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Communications of the ACM

ACM Careers

The Toxic Culture of Rejection in Computer Science

cutout letters 'no' next to scissors and computer

A paper that reinforces a prior idea may be more valuable than a paper that introduces a new idea.


Unlike most disciplines, conference publications dominate over journals in computer science, and program committees carry out the bulk of the peer reviewing. Serving on a PC is a yeoman's service, and the community owes them a debt of gratitude. However, a toxic culture has emerged.

A low acceptance rate has become valued as a quality metric for conferences. This feeds a culture of shooting each other down rather than growing and nurturing a community. Many venues are proud of their 10% acceptance rates. The goal of a PC has become to destroy rather than to develop.

Since we are conditioned to find reasons to reject rather than reasons to accept, papers are thrown out due to a single dominating negative review.

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