I am a PhD student at a University that isn't top rated in my field, and have only published once before and wasn't even cited. I want to submit what I believe is a really great paper to the top conference in my field. Will my paper be judged only on its merits? Or will my lack of credentials prevent reviewers taking it as seriously as someone with a high h-index at a prestigious University?

  • 3
    What does your advisor think of the paper?
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 19, 2023 at 20:17
  • 1
    As a reviewer I'm meant to review the paper and not the author's name. If they wanted to accept papers based on the author's h-index, they wouldn't need to ask reviewers. Aug 20, 2023 at 0:23
  • There is unfortunately evidence that researchers from the top universities get the benefit of doubt more often than everyone else (protocol.com/workplace/how-i-decided-edward-lee). However, in my experience with CS conferences, all papers are still evaluated on their merits and are taken seriously (unless they are very bad - but then they are rejected reliably). But if your contribution is unclear, your proofs are not 100% convincing, or the like, some reviewers may subconsciously give a slightly better rating to papers from authors they know. So you just have to write good papers!
    – DCTLib
    Aug 21, 2023 at 10:23
  • Beyond reviewer bias, there are also more legitimate reasons why publishing top-conference papers might be easier for PhD students in certain universities: Being exposed to a culture of people who regularly publish in top conferences is likely to impact the way that you think and talk about research, and increase the potential to come up with top-conference papers yourself. Not that it cannot be done otherwise, it's just way more "heavy lifting" on your part. Aug 21, 2023 at 12:31

3 Answers 3


I don't know your field, but in mine (CS) the paper will get a fair reading and accepted or not on its merits.

There is a lot of competition, of course, and a limited number of slots for presentation so nothing is automatic. But my experience is one of acceptance and a desire to push the boundaries of knowledge and practice, not to assume that everything good comes from Harvard.

And use the time at the conference to build yourself a circle of contacts who can eventually become collaborators.

There are lots of great people working at universities that don't have great names. Don't be intimidated.

  • Thanks! I completely understand competition and limited slots and legitimately hope a better paper would get accepted over mine. I just don't want to apply if my paper will be thrown out before anyone even reads the abstract.
    – Brad
    Aug 19, 2023 at 21:31

First, in my field, some top conferences have a double blind reviewing process. Second, the large number of competent researchers and limited positions at top 100 institutions mean many of these researchers are now located beyond the top 100 universities. Third, it is easier than before to access information and become a competent researcher. For these reasons, a high quality paper with a good idea can come from almost anywhere.

Having said that, the key problem with lower rank institutions is that they may not have the people or/and resources to carry out high quality research. I have reviewed many papers from these institutions, and many authors simply do not have the processes to carry out high quality research nor know what is high quality research.

Whether your paper has a chance will very much depend on your supervisor(s). Does he/she have a high track record of publishing high quality work? If not, even if your idea is great, it may lack many key ingredients expected by your community. This means it is not the 'brand' of your institution that matters, but the quality of your work.

  • As I said, I am confident I have a good idea and high quality paper - my concern is no will read it when they see who I am and where I am from.
    – Brad
    Aug 19, 2023 at 21:34

It depends solely on the conference. In machine learning conferences, papers are typically reviewed in a double-blind fashion. While the existence of a preprint might pose an unfavourable advantage for 'big names,' your paper will still be reviewed based on its merits, and no one will take your previous publication record into account, at least not in a negative fashion.

Good luck with your submission!

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