How To: Publish

In the previous topics on how to write an academic paper and how to give an academic presentation, we noted that the other steps of that process are: finding a place to publish, and submitting for publication.

Now that we’re at the very end of the semester, our last how-to is how you’d do that, and what to expect!

What are the venues?

There are four general types of venues for publication: journals, conferences, workshops/symposia/etc., and repositories.

  • Journals are peer-reviewed, typically quarterly (or something similar), and allow articles as long as 20-25 pages. There are often a lot of journals, which is where impact factors come in: good journals tend to be more selective, get more citations, etc. At this stage, I wouldn’t worry too much about the quality of the journal you’re targeting: for this class’s projects, anything more than a predatory journal (see below) would still be quite an accomplishment!
  • Conferences are peer-reviewed, typically yearly, and allow articles usually in the 4-12 page range. They’re for shorter, more specific papers. The typical workflow is that a journal summarizes and presents the work of multiple conference papers as a more cohesive whole. There are far fewer conferences, and so on average they’re quite prestigious. If you have a paper selected for a conference, you’re required also to go attend the conference and present the work. Conferences also typically differentiate their acceptances into categories, such as full papers, short papers, poster papers, etc. Full papers are considered more significant.
  • Workshops, symposia, etc. are typically events colocated with conferences that occur before or after the conference. They follow the same overall process (including peer review), but they’re significantly less prestigious, but also more collaborative: workshops and symposia are about sharing ideas and learning from one another, whereas conference papers tend to be a bit more about making and defending claims.
  • Repositories are non-peer reviewed places to upload articles for sharing. Fundamentally, they aren’t any different from just throwing the paper on your web site, although there’s a perception of more rigor if you choose one of the established places. Georgia Tech has a university-sponsored one called SMARTech where anyone can “publish” their papers, and is a pre-print archive for sharing papers that have not been published yet (and may never be).

For this class’s projects, workshops, symposia, and conferences are likely what you want to target, as well as the repositories. Within conferences, there is still some variation: for example, the most prestigious conferences on education are the American Education Research Conference (AERC or AERA), the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER or EERA), and the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), but there are also more regional conferences like the Hawaii International Conference on Education. Most conferences rotate year-to-year, with many adopting a deliberate pattern of alternating between America and outside America. Some alternate between America, Europe, and the rest of the world on a 3-year cadence.

Finding a venue

Finding conferences can be tough because ‘conference’ is an overloaded term. When you think of conferences, you might think of things like SXSW in tech, E3 in gaming, or EDUCAUSE in education. Those aren’t what we’re talking about. They might have submission processes, but those are more for applying to get a speaking slot. With academic conferences, the focus is on the paper itself: the conference is merely where you talk about it.

The best way to find a venue goes all the way back to the beginning of the course: look at the venues of the people that you’re citing. You probably want to submit to the same kinds of venues that they select: after all, they’re the ones whose work you’re building on, and so their communities are the ones that may be interested in what you’re doing.

Along the same lines, you can look at researchers who are doing similar work right now, and look where they’re publishing. For example, I was recently brainstorming a paper idea on peer review, and while I knew it would work fine in Learning @ Scale and ICLS, I was curious if there was a conference that would fit more specifically. So, I went and looked at Chinmay Kulkarni’s CV, knowing that he does a lot with peer review. Sure enough, while he publishes a lot in Learning @ Scale, he also publishes in Computer-Supported Collaborative Work and CHI (likely the largest and most prestigious conference in our general area). So, that gives me two other potential directions.

Once you find a venue, you want to look at their call for papers. Many will not have an active one. Murphy’s Law says that the deadline will always be two weeks before you check. In LucyLabs, we maintain a semi-current document of conferences that we care about, which can also be a good place to start. Note that when selecting a venue, you will need to be able to travel there to present your paper if accepted. You may want to select one relatively close by if possible, or partner with someone that has travel funding to work with you on the paper and attend the conference. Note that Georgia Tech and CoC do have travel funds that you can apply for as well to offset some of these costs.

Avoiding predatory venues

Note, however, that just because a conference or journal exists doesn’t mean it’s truly reputable. The World Academy of Science, Engineering, and Technology (WASET) is probably the biggest fraudulent publisher out there. They claim to run 50,000 conferences per year, and deliberately name conferences with similar names to respected ones. For example, if you search for the International Conference on Computational Creativity, you’ll find two: the real one in Spain, and a fake one in Paris.

So how do you tell the reputable ones from the disreputable ones?

  • Check one of the accepted lists, like Beall’s List or Stop Predatory Journals.
  • See if you recognize anyone publishing there. If people you cite publish there, it’s probably fine.
  • Google the name and the URL and see what points there.

It’s worth noting, though, that one of the common ways you check for predatory parties in other areas doesn’t apply here. It is often true that you have to pay to be published. Some journals require a fee, and all conferences require a conference registration. However, this is certainly only if you’re accepted: no reputable venue that I know of would charge you just for your submission.

Preparing your submission

Conferences generally have a very formal document template they require you to use. The SIGCHI format we use in this class is one of the common ones. Lecture Notes in Computer Science is another common one. So, the first thing you want to do is find the document format you’re required to use and start using it. Note that some journals have required formats, but many don’t.

From there… well, that’s what the “How to Write an Academic Paper” topic was for!

Submitting and getting reviews

After you’ve prepared your paper, you’ll go submit the paper via the conference’s review tool. EasyChair is most common, followed by Precision Conference. Both were created in the mid-2000s and have not been touched since as far as I can tell, but they’re usable enough. Some journals will use these systems as well, while others are less formal (e.g. “email your manuscript to the editor”). Because journals come out more regularly, the deadlines aren’t quite as urgent. When a conference only meets once a year, its deadline is pretty important.

After that, you’ll wait. And wait. And wait. And then wait some more. Some conferences can take 4-5 months to get reviews back to you. AERA’s submission deadline is 9 months before the conference itself. Others are faster.

For conferences, you’ll generally find that the review you receive has three pieces: the verdict, the meta-review, and the individual reviews. Individual reviews (typically 3-5) will review your paper, write their feedback, and recommend a verdict ranging from -3 (strong reject) to 3 (strong accept). The feedback, similar to the feedback in your coursework, serves two functions: justify the decision, and give you feedback to improve. The latter targets a resubmission (if it’s accepted, you still have the chance to incorporate reviewers’ feedback) or a future attempt at submitting the same work to a different conference.

Then, the meta-review summarizes those sub-reviews and makes a decision. It can be accepted, rejected, accepted pending revisions, or accepted as a lower-class paper. For example, if you submit a Full Paper, you could receive a decision that says “We’ve accepted your paper as a poster.” That means you’d revise and resubmit it as a 4-page paper instead of a 12-page paper (or whatever the conference’s length limits are). In the case that revisions are required, the meta-review will tell you what exactly the revisions are.

Journals, being more varied, have more potential wrinkles on this process. Many journals have an initial informal review where the editor decides whether to send the submission to full review at all. Journals are also often more revision-oriented: whereas conferences will have at most one phase of “revise and resubmit”, journals may go back and forth 4-5 times on that.

And then?

And then, you add the paper to your CV, go present it at a conference, and deal with getting auto-subscribed to the mailing lists for a dozen other predatory journals and conferences. Every academic I know gets at least one email a week like this one.