Principles for SIGCOMM

A Proposal For Incrementally Changing SIGCOMM

The following proposal is offered for your comments, with the hope that the feedback received will help inform our community’s decisions about SIGCOMM’s future. The intent of the proposal is threefold: empower the more positive voices on the PC, provide flexibility to include a more diverse set of in-person activities, and create more ongoing engagement throughout the year without requiring travel. These intentions are implemented via changes to paper reviewing, paper presentations, and virtual meetings.

Paper reviewing: To take an initial step towards implementing the third principle, we propose that future PC chairs be encouraged to identify and defer to champions of a paper. Concretely, after a paper has been thoroughly discussed, any paper that still has at least one advocate for acceptance should normally be accepted. Note that this does not lower any individual reviewer’s standards for acceptance, but it does empower the positive voices when consensus cannot be reached. The PC chairs can, of course, override this rule if they feel the remaining advocate is acting irresponsibly, but we expect this to be extremely rare. We also propose that PC chairs be encouraged to find ways to prevent too many papers from being silently eliminated after the first round just because no positive voice was among the early reviewers, although we do not propose a specific mechanism for achieving this.

As it turns out, this proposal is consistent with SIGCOMM reviewing guidelines that were adopted over a decade ago, but which may not be widely known. Below is a relevant excerpt:

“We hope that valuing both intellectual and practical impact (i.e., not excluding contributions that are more conceptual in nature, and not focusing overly much on near-term deployability) and strictly ordering reviewing priorities (potential impact considered first, and execution flaws only to the extent they undermine that impact) will lead to a more positive reviewing process, one that maximizes the impact of our conferences and the scientific progress made in our field.”

PC chairs and PC members should feel empowered to raise these guidelines during meetings.

Paper presentations: As an initial step towards implementing the first and second principles, we propose that authors of accepted papers submit a full-length (i.e., 25-minute) video presentation several weeks before the conference. While we imagine that all papers will still be presented at the conference for the time being, having full-length presentations available for asynchronous viewing will give the organizers flexibility to shorten the in-person paper presentations to accommodate larger programs as well as new activities—e.g., keynotes, panels, birds-of-feather meetings, invited presentations from other communities, etc. We propose that SIGCOMM members be invited to submit proposals for such speakers and activities, so they encompass a wide variety of individuals (particularly those who don’t normally have such opportunities) and perspectives (including those from industry and open-source communities).

Ongoing engagement: Part of the goal of the second principle is to broaden the nature of conversations within our community. In pursuit of that goal, we propose that SIGCOMM expand its online presentations of technical content so that they continue throughout the year. A model of this already exists in the form of the Network Channel, which we applaud, and hope that its frequency, coverage, and participation could be increased to reach a greater fraction of SIGCOMM members. We believe this could provide a much-needed venue for discussing what open questions SIGCOMM should be addressing in the future (rather than focusing on what answers have recently been obtained, which is the typical focus of technical papers).

We end this proposal by considering how others might see it. For those worried that the statement of principles promised bolder changes than what are proposed here, we put this proposal forward as merely the start of SIGCOMM’s evolution. For those who are concerned that adopting the principles will cause SIGCOMM to lose its intellectual rigor and academic stature, the envisioned process of evolution will allow the community to evaluate the impact of any adopted changes and course-correct as necessary. And for those who feel that SIGCOMM does not need major changes, we respectfully disagree.

We would love to hear from you about this proposal, you can do so by going to the form.

Jul 15, 2023