Sunday, January 6, 2008

Well, crud.

Just got word back that a conference paper I'd submitted was turned down. The reviews were generally positive, but one reviewer essentially ripped me a new orifice, rating the paper very low, which brought the average rating down beneath the acceptance threshold.

Now that experience--several generally positive reviews and one blistering denunciation--is not in itself all that unusual. It's not universal, but it happens. And reading the blistering reviews, while not always pleasant, is often educational. I've read through blistering reviews that did in fact home in on design flaws, overstated claims, or places where I had, in fact, overlooked something. Not pleasant, but useful. And someone clearly went to some trouble to review the paper, to read it closely. I haven't always agreed with the criticisms, but they are, for the most part, at least mostly fair.

In this case, I can't help wondering. The comments included that I should have included some examples of X (there were 3 in the paper already, wasn't that enough?), should have included some examples of Y (Y being something completely irrelevant to the point I was making), it should have been presented as a case study (I thought it was, though the words "case study" didn't appear in the title, so maybe that point wasn't clear), and that I didn't address any of several other questions (which admittedly were interesting, but were not what the paper was about).

The rest of the blistering criticism seem to boil down to "this wasn't the paper I wanted to read; you should have written a different paper."

And the icing on the cake: My paper was the only one reviewed for this conference by this particular reviewer.

Oh well. The system is what it is, and I knew what it was like when I chose this career. Most of the time it works fairly well, but it's not perfect, and sometimes the imperfections spatter. And if I'd submitted something I thought was marginal and it got accepted because a review got sloppy the other direction, I wouldn't be complaining.

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