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Ethics of Review

Media & Entertainment Technologies

Epson

Protect Ideas

As a reviewer for SIGGRAPH, you have the responsibility to protect the confidentiality of the ideas represented in the papers you review. SIGGRAPH submissions are by their very nature not published documents. The work is considered new and proprietary by the authors; otherwise they would not have submitted it. 

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 some other journal or conference, or even to SIGGRAPH next year. Oftentimes the work is considered confidential by the author's employers: these organizations do not consider sending a paper to SIGGRAPH for review to constitute a public disclosure. Consequently, you must abide by a few simple rules 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. See the Review Process section of the Technical Papers FAQ for more details on how to properly include a colleague or student in the review process. 
  • Do not show videos or other materials to non-reviewers. 
  • Do not use ideas from papers you review to develop new ones. 
  • Due to the possibility of paper resubmission with reviewer continuity, there is a chance that you will be asked again in the future to review a resubmission of the same work, so you may want to keep your notes, marked manuscripts, videos or implementations. Be sure to insulate the ideas you learned from the review from your own research, and from your colleagues and students. Also, please be aware that your reviews may be perused by other future SIGGRAPH or TOG reviewers. 

Avoid Conflict of Interest 

As a reviewer of a SIGGRAPH paper, you have a certain power over the reviewing process. It is important for you to avoid any conflict of interest. Even though you would, of course, act impartially on any paper, there should be absolutely no question about the impartiality of reviews. Thus, if you are assigned a paper where your review would create a possible conflict of interest, you should return the paper 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 his or her thesis work, then you were involved. 
  • You suspect that others might see a conflict of interest in your involvement. For example, even though Microsoft Research in Seattle and Beijing are in some ways more distant than Berkeley and MIT, there is likely to be a perception that they are “both Microsoft,” so folks from one should not review papers from the other. 
  • You have collaborated with one of the authors in the past three years. Collaboration is usually defined as having written a paper or grant proposal together, although you should use your judgment. For instance, being co-presenters in a course, co-authors of a survey paper, or co-chairs in a recent conference does not in itself lead to a conflict of interest. 
  • You were the MS/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 appropriate Technical Papers Committee member, or the Technical Papers Chair. 

The way submissions are handled during the review process strives 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 senior reviewer as soon as possible so he or she can find someone else to review it. 

Be Serious 

The paper publishing business in SIGGRAPH is very serious indeed: careers and reputations, as well as academic tenure decisions, often hinge on these publications; patent infringement cases have discussed whether something was considered novel enough to publish at SIGGRAPH. 

This does not mean that we cannot have any fun in the paper sessions. But it does mean that we have a responsibility to be serious in the reviewing process. You should make an effort to do a solid and constructive review. This is obvious. But one of the complaints we have heard about the SIGGRAPH 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. A casual or flippant review of a paper that the author has seriously submitted is not appropriate, and certainly not professional. In the long run, casual reviewing is a very damaging attack on the SIGGRAPH conference. There is no dishonor in being too busy to do a good review, or to realize that you have over-committed yourself and cannot review all the papers you agreed to review. But it is a big mistake to take on too much, and then not back out early enough to allow recovery. If you cannot do a decent job, give the paper back and say so. But please, do it early so that the senior reviewer has time to select another reviewer before the deadline. 

Be Professional 

Belittling or sarcastic comments may help display one’s wit, but they are unnecessary in the reviewing process. The most valuable comments in a review are those that help the authors understand the shortcomings of their work and how they might improve it. Be respectful and try to carefully explain why you like or dislike a submission so that the authors can learn from your expertise. 

Remain Anonymous 

All reviewers are expected to maintain anonymity forever. In particular, it is never appropriate for a reviewer to reveal himself or herself to the authors of an accepted paper, as this could be perceived as an attempt to curry favor. Requesting citations primarily to one’s own work may thwart anonymity, so should be carefully considered. 

In Summary 

Adherence to ethics makes the whole reviewing process indubitably more complicated and sometimes less efficient. But convenience, efficiency, and expediency are not good reasons to contravene ethics. It is precisely at those times when it would be easier or more efficient to bend the rules that it is most important to do the right thing. Ultimately, spending that energy and time is an investment in the long-term health of the technical-paper sessions, the conference, and the entire community of computer graphics researchers.