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A number of conferences have moved to a two-phase review system, in which for example all papers get two reviews, and then any paper that has received at least a "weak accept" advances to get two more reviews. In the conferences that use this, I'd say that typically 1/3 are eliminated early and ultimately receive only those two reviews.

In general, conferences stick to a single notification deadline. If they opt for rebuttals and offer a rebuttal after the first phase, authors may withdraw upon seeing the writing on the wall. But if there's no interim rebuttal, authors don't find out until the notification date that their paper was dead perhaps 4-8 weeks earlier.

I'm familiar primarily with computer science systems conferences. In fact, I have served on a fair number of program committees, chaired a few conference TPCs, and serve on some steering committees. I'm curious whether the two-phase review system is used in other fields, and if so, do any release the rejections early? And of course I ask because I wonder if I should advocate that conferences I have any say in move in that direction.

  • As a datapoint close to you, ICSE used to do this (two-phase reviews, early rejection for already dead papers) I think two years ago, but it appears to have been a one-time thing. – xLeitix Apr 12 '17 at 5:32
  • @Xleitix, I wonder why 1 time? Failed experiment? – Fred Douglis Apr 12 '17 at 10:30
  • I am not in the PC, so I can't tell. I think it just has to do with them moving on to a more common rebuttal phase. – xLeitix Apr 12 '17 at 10:53
  • Thanks for this post @FredDouglis. if I may ask an off-topic question, that is, suppose a conference has ~25% acceptance rate, does that mean out of the approximated 1/3 that move to the 2nd round, ~75% will eventually get accepted? (1/4)/(1/3)? Thanks – oikos99 Mar 21 '18 at 18:14
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    @oikos99, I had said maybe 1/3 got eliminated. That means 2/3 move to the 2nd round, but of those, only less than half would eventually be accepted. But it all depends on the conference. – Fred Douglis Mar 21 '18 at 18:25
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I'm in the health and social sciences and I have never attended a conference that has used this format for submissions. This seems like a lot more work for conference abstract reviewers and program committees (all who are volunteers).

I have seen a movement towards "late breakers," where you can submit an abstract for a subsequent round of reviews, often after the initial acceptance/rejection notifications are distributed. You typically are not able to re-submit a rejected abstract, but could potentially revise or (ideally) propose a different project for the conference. I guess there are pros and cons of each approach.

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    I guess a response that says that a field does use this is much more useful than one that says they don't (which I think will be the default). Regarding work, these are not abstracts, they're full papers. They are being reviewed anyway. The decision about moving to round-2 reviews is being done anyway. My only question is whether having a button to press to say "tell everyone who didn't go to round 2 that they've been rejected" would be a good thing or a bad thing. A bit of work for the paper submission system, but no one else. – Fred Douglis Apr 12 '17 at 16:31
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    Oh, okay - this is a little clearer now. I would advocate for sending out rejections as soon as possible, because this gives time for individuals to revise their work and submit elsewhere. Nothing seems to slow science down more than the review process! LOL – Nicole Ruggiano Apr 12 '17 at 16:34

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