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Dual submission - posters and conferences

As conferences experiment with new forms of presentation and formats, the old topic of dual submission deserves new attention.

Here, I am only concerned with concurrent submissions of the same or similar material to two conferences, i.e., submitting a paper covering the same ground to another venue while the first submission is still under review. While most authors would consider submission of the same full paper to two conferences to be clearly out of bounds, there has been less consensus on other scenarios, e.g., submitting a paper to a workshop as a poster submission and, concurrently, to a conference as a regular paper.

I don't think it much matters that a poster presentation has a different format and maybe a shorter representation in the proceedings. What matters is the core technical content, whether some implementation details and graphs are omitted or not.

This discussion is made more complicated by the fact that the treatment of poster submissions, in general, differs greatly between conferences. Some subject such submissions to very limited review, e.g., the student posters at CoNext, while others are reviewed at the same depth as regular papers. For some conferences, some sessions are more or less randomly designated as poster sessions, while others feature oral presentation, with Globecom being one such example. Other conferences move papers that fall just below the cut-off into poster sessions, converting them to short papers. Finally, the proceeding version of a regular and poster paper may be the same or the poster paper may get a one-paragraph abstract - and anything in between. With these distinctions, it is too simple to assume that all posters represent very early work.

One could argue that presentations in multiple venues ensures that good work gets to be known, particularly as the community is increasingly fragmented into ever more narrowly-targeted conferences.

Before considering this specific case, it might be worth going back to the question of why the community, in general, frowns upon double submission. I can think of four reasons:

(1) Avoid wasting reviewer resources, as we don't want to have very similar technical content reviewed six or more times, without the author having had a chance to incorporate the earlier feedback.

(2) Avoid "double credit" - authors shouldn't pad their publication count by republishing essentially the same content except under well-recognized circumstances.

(3) Listener boredom - nobody wants to attend a conference where half the presentations are re-runs.

(4) Wastes trees and library shelf space - why print the same or very similar material twice?

I believe that the last three reasons have become somewhat less important, and listener boredom doesn't factor if one of the formats is a poster, since the attendee can easily skip a poster that represents work they are already familiar with.

This leaves the first reason. Good reviewers remain a scarce resource, and we should husband such resources. Thus, I believe that, in general, such concurrent submissions are something we do not want to encourage or permit. Once it becomes known that such concurrent submissions are acceptable, there will be a strong temptation of more and more authors to submit papers to as many conferences as possible. However, if the poster does not consume any or minimal reviewer resources, the objections seem less strong. We routinely expect work under submission at a conference to be presented as posters at various local events, such as industrial affiliate or grad student research fairs, for example.

Recognizing that this may cause some confusion, one reasonable approach may be to clearly designate minimal-review poster sessions as such and for the poster event to indicate whether material under concurrent review elsewhere is acceptable for submission. The default assumption should be that it is not. Authors should also be encouraged by the conference organizers to cite such "publications" appropriately, such as "Conference X work-in-progress poster session" or "Conference X PhD research overview".

Any such policy should be coordinated with other organizations, such as TCCC. In particular, IEEE Infocom has a long-standing double submissions policy [http://www.comsoc.org/confs/ieee-infocom/policy.html] that is not entirely clear on this particular scenario.


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Hi, thanks for a great summary of the issues. I would just add one more wrinkle, that often a poster is either narrower than a simultaneously submitted paper (i.e., covering just one part of the work) or broader (i.e., giving an overview of a broad project, where the simultaneously submitted paper is just one part). Another wrinkle is whether the dual-submission paper is in submission to a workshop (already a somewhat informal venue for work in progress) or a conference (where the work is already presumably mature).

That said, I tend to agree with you that it is hard to have a one-sized fits all policy here, given the wide variation in how posters are reviewed, presented, and archived. I like your idea of having the Call For Posters be clear on the nature of the poster session and any policies regarding joint submissions. Conferences and workshops should arguably be clear about this in their Calls For Papers as well.

-- Jen

I'll be frank, I have a different philosophy here... perhaps largely informed by the kinds of poster sessions that take place in the communities that I'm a part of (e.g., SIGCOMM, NSDI, SOSP/OSDI, etc). In my experience these poster sessions have minimal reviewing overhead and are designed entirely to provide a venue for students to interact about their work with the broader community they are joining. We can generally accept far more posters than papers and this forum provides a stage for a much larger set of people as a result (ditto for "demo" sessions at SIGCOMM). I understand that other communities elevate posters to serve other functions, but this seems quite rare in single-track systems or networking conferences where in my experience they are strictly used to provide opportunities for students. Within this context, I'd be loathe to restrict what seems to be such a positive activity. Since I don't see a SIGCOMM poster (for example) as a strongly refereed publication I really don't care if the student is also submitting a long paper version on the same topic to somewhere else -- the poster and paper seem to serve different functions to me (again, within the conferences I participate in).


I agree that handling posters is difficult and that conferences should clearly specify whether they accept concurrent submissions of posters or not.

Concerning the reviewer load, I think that the expectations on the authors should match the kind of reviews that are provided for the poster.

If a conference receives many poster submissions and provides detailed reviews for the posters and the posters are officially(*) published somewhere (e.g. as extended abstracts) , then it seems reasonable to prohibit dual-submissions.

If a conference does not provide detailed reviews for the posters or does not officially publish the posters, then it does not seem acceptable to prohibit dual-submissions.


(*) by official publication I mean a publication with an ISBN number that can be ordered by a library or a online version on a well-established digital archive (not only the conference's website)

I tend to agree with Jen, however I do think that specifying whether content currently under review elsewhere is permissible is an excellent policy that will serve to prevent a great deal of confusion.