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I recently got two papers rejected with the reviewers asserting a lack of technical contribution. They contained good ideas, at least in my eyes, and used common methodologies in the experimentation. So my question related to the CS field is, what is the difference between a good idea that was tested and a technical contribution? What should an idea have to become a technical contribution?

Another observation I had is that other papers, that got accepted, were actually worse from the research methodologies and were previously published in similar form (so the idea was not very original) at that conference, so the “contribution” of these papers is much lower than mine would have been (again it’s just from my perspective). So I don’t understand why those papers got accepted and if the reviewer’s decisions actually make sense, what is it that makes such papers accepted? I aim at enhancing my now rejected papers because I still think they contain original ideas that should be published, I just don’t know where to start.

  • In the more recent rejection, the reviewer (one) stated in a rather short review that there is no technical contriibution. The same in the other paper, just a little bit longer and some other details. However the consensus was always the lack of "technical contribution" in both reviews I received. – user09123789542 Aug 1 '14 at 22:26
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    I edited your question to contain this information, as this was not obvious at least to me. – Wrzlprmft Aug 2 '14 at 7:13
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Since you ask those questions, I assume you are relatively new to CS research. I do not know if you have previous research experience in any other scientific area, but let's assume you are new to research all together. Correct me if I am wrong.

When your paper gets rejected, the feeling of rejection sucks. It sucks a lot. But in research you have to deal with this rejection and move-on. It does not matter if other people's works that you consider worse have been accepted. Maybe they are better than yours maybe not. But that is really irrelevant. Focus on your work and how to improve it.

The questions you should be asking:

  • Is this problem you are trying to solve interesting?
  • Is your solution substantially better than previous state-of-the-art?
  • Are you certain that you described related and recent literature thoroughly? Are you up-to-date on related literature?
  • Did you make clear the benefits on your approach?
  • Is your paper well presented and written? Have you explained your approach thoroughly (with pseudocode, figures) and not just with words?
  • Were your experiments thorough? Did you use many datasets for your experiments? Have you used the datasets that the related papers use or at least similar if not bigger in size and scope? Have you compared your results with previous approaches? Have you many charts demonstrating the various aspects of your solution?
  • Have you advertised your work by finding many test-cases for your problem?

If any of those answer is NO, then you must turn them to YES, before resubmitting your work. You must understand that if your paper or the problem you try to solve is boring, then it gets rejected. It is as simple as that. In that cases, the most usual reason for rejection is "not enough contribution". So, probably it is also your presentation that needs to be fixed.

Also, it seems rather strange that although you are probably new to research, you have submitted two papers at the same time. Perhaps this is too ambitious and it would be better to focus on one of them, improve it and resubmit it. Perhaps, they should be sent to different venues that are more tailored for each one of them.

And last but not least. Do not worry. It gets better with time. Both the way you handle rejection and the way you write papers. So, improve what needs to be fixed and everything will work out.

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    @Wrzlprmft I understand the "it" in the cited statement to be the fact that the paper has been rejected, not necessarily the paper itself. I am confident that it does, in fact, suck in every discipline to have a paper that you put much work in be rejected. – xLeitix Aug 2 '14 at 9:42
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    @JeffE That is what I meant. Edited the answer – Alexandros Aug 2 '14 at 12:06
  • @Wrzlprmft So you would interpret the "technical contribution" term venue-specific similar to "no value for this specific conference" (but could be to others)? – user09123789542 Aug 2 '14 at 13:35
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    @user09123789542: That’s my current, layman’s guess: It’s like having a paper about quantum gravitation rejected by the Journal of Fishery Science. Be aware that I only mentioned my guess as a possible explanation why a paper could be rejected without sucking (which I mentioned as an argument against a sentence in the answer, which I misinterpreted). So, please do not interpret this as a reliable statement. There are many computer scientists around here who should know what this term means in this context. – Wrzlprmft Aug 2 '14 at 13:51
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    Also, sometimes a reviewer is just kind of crap. The people reviewing manuscripts are often very busy and don't necessarily work hard at understanding a difficult-to-grok paper. Don't get discouraged, just strive to improve. – sintax Aug 2 '14 at 14:30

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