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In a Program Committee (PC), can PC members non assigned to a paper still have a look at it and make comments influencing the decision, assuming that the reviewing system allow them to access the papers and the reviews?

If they only make a comment, should this comment be sent to the authors (EasyChair, for instance, does not forward the comments to authors)? For instance, consider the case where a PC member thinks that an important reference is missing, regardless of the overall quality of the paper, what should she/he do? Add a comment? Ask to be assigned as a reviewer?

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I think this depends on the settings of the submission system. One colleague told me that it happened once for a big information systems conference. Every PC member was able to see every submission first, then every review, and then every decision. I do not think that any system will allow PC members to make comments to papers not assigned to them. However, comments outside the system might happen.. –  dgraziotin May 12 at 13:51
    
@dgraziotin: In the particular instance that drove this question, all PC members could see all submissions and reviews, and the function to add a comment seemed to be activated (although I didn't try it). –  Charles Morisset May 12 at 14:01
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But beyond the technical aspect of what can be done, I was more wondering of what should be done. Is the decision the sole responsibility of the reviewers (meaning that somehow, someone who hasn't completely reviewed the paper should not make any comment), or of the PC as a whole? –  Charles Morisset May 12 at 14:03
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In theoretical computer science conferences (which often use EasyChair), I have seen the following practices:

  • Once all reviews are in, PC chairs often encourage all PC members to comment on all papers on which they have something useful to say.

  • Sometimes the comments are just discussion that may influence the final decision in borderline cases.

  • Sometimes the assigned reviewers modify their reviews based on the comments (e.g., they realised that they overlooked some important point).

  • Sometimes the PC chairs ask some of the assigned reviewers to incorporate the comments in their reviews.

  • Sometimes the PC chairs ask non-reviewers to convert their comments to (short) reviews.

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Further, for big conferences such as ICSE, there is usually a physical PC meeting, where every paper with a non-zero chance of acceptance after reviews is discussed and a final list of papers is prepared. In this phase, each PC member can and is encouraged to comment on each candidate paper. Of course these comments are verbal and hence usually not communicated to the authors. –  xLeitix May 12 at 15:06
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Reviewer A asks colleague B who's not a reviewer to give his opinion on a paragraph because B has more knowledge about the specifics of that paragraph, then incorporates that feedback in his review.
Just one example of how it could happen.
Or Reviewer A knowing full well that his boss, manager B, won't like a review being critical of the work of prominent person C, so he decides to recommend strongly such criticism be deleted in order to keep his boss happy and his job secure.
Could happen too.

Are both going to show up on a review of the review process? Highly unlikely. Are both plausible scenarios based on human nature, even if not part of the review process? Highly likely.

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In my question, I'm specifically referring to PC members non assigned to the paper, rather than in general. –  Charles Morisset May 12 at 14:17
    
@CharlesMorisset which can be any of the above... –  jwenting May 12 at 14:25
    
What I mean is that my question is about if a PC member who is not a reviewer can influence the decision, while your answer is more about whether a reviewer can be influenced by someone else. I don't disagree with it, but it's just not very much on topic. –  Charles Morisset May 12 at 14:40
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I don't understand, are you trying to win a logical debate or to provide a constructive answer? Your answer focuses only on the title, not on the core of the question, and you just provide two hypothetical cases which are not even particularly relevant to the situation. Yes, obviously, people can be influenced when making a decision. It was not a rhetorical question, but an etiquette question to know when and how this influence is possible. –  Charles Morisset May 13 at 7:39
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I'm not saying that these things are not happening, I'm just saying that it wasn't the question. Your answer is not focused on PC, even though the question clearly is. You are answering a different question. I'm just trying to point this out to you, to help you improve your answer. –  Charles Morisset May 13 at 9:44
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