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I am presenting a paper in a conference with a 20% acceptance rate. However the conference is just 3 years old and does not figure in the tiered rating system for conferences in my field Computer Science (that some universities use) . Recently I found out that another reputed international conference (that figures in the conference rankings) has almost double the acceptance rate. Did I make the right choice. How should I evaluate conferences in the future??

  • I think, as it seems your question is with regard to your situation more than the quality of conference, and you care and need to publish in tiered rating conference, you will be better off avoiding this conference for now and give it more years until it becomes more mature. – Amir Jun 22 '15 at 23:20
  • Thank you. This was my first conference and most of the decisions were taken by my TA. I did not have much of a say in it. I guess it is too late now and I will keep this in mind the next time. – user2277550 Jun 23 '15 at 18:02
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Low acceptance rate does not necessarily imply quality, but it is correlated. Crappy conferences often have high acceptance rates because they don't care. Broad-community high quality conferences often have low acceptance rates because lots of people are trying to get their material into the same conference.

These are just correlations, however, and not causal in nature. For example, some very good conference have high acceptance rates because they serve a highly specific community; thus they tend to draw high-quality submissions from within that community and few submissions from outside.

Complementarily, I know of at least one conference that games its acceptance rate by artificially regulating the number of papers accepted. They decide in advance how selective the conference will be, and set the cutoff not in terms of quality but in terms of their judgement of "good conference" acceptance rate.

Finally, having too high a selectivity may be bad for a conference. A colleague of mine who is an insider at one of the extremely selective CS conference told me that they were worried that their acceptance rate was too low, and that therefore they weren't getting very interesting work any more: a single dubious reviewer was enough to sink a paper, so only conservative and incremental work was making it in.

Thus, acceptance rate is not a very good metric. It's much better to look at who the people are who go to the conference, what they've been publishing there, and whether you want to be associated with those people and that type of work.

  • Thank you. I don't have much knowledge about the kind of researchers who go to this conference. But I have a fairly good idea about the organizers, and if the website is to be believed, they are among the most reputed in my country. Also, the previous edition of this conference was held in highest ranked science institute in my country (India). – user2277550 Jun 23 '15 at 17:49
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    I agree with your last paragraph: I always look at the list of invited speakers before deciding whether to go to a conference or not – Miguel Jun 23 '15 at 17:51
  • but it is correlated — [citation needed] – JeffE Jun 25 '15 at 19:27
  • @JeffE Consider the extremes: do you know of any conferences with <15% acceptance rates that are not good conferences? Complementarily, many crap conferences reject almost nothing. There's your correlation; it's just very weak, since the range of practices of good conferences is so broad. – jakebeal Jun 25 '15 at 19:34
  • do you know of any conferences with <15% acceptance rates that are not good conferences? — Yes. – JeffE Jun 25 '15 at 22:18
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Absolutely not.

In my field (theoretical computer science), the acceptance rate in top-tier conferences is around 30%, the acceptance rate in second-tier conferences is around 30%, the acceptance rate in third-tier conferences is around 30%, and the acceptance rate in bottom-tier conferences is around 30%.

How should I evaluate conferences in the future??

By reading the proceedings, of course.

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Here is my two cents:

  1. I judge the conferences based on the chair members and people who would attend it and I would like to meet and talk or see their state of art. Conferences are first and foremost a place to know other researchers in your field, share thoughts off the record and outside of the boundaries of email and web and learn and network with others who share interests. Possible collaboration and sharing resources or experiences and collecting feedback on your work should be the number one outcome of your conference experience.
  2. Ranks are 80% meaning, 20% noise. If a lower rank conference of a sub-field is in winter in a horrible place, but I know for sure the top researchers of my subfield although small group of people would go to, I should rank it higher for myself than the generally higher rank and biggest conference that everyone would stop by for a day and there are too many people there to be able to establish a meaningful event.
  3. Publishing the acceptance rate is a good sign, 20% also shows they are as selective as possible. however, you should consider for the selection bias among other people who submit their papers there.
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To add, single track conferences, e.g., ACM SIGCOMM, tend to have very low acceptance rates. On other hand, big conferences such as IEEE ICC, have around 40% acceptance rate, but for some community, that's their top conference!

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