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I'd like to submit a paper to a conference in computer science. The conference's submission guidelines state 14 as the maximum number of pages. Should I take it at face value? My paper is 20 pages long (19, if you disregard the bibliography). If I submit it, can I expect an automatic rejection for being too long? If I'm able to cut it down to 14 pages, but the bibliography spills to page 15, will it count as eligible?

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    Although Buffy's answer, "ask the conference chair" is fine, I'd add "expect the answer to be no." – Andreas Blass Sep 9 at 1:03
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    Beyond other answers, I've seen conferences exclude bibliography from page limits. But explicitly. Just like deadlines are firm to the second. – Blaisorblade Sep 9 at 10:45
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    Ways of dealing with this could be a separate question, but I'd also (a) try moving less interesting material to an appendix/technical report/extended version to cite, as long as the paper stands alone (b) revise the paper for concision "locally" (by changing text, and typesetting with less blank space) (c) search for examples of (a) or other techniques in other papers in your venue; I see (a) justified explicitly for "space reasons". – Blaisorblade Sep 9 at 10:52
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    Think about it. If there are supposed to be 15 papers each 14 pages long, that is a 210-page conference report. If everybody submitted a 20 page paper, those 210 pages would become 300 pages. You can ask, but don't expect the answer to be "yes." – alephzero Sep 9 at 12:50
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    Just follow the rules. If you learn to be very rigorous about following submission guidelines, it will help your papers get reviewed better. Also, the attitude of care will carry over to iother parts of your work. If you can cut it apart to get two LPUs, all for the better. Otherwise condense the story. No, no extra page for the references. – guest Sep 9 at 13:02
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None of the CS conferences I have ever submitted to had ever been lenient on page limits. There are often automatic checkers that will not allow you to upload a paper that exceeds the page limits. Conference guidelines are usually very clear and unambiguous, go and read them. Some conferences allow an appendix or a link to additional material that reviewers can read at their discretion.

Regarding splitting the papers - if you can do so in a clean way, and both parts make sense (tell a compelling narrative, have meaningful results) then sure. Otherwise, expect two rejections.

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    In some areas (theoretical CS), I think there’s often a tiny bit of leniency — I’ve seen papers published that were one or two pages over, and one of my own papers expanded a little past the page limit during post-acceptance revisions, though in a way that didn’t affect the total page count (e.g. original limit was “14 pages + bibliography”, my original submission was 14 pages plus 1.5 pages of bib, after revision it was 14.3 pages plus 1.5 pages of bib, so still 16p total). But agreed, I don’t think there’s ever very much wiggle room allowed — certainly not 19p for a limit of 14. – PLL Sep 9 at 10:53
  • @PLL: With pain I've managed to bring it down to 15 pages, but I'll be hard pressed to scrounge up anything else to omit. As part of the reduction process, I had to whittle down the bibliography too, so I can no longer claim that the last page is devoted to a bibliography. – Evan Aad Sep 9 at 11:48
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    It is fairly standard to omit proofs and place them in the appendix. Some theory conferences have a fun rule: first X pages must be reviewed, the rest is read at reviewers discretion. – Spark Sep 9 at 12:52
  • @Spark: Doesn't the appendix count towards the page limit? – Evan Aad Sep 9 at 17:44
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    @EvanAad: Policies on appendices vary. Most common, in my experience, is that appendices are not included in page limits, but then (a) the paper must be self-contained to an acceptable standard without the appendices (e.g. referees are explicitly allowed to ignore the appendices when reviewing), and (b) in some cases the appendices may be published only online, not in print copies. – PLL Sep 9 at 21:49
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It will vary from conference to conference, of course, but expect the committee not to be too lenient unless the paper is extraordinary in some way. You can and should just ask. But 15 is certainly going to be easier for them to agree to than 20. You can expect that others are asking the same question, of course.

If the conference uses good reviewers prior to acceptance you might get suggestions for how to shorten it and if you accept the advice it would make it more likely to be accepted.

But I think a paper nearly half again as long as expected isn't a good candidate for acceptance. Unless it is extraordinary.

But the conference chair can give you the accurate answer.

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    @EvanAad That's something that I saw done before. Check previous proceedings to see if happened in that specific venue – Fábio Dias Sep 9 at 1:34
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    Expect no response if you email the chair about this. This is really not something I would ask the chair. There are written explicit guidelines. If this is a small workshop then maybe you'll get something, but for big ones (say the big ML/AI/TCS ones) I doubt that they'll hear anything back. – Spark Sep 9 at 2:59
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    @EvanAad: if you split into two papers, I would expect most conferences to simply judge each resulting paper individually (or at least, to aim to do so). So each half would need enough good-quality novel material to earn acceptance in its own right, and a good self-contained exposition. – PLL Sep 9 at 10:47
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    "If the conference uses good reviewers prior to acceptance you might get suggestions for how to shorten it" - this assumes the manuscript will even get to the reviewers if it's too long, which, IMHO, can be a very bold assumption. Adhering to the page limitation is one of the few things that can really be checked automatically or by anyone who doesn't have any idea about the content, and thus is one of the prime candidates for desk rejecting a manuscript for (or having the submission system automatically reject the uploaded file). – O. R. Mapper Sep 9 at 12:32
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    @Buffy: That's true. And some trickery with font sizes might get the paper through the submission system. I wouldn't get my hopes to far up about reviewers suggesting ways to shorten the paper - my papers usually were on the verge of being too long, and yet I have only ever seen reviewers suggest medium to large amounts of additional content they want to be added to the paper. – O. R. Mapper Sep 9 at 12:45

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