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Among the presentations in a major conference, I attended one where the author cited a paper (of theirs) under review in another major conference. Not only cited it, but showed some of its results.

I have the impression that it should not be possible, since there's the potential risk of influencing reviewers who could also be in the room during the presentation. Or is it only "good practice" not to do so?

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    Both Dave's and F'x's reply agree on a single point: it is your work, you can do whatever you like with it. That it is under review, does not change that fact at all. It would be rather crazy if there would be a kind of a "submission policy" forbiding the author of the intellectual property to make use of it. – walkmanyi Oct 18 '12 at 19:57
  • I see their (and your) points. My understanding was the following: I submitted a paper, and I am currently awaiting for its peer reviews. If I start to share the results as a proven fact during a conference, I am essentially assuming that these results should be accepted by the community, hence inducing some sort of short circuit between the reviews and what the community already thinks about it. I had a mentor that was of that opinion, and he taught me that. But I happened to see that behaviour only recently – ElCid Oct 18 '12 at 20:07
  • It isn't clear from your story whether the speaker cited their own paper under review, or someone else's paper under review. All the existing answers assume that it was the speaker's paper. – JeffE Oct 18 '12 at 21:57
  • @walkmanyi: See Suresh's answer. Crazy or not, double-blind submissions require such a policy. – JeffE Oct 18 '12 at 21:58
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    At a certain extreme, presenting unpublished results could be considered by a conservative audience as invalid and thus not scientific. On the other hand, if done humbly it could be a useful service of communication. – Fuhrmanator Oct 19 '12 at 16:25
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In favour of unrestricted dissemination

After thinking about the answers provided so far and the discussion in comments, it seems to me that the point of view favouring dissemination of research results unrestricted by the double-blind peer-review process needs a stronger case. I believe that the answer can be derived from higher-level, rather philosophical, principles.

... Or is it only "good practice" not to do so [to present results under review]?

What is the purpose of developing and disseminating research results?

I am an idealist in these things and argue, that it is first and foremost the advancement of human knowledge and ultimately improvement of the conditions of the human society, as well as the world around us -- regardless of what exactly "improvement" means, I have in mind something like a wider social consensus that the change has a positive vector.

Given this stance, unless there are other considerations in the game, there is no reason which could obstruct our advancement of human knowledge, which ultimately rests on dissemination of quality results to the wider public. Of course, we should be careful and act in a good faith so as to be cautious about validity, significance and originality of our results. Peer-review process is only an auxiliary mechanism helping us to filter out ideas/results in violation of these principles, i.e., helps us to recognize and fix our own misjudgements and mistakes, as well as (in the worse case) dissemination of results not advancing knowledge of humankind, but produced for other primary purposes. After all, the ultimate metrics for the results of scientific research is not the outcome of the peer-review process, but rather the long-term impact on the society and the world around us. That is, whether other people will learn something from the results and whether it eventually helps them to build something beneficial to the society.

Unfortunately, thanks to the recent proliferation of the publish-or-perish attitude and its intertwining with the need to advance human knowledge, as well as interactions of these two conflicting forces, gradually peer-review becomes primarily a mechanism to filter bad-faith products - think plagiarism, results falsification and all sorts of other scientific misconduct. Yet, I maintain, the process of filtering should not gain a higher importance than the objective of our pursuit itself. To conclude, if executed with caution, restrictions imposed by double-blind review process should not restrict our ability to disseminate our results.

  • say that a person in good faith publishes (unreviewed) the wrong data and results based on some clinical experiments. Would that be acceptable? – ElCid Oct 23 '12 at 13:13
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    I guess exactly that happens all the time on pre-print servers, doesn't it? – walkmanyi Oct 23 '12 at 13:56
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The only problem of presenting results that are not published is if someone else steals the results and writes their own paper about them. (Though this probably more likely only happens with ideas that are shared too prematurely.)

It is generally considered a good thing to promote one’s own work, and one way of doing this is by giving presentations at other universities.

Even if this work is under review at a different conference, I don’t think it is problematic. When presenting a paper at a conference, you are not necessarily obliged to talk about precisely the contents of the paper. You are advertising the paper, and more generally, your own work, so that people will read it and cite it. If you have bigger and better results, then these will help with your promotion of your own work.

Of course it would be weird, though probably not wrong, to talk entirely about a different paper when presenting at a conference.

  • you're right I did not think about that aspect. I was mostly concerned on the "moral" side. The presentation was given at a twin-conference though – ElCid Oct 18 '12 at 18:23
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There is one circumstance where presenting results under review elsewhere would be a violation of code. This is when the conference where review is ongoing requires double blind submissions.

In such cases, there's usually a clause that asks the authors not do anything overt to violate double blind review, and presenting at a different venue (where reviewers might be in attendance) would be an overt violation.

  • Major point. Double blind review does not exist in my field, so I always forget about it… – F'x Oct 18 '12 at 20:08
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    Could you please edit your answer and provide links for conferences with such policies? I never came across such a stipulation in double-blind conferences I care for, so I am curious, perhaps I overlooked something. – walkmanyi Oct 18 '12 at 22:12
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    STOC/FOCS are not good examples, since they don't do double blind. Conferences in machine learning like NIPS and ICML do double blind review. I went over a few of them, and they do ask that the authors not do anything overt (like you mention). I merely argued that public presentation of a work under review at a venue where reviewers might be present could be construed as similar to adding identifying information to the paper. Maybe I should have replaced "would" by "could" in the first line of my answer. – Suresh Oct 19 '12 at 0:07
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    @Suresh: Sorry for drilling into this, could you quote please from CfP's/author instructions forbidding presentation/discussion of one's work elsewhere? ICML/NIPS 2012 editions only include standard double blind review stipulations on how to format/style the submission. Nothing else. Moreover, ICML'12 policy explicitly states this: Publication at arxiv.org explicitly does not conflict with ICML. Presentation at a workshop which does not have both a review for novelty and correctness and an official proceedings is explicitly allowed. I still think your answer is not correct. – walkmanyi Oct 19 '12 at 8:29
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    I think, @Suresh is making the point, that presenting your work that is under double blind review defeats the purpose of this double blind process. As such I, too, would argue that the public presentation of these results could influence the review process and I would advise against it. It of course always depends on the level of detail of the presentation. If it's only one slide covering the results it's a whole different matter than giving an entire talk about the findings. – crsh Oct 19 '12 at 9:24
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There is nothing unethical in doing so (including results from a paper of your own under review). It is not fundamentally different from presenting any other unpublished work of yours. If anything, you are taking a risk because people might jump on the idea, do the research at full speed (knowing what to look for), and publish it before your paper is finally out…

It depends strongly on the field of research, and the pressure from the competition. In my field (physical chemistry), it has evolved as follows in the last 10 or 15 years: people used to happily report on their not-yet-published results. Then, some colleagues from the US started to stop doing it, especially at the big conferences, citing fear of being “scooped”. Now, in most conferences, you don't hear anything that has not at least been accepted for publication. There are exceptions, usually local conferences, but also for example the prestigious Gordon conferences, which are held under a confidentiality agreement and where unpublished work is favored.

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I see no reason to be concerned about this. Most of my conference presentations are about work I haven't even submitted yet. And the whole point is to persuade people that the ideas I'm presenting are useful. All of my papers go on arxiv.org and on my website as soon as they're submitted.

Why on earth would it be wrong to influence reviewers (except in case of double-blind review)?

  • ... which is fine, I guess. My focus is on those works that are under review already and that you might choose to present anyways. If you see my other questions, I might appear as a sort of audience-freak, since I tend to avoid to publicise material that has not been peer-reviewed. Flawed as it is, I still believe that the peer-review system has to be acknowledged as a presentation-safe approach to one's content. And to the "I-deserve-to-be-here" mantra :) – ElCid Oct 22 '12 at 10:14

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