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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Charting the Future: Scholarly Publishing in CS

Joseph A. Konstan and Jack W. Davidson

Joseph A. Konstan (left) and Jack W. Davidson (right) are co-chairs of the ACM Publications Board.

Credit: University of Minnesota, University of Virginia

ACM's Publications Board is charged with overseeing all of ACM's publishing activities, including publications policies, management of journals and magazines, and the ACM Digital Library. We would like to update you on three key policy issues we are currently discussing, give you a glimpse of what some of the leaders of the field have told us, and invite your input into the discussion. The three issues are:

  • the relationship between conference and journal publishing;
  • the correctness-only reviewing model; and
  • open access publishing models.

The relationship between conference and journal publishing is a perennial topic in computer science, in part because of our almost unique model of conference publishing in which top conferences have rigorous peer-review processes, high selectivity, and resulting high-impact proceedings. Different subfields within ACM vary, with some of them feeling top conferences are the preeminent publication venue, and others maintaining a distinction between the level of reviewing and quality of conference and journal papers. In many communities, including computer graphics and programming languages, there is pressure to publish top conference papers as papers in the top journalsin part because the status of conference publication is not universally recognized outside computer science and around the world.

The Publications Board has charged its Conferences Committee with studying this issue and making recommendations (the committee includes representatives of the conference-sponsoring SIGs). Our current policy recognizes two models for publishing conference papers in journals; a journal-first model where papers are submitted to and reviewed by the journal, but where accepted authors (by a certain date) are invited to present at a conference, and a journal-integrated model where the conference review process has editorial oversight and feeds into the journal's process, permitting open-ended revisions and re-review by the same reviewers for papers that need revision. The principles behind these policies reflect the importance placed on a revision process that is not cut short by a conference event deadline.

To help inform our thinking, we surveyed ACM Fellows (receiving 166 responses as of this writing, a response rate between 20% and 25%). Fellows indicated they felt journals had higher-quality reviewing (67% to 14%) and higher-quality papers (46% to 25%), but that conference papers were more interesting (51% to 12%) and had higher impact on the field (57% to 21%). A large percentage (55% vs. 20%) indicated they prefer to publish in conferences, and 57% indicated they are more likely to use conferences publications to keep up on the field (vs. 14% for journals).

Correctness-only reviewing is an emerging publication trend in which journals commit to publishing all work they find to be technically sound without attempting to evaluate the importance or significance of the work (a successful journal built on this model is PLOS ONE). An argument for this model is that it speeds review and allows the community to see all the work being done and to judge its importance after publication. An argument against it is that readers want the review process to filter out work that is correct, but not significant (perhaps because it does not add much to the state of knowledge). As this model is being introduced into computer science (mostly by author-paid open access journals), we wanted to assess whether and how ACM should consider using the model.

Opinion among our surveyed ACM Fellows was divided. Some 41% thought correctness-only reviewing was bad for the field, while 36% felt there was a place for it. Only 11% felt ACM should integrate this model into our current publications, while 33% thought we should introduce a new line of clearly labeled correctness-only publications and 43% thought we should simply avoid correctness-only reviewing entirely.

Open access models are an area of broad interest, and we could fill a dozen columns on different issues related to open access publishing. Based on actions taken by certain research funders (primarily governmental, but also foundations), we have been looking at whether and how to incorporate author-pays open access into ACM's journals. We asked ACM Fellows about author-pays Gold OA journals, and specifically whether they preferred a Gold "umbrella" journal across computer science vs. Gold-only specialty journals vs. Gold editions of current journals. Gold-only specialty journals were preferred by 15% of Fellows; a Gold umbrella journal by 29%; and Gold editions of existing journals by 45%. Ten percent were against author-pays open access generally, preferring the current model or advocating for non-author-pays open access models.

What do you think? We would like your opinion. Please take the survey yourself at; there are places for your free-form input as well.

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Joseph A. Konstan ( is co-chair of the ACM Publications Board.

Jack W. Davidson ( is co-chair of the ACM Publications Board.

Copyright held by authors.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2015 ACM, Inc.


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