reviewers are thus expected to maintain anonymity and authors should avoid revealing themselves in the paper. In particular, it is never appropriate for reviewers to contact the authors of an accepted paper directly mentioning their role in the process. Requesting citations primarily to one's own work may thwart anonymity, so it should be carefully considered.

Protect Ideas

As a reviewer for an INSTICC conference, you have the responsibility to protect the confidentiality of the ideas represented in the papers you review. INSTICC conference submissions are by their nature not published documents. The work is considered new and proprietary by the authors.

Of course, authors ultimately intend to publish their work; however, many of the submitted papers will end up being rejected from this year's conference. Thus, it is likely that the paper you have in your hands will be refined further and submitted to another journal or conference, or even to an INSTICC conference next year. You must realize that the work is often considered confidential by the author's employers: organizations would not allow sending a paper to INSTICC conferences for review if that constituted a public disclosure. Consequently, you must carefully apply the necessary caution in order to protect the ideas in the submissions you receive:

  • Do not show the paper to anyone else, including colleagues or students, unless you have asked them to write a review, or to help with your review.
  • Do not show videos or other materials to non-reviewers.
  • Do not use ideas from papers you review to develop new ones.
  • Be sure to avoid using the ideas you learned from the review in your own research, or that of your colleagues and students, prior to publication. Even then, it is mandatory to avoid plagiarism and use appropriate citations.

Avoid Conflict of Interest

As a reviewer of an INSTICC conference paper, it is important for you to stay clear of any conflict of interest. There should be absolutely no question about the impartiality of reviews. Thus, if you believe that a paper which you are assigned to review could be the cause of a possible conflict of interest, you should return the paper immediately and not submit a review. Conflicts of interest include (but are not limited to) situations in which:

  • You work at the same institution as one of the authors.
  • You have been directly involved in the work and will be receiving credit in some way. For instance, if you're a member of the author's thesis committee, and the paper is about their thesis work, then you were involved.
  • You were the MSc/PhD advisor or advisee of one of the authors. This represents a lifetime conflict of interest.
  • You have unpublished work that would get scooped by the current submission because it tackles the same problem using a similar approach. If asked to review a paper that can create such a cross-reviewing conflict, please turn down the request and immediately inform the Program Chair.

The assignment algorithm of paper reviews attempts to prevent most conflicts. But if you recognize the work or the author(s) and feel it could present a conflict of interest, send the paper back to the Program Chair as soon as possible so they can find someone else to review it.