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I submitted a paper to a conference. I wasn't quite sure if my paper was within the scope of that conference (it seemed a judgement call), but it was accepted. I went to the conference, and after attending several of the talks, I felt my paper was actually a good fit after all. My presentation of the paper went well; lots of people were interested in the topic and asked good questions. I was reasonably confident that my paper would be accepted for publication in the proceedings.

All student papers received an extra round of feedback before the formal submission for publication in the proceedings. I just received my feedback; the reviewer was very complimentary, but said that the topic was not within the scope of the conference.

So now I'm not sure what to do. Making the paper fit the scope better won't really be practical; I already did the best I could in that direction. The formal submission is due in about a month. I believe it's a good paper, so I could probably find a home for it elsewhere. I have two questions.

  1. Should I formally submit the paper as-is. Would it be better to simply try to find a more appropriate place to publish? Or should I just consider it a lesson learned, forget about this paper, and move on to the next one.

  2. Is there something I could have done up front to establish whether the paper was in scope or not? Perhaps in future it would be better to only submit to conferences where it's very clear that the paper is a good fit. This issue is likely to arise again for me, because my research is sort of at the boundary of two fields.

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Should I formally submit the paper as-is. Would it be better to simply try to find a more appropriate place to publish? Or should I just consider it a lesson learned, forget about this paper, and move on to the next one.

In academia, you have to fight for papers you believe. Reviewers can vary wildly in their assessments, and their assessments can be wrong. Ultimately, if you feel that this is an appropriate place to publish, I think it's worth submitting it anyway and rolling the dice. I have two caveats:

  • If possible, ask a third party in your field whom you respect about their opinion of the paper.
  • Think hard about why you think the paper belongs in the proceedings and, if possible, add a clear motivation to the text.

Is there something I could have done up front to establish whether the paper was in scope or not? Perhaps in future it would be better to only submit to conferences where it's very clear that the paper is a good fit. This issue is likely to arise again for me, because my research is sort of at the boundary of two fields.

In general, you can write to people on the technical program committee of the conference (or the chair of that committee) with a brief explanation of your work and a request for an assessment of suitability. It is important not to get discouraged from rejections ... they are common, sometimes for good reasons and other times for utterly stupid reasons. The key is to learn what you can from the reviews, improve the paper, and resubmit where appropriate.

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