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I submitted a paper to an IEEE conference, and this paper was rejected despite of almost all of the reviewers’ comments being positive. In particular, all three of the reviewers recommend to weak accept the paper, and even the TPC chair recommend to weak accept it. However, the paper has been rejected.

Due to this weirdness, I asked for the chair’s motivations for this decision, and he answered

Your paper didn’t make the conference capacity line. Please resubmit to another venue.

What does this mean? What is the conference capacity line? Does that mean that there were not enough slots, or something else?

I have never encountered this kind of situation before.

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    Yes, the phrase seems pretty unambiguous to me. The conference has a certain capacity, and your paper did not make it. Having 3 weak accepts is not that great if it is a competitive conference, so it does not look strange to me at all that the final result was a reject. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 20 '17 at 10:03
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    I don't see why that would be unfair. All of the accepts were weak. – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 20 '17 at 11:57
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    This is a competition. It might be clearer if the grades were named A, B, C, instead of "strong accept", "accept", etc. What matters isn't your grade but your ranking compared to other papers. – Marc Glisse Dec 20 '17 at 12:34
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    the person that said this (We reached the capacity line)... was (s)he unwilling to define what they meant more precisely? Is this a round about way of saying "We had room for 10 papers and you were spot #12"? You finished the marathon... did a good job... and simply didn't place? – WernerCD Dec 20 '17 at 14:21
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    In 2009, Tyson Gay broke 100m men's world record. But he was not awarded with a gold medal. – padawan Dec 20 '17 at 16:19
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3 reviewers recommended "weak accept," as did the chair, but the paper was rejected.

This is a common situation. Other papers probably got better reviews or your paper was perceived negatively during the discussion phase or ...

I asked the chair why and he said "your paper didn't make the conference capacity line. Please resubmit to another venue."

Conferences have upper-bounds on the number of papers they can accept due to time constraints.

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Seems pretty straightforward to me. In essence, papers were prioritized based up the enthusiasm level of the reviewers, a threshold was set, and your paper was on the wrong side of it. No weirdness.

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    sums it up rather well... – Solar Mike Dec 20 '17 at 13:38
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It sounds like none of the reviewers was willing to champion your paper during the discussion.

Background: The decision on each paper is based on a discussion between the program committee members. This discussion usually takes the review scores into account. However, strong conferences often apply a process called identify the champion. The underlying assumption is that an acceptance-worthy paper will have at least one proponent who will champion the paper during the discussion.

11

It is not clear to me what "capacity line" means. However, please note that each conference can only accept a fixed number of papers.

You can do the math yourself, if a conference lasts for, say, 5 days, each day has 8 hours. It takes 30 minutes to present a long paper, and 20 minutes to present a short paper etc. You can compute the number N of papers that they can accept.

If your paper is good, but there are N better papers, then your paper will not be accepted. On the other hand, if your paper is not that good, but still in top N papers, then it will be likely accepted.

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