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I often find in many conference papers submitted by US research groups that paper writers would thank their "shepherd" in the acknowledgment section. What is the exact contribution of a "shepherd" to a paper submission?

I'm speaking about my domain which is computer science and I'm not sure about the situation in other domains.

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CS conferences often ask a member of the Program Committee who reviewed a paper which is accepted but has some problems to help the authors fix it up for publication. This person is usually called a "shepherd" for the paper with the overt connotation to people who mind sheep in a field. The problems with such a paper can include English language problems, other kinds of bad formatting, the need for a few additional results or cases, or the elaboration of some component of the work that was insufficiently described. This is all done in order to increase the quality of the presentation of otherwise excellent work.

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In computer science, "shepherding" is often essentially a means of adapting the journal Major Revision decision for conference publications. Because conferences normally have only one round of review, it is generally the case that the only two decisions available are "Minor Revision" (i.e., the authors are trusted to fix their paper without need for further review) or "Reject."

Shepherds allow a conference to accept papers that need more serious revision without endangering the quality standards of the conference. Rather than simply accept the paper, the conference gives it a conditional acceptance and appoints somebody from the program committee to work with the authors to ensure that the paper ends up acceptable (or to ultimately reject it if the authors cannot reach acceptable quality).

As such, thanking shepherds in acknowledgements often makes a lot of sense, since this is a person who has given volunteer time to work directly with the authors to ensure their paper is significantly improved from its original form.

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