Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Papers Vs. Rejected Papers

Almost all research conferences give a "Best Paper" award. Let me explain how this is normally done.
  1. If the reviewer thinks that the paper looks very good, he names it as a "best paper candidate."
  2. A few members from the conference organizing committee looks at the best paper candidates, attends the presentations, and select one.
So, the decision is on the hands of about 5 or 6 people. So, let's see how reviewers select a best paper candidate:
  1. If the reviewer is a student (who was asked by the supervisor to do the review), he usually avoids nominating it as a best paper candidate ('not my business'). However, those who do will nominate papers with large numbers of equations that they could not understand at all. Occasionally, they might nominate a paper that the supervisor had good comments about.
  2. If the reviewer is a postdoc, he nominates papers that come from his funding agent, his country, same national as him although from another country, and so on. Most papers are "anonymized" and reviewers are supposed to not know the authors, but practically we know where the papers are coming from.
  3. If the reviewer is a senior professor, he might recommend a  very good paper or a very bad paper. The selection is purely random.
The committee members will usually give an award to a paper coming from a sponsor of the conference. After all, who wants to lose funding or sponsorships during hard economic times?

At ICME 2011, a multimedia conference, we are allowed to vote for the best paper. Nobody counts the number of votes each attendee gives, but the decision is not solely based on votes. Not sure how useful this method will be.

When a paper gets the Best Paper Award:
  1. The authors get a bit of money
  2. They get another sentence on their resume that might allow them to get a better job, get tenured etc.
I am yet to know a best paper that actually resulted in something great. But let me finish by mentioning two rejected papers. They both ended up becoming great things that we all need:
  1. Google's search algorithm
  2. World Wide Web (the Internet, the one that we cannot live without now)