Here's the situation I am in:

I have written a paper. I need to decide whether to submit it to GREAT [insert conference/journal name here] or to GOOD [ditto]. I would prefer to have a GREAT publication, rather than a GOOD publication. However, GREAT is a long shot, while GOOD is very likely to accept my paper.

Should I try submitting to GREAT or just submit to GOOD?

I'm thinking that I may as well try to get into GREAT. If it gets rejected, I can still submit to GOOD. So what's the harm?

Is there anything wrong with this thinking? That is, are there costs (other than time and effort) to being rejected from GREAT? In particular, does it look bad (in the eyes of reviewers/editors/PC members) to have a paper rejected?

For context, I am in computer science. I'm submitting to conferences and the accept/reject notification date for GREAT is before the submission deadline for GOOD. Thus there would be no delay in publication if it gets rejected by GREAT versus directly submitting to GOOD.

I think the probability that GREAT accepts my paper is around 15%. What is an appropriate threshold for trying to get in?

  • 1
    I wonder how have you guessed the 15%. Also, there's a big difference between the conference case and the journal case. The role of time is very important for conferences, less for journal papers.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:29
  • 2
    15% is a wild guess. I just don't want someone misinterpreting my question and thinking I have a one-in-a-million chance of getting in.
    – user48235
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:31
  • Not an answer, but you might be interested to have a look at this paper, modelling the decision-making process for journals based on acceptance probability & time spent: journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/… Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:58
  • 1
    To make a proper decision you need to consider downside risk, which you've only stated as "chance of rejection" - but what is the cost of that? If you just make any revisions suggested and send it along to the next conference, what's the downside for you? What's your time-horizon? If you are applying to enter a new program or seeking a new job or going up for tenure, then your downsides are completely different than if you are a new faculty member with 5+ years to maximize your research portfolio.
    – BrianH
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 16:11
  • "the probability that GREAT accepts my paper is around 15%". It probably is not. Great conferences have a 10-15% acceptance rate and most of the papers they receive are very good to great. So, the chance of a semi-good paper to make it are less than their acceptance rate.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 13:22

4 Answers 4


Without knowing all of the details, it's hard for random Internet strangers to make the call. You should only go for the GREAT conference if you meet all of the following criteria:

  1. You've actually got a chance of making it in
  2. You can resubmit to a GOOD conference if it's rejected
  3. Someone else isn't likely to publish a similar result before you have a chance to resubmit
  4. You don't need a publication on your CV right now

Even if the GREAT conference rejects it, you might get some valuable feedback that can help you make it even better. Personally, I'd take a shot at the GREAT conference if the chance was 15%, but the top conferences in my field get called crap shots anyway.


To expand my answer based upon changes in the question: There is nothing wrong with submitting to a conference if you think your paper stands a non-negligible chance of getting in. No one's going to black-list you for aiming high.

The only issue I can imagine is that a reviewer is working for both the GREAT and the GOOD conference and you don't update your paper to reflect any changes they suggest in their first review.


If all your papers are accepted by the first journal you sent them to, then you are aiming too low.

If having this paper published right away is important (for example, you are coming up for tenure or promotion soon), go ahead and aim low. On the other hand, if you have more time to spare, aim higher. Occasionally you may get into the higher-rated journal. That will be good for your career in the long term.


Do you have a great paper or a good one? In the latter case, it's waste of everybody's time to send it to the great conference. If the paper is (in your opinion) great then it might be worth a try, even with an acceptance rate of 15%, depends how the rest of your publication record looks.

  • 2
    Not true at all. The journal can always do a pre-check and reject the paper for not meeting their impact and quality expectancy. Even then, if the reviewer feels the article is "not good enough" for the journal, he can send a mail to the communicating editor and raise these concerns without digging deep into the paper. OTOH, the author can gain a lot, and if you don't start aiming "higher than you used to aim", you never move up.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:39
  • 3
    I think my paper is great, but obviously I'm biased.
    – user48235
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:56
  • 1
    I claim it is not a "waste of time of everybody" to aim slightly higher. It is simply a part of the process.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 17:24
  • 1
    @user48235 Well, that's the point that needs self-calibration. I pretty much know how good my papers are from a lot of experience. I can predict with some confidence how influential a paper will be or where it has a serious chance of acceptance. And no, I do not believe all my papers are great, though it'd nice to be. So, that's what you need to find out for yours. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 17:25
  • 1
    @CaptainEmacs, it doesn't make sense to aim low and work your way up (won't get another chance, essentially).
    – vonbrand
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 0:16

Why don't you send a pre-submission inquiry to the GREAT journal and see whether they seem interested in your paper. If they show a reasonable level of interest, you can submit and keep your fingers crossed. If they feel that your paper is not novel enough or not suitable for their target audience, they will say so. In that case, you will be able to save some time and submit to GOOD directly.

I had a similar experience recently. I had submitted my paper to a top-tier journal. Luckily for me, the editor was very prompt, and said that my paper was not suitable for their target audience. She, in fact, directed me to a couple of other journals whose target audience would benefit more from my paper. I was lucky that I did not lose more than a couple of weeks in the whole process, but had I sent a pre-submission inquiry, it would probably have been quicker.

  • This may be possible for journals but I do not think is possible for conferences.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 13:19
  • Of course it's possible for conferences. It's perfectly reasonable to send an email to the program committee chair, well before the submission deadline, asking whether a paper is in scope for submission.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:02

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