# How to appeal against an unfair decision - conference paper

My papers were rejected from a top conference venue in computer science due to laughably fallacious arguments. The reject decisions were based upon the following comments:

1. The one's complement checksum of an all zero bit sequence is zero!
2. O(n2) can be more efficient than O(n), because for n = 0.9, 0.92 < 0.9 !

What should I do now?

• Note that, although comment 2 is expressed in a ludicrous way (we only care about positive integer n, and the smiley for crying out loud), there is a significant point there. A linear time algorithm is not necessarily faster than a quadratic time algorithm for inputs that we care about. For example, 10n^2 < 500n for all n < 50. Jul 23, 2016 at 11:02
• "O(0.9) is a meaningless notion" That's not correct. It's the same as O(1) [constant time algorithms]. Jul 23, 2016 at 11:40
• @Christof Furthermore, the call for papers says "Theoretical papers must make a convincing argument for the relevance of the results to secure systems." So, actually, reducing the complexity on its own doesn't seem to be a fair contribution to this particular conference unless you can argue that it's practically, as well as theoretically relevant. Jul 23, 2016 at 11:53
• Even if you believe that the reviewers are idiots, there is no appeal phase in most CS conferences once the decision is final. BTW this conference had a rebuttal phase, which already gave you a chance to state your claims. It did not work before. Just let it go. Jul 23, 2016 at 13:27

What you need to do is to understand why your paper was rejected. I'm pretty sure your paper was not rejected from what you describe as "a top CS conference" for such obviously false reasons. Reviewers don't decide whether the paper is accepted or rejected: they advise the programme committee. The programme committee evaluates the reviews before coming to a decision and a review containing such obviously nonsensical comments will carry very little weight. If your paper was rejected because of the reviews, it was the other reviews, not this one.

Note also that, at top conferences, many papers are rejected simply due to bad luck. Usually, there are many papers that are a good enough quality to be accepted but the conference isn't big enough to take all of them. The actual reason for rejection may just be "We liked your paper and it's of essentially the same quality as papers we accepted, but there just wasn't room for yours and we liked these other ones just slightly more."

• My paper was rejected from ACM CCS. And the review comment was only that one single line (plus some biased quantifiers), even after rebuttal. Jul 23, 2016 at 10:31
• @Christof The nonsense review was not the reason for rejection. You received other reviews, right? What did they say? Jul 23, 2016 at 10:42
• You believe your paper was rejected for reason X. It was not rejected for reason X. I suggest you discuss it with your advisor or with a colleague who's familiar with your paper. Jul 23, 2016 at 11:00
• The best act is to understand why your paper was rejected. Jul 23, 2016 at 11:14
• As a conference reviewer, I have seen co-reviewers do sloppy work. Very sloppy work.It's the job of the PC to keep quality control on that. If they do not do it, and let clearly inane reviews through on a systematic (occasional slips happen!) basis, it's not a good conference, or it's on the way of becoming one that's not good. Look for a better one. Jul 23, 2016 at 18:08

It sounds like you've already gone through the rebuttal process, so as far as I know, there's no further appeal. I'm going to focus on what seems like the core issue: what do you do if your paper is rejected for reasons that are utterly stupid?

1. Take a deep breath (or whatever your preferred calming action is). Rejection is a big part of being an academic; it's never pleasant, but learning how to handle it well is absolutely necessary to survive. That doesn't have to mean shrug it off; have a coping mechanism for handling rejection, and use it. (As an aside, I think it's something that doesn't get discussed enough when talking about career choices; I've known people who would have been fine researchers and teachers, but would have been destroyed by how much they had to deal with rejection.)
2. Take some time (a day or two, or a week) away from the issue to get some distance. During that time, feel free to be furious and vent (to appropriate audiences) about how stupid the reviewers and PC were.