Thoughts from a (part-time) reviewer/editor

All about trust and respect, publishing is the unique way of communication among isolated ivory towers. An influential researcher thus, in most cases, needs to be a good storyteller: targeting the right audience, asking inspiring questions, and providing persuasive answers.

I have been a feature editor of the ACM XRDS since October 2015, and reviewed ~20 research manuscripts for a variety of journals and conferences. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Consistency (-). The first thing I would do once I receive a paper submission is to look for inconsistencies in subtitles, punctuations, and references (a lazy trick: Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V the whole article to Word and start Grammarly). My logic is simple: if these errors could be easily spotted by me, the paper is not well reviewed internally by the authors. Let me make it clear, co-authors are not people who contribute paragraphs individually. They need to review the final version and provide comments, and it is the first author’s responsibility to rewrite part of the others’ work to smoothen the whole article as one unity. The first impression is important and it does tell something.
  2. Tone (-). Readers are sensitive. They could tell if the authors would like to tell a good story and help the audience understand.
  3. Format (-). It might be an attitude problem if the authors submit a paper which is not formatted to the conference/journal I am reviewing for. I understand researchers are busy submitting – being rejected – resubmitting. But there is a difference between two conferences/journals. Spending time on reformatting the rejected article is a necessity, and one could not expect the reviewers/editors to do the work for him/her. I will be more rigorous and picky in these cases.
  4. References (-). I do look into the references cited by the paper. Some authors are so lazy that they cite irrelevant/outdated papers when drafting the introduction part. Failing to do a decent literature review weakens the whole paper’s quality.
  5. Math symbols and jargons (-). The conventional use might be untold or implicit. For instance, it is more common to see the pseudoinverse of a matrix represented by a dagger (†), not a hash (#).
  6. Bonus (+).
    • Italicize words to emphasize.
    • High-resolution images.
    • LaTeX instead of Word.


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