Advice to Authors of Extended Abstracts

William Pugh

Dept. of Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies

Univ. of Maryland, College Park

This article stems from discussions among the program committee for SIGPLAN'91 PLDI. The program committee thought it might be useful to put together some advice for authors. To give some context to these suggestions, I've also provided a brief description of the process by which the conference papers were reviewed, partially from my perspective. This process is similar to the way most SIGPLAN conferences are run, although the details differ for each conference.

How the Papers Were Reviewed:

There were 169 extended abstracts submitted to the SIGPLAN '91 PLDI conference. At the request of the program committee chair, program committee members (and their graduate students) refrained from submitting any abstracts to the conference. This allowed us to avoid having to deal with direct conflict of interests.

Each program committee member was assigned 60 abstracts, based on his or her areas of expertise. Since all abstracts were sent to all committee members, members could review any abstracts they wished, so long as they reviewed at least the abstracts assigned to them. Program committee members could review the abstracts themselves or have others review them, although in most cases the program committee members at least briefly reviewed all the abstracts they were assigned, even if they had colleagues review some of them in detail for them.

I wasn't able to read any abstracts until after the semester ended in mid-December, and I allowed myself a week off from reading abstracts for Christmas. Thus, I had about four weeks to read the abstracts, and I couldn't spend much more than 20 hours a week reading them (due to limitations both on available time and the amount of reviewing I could do in a day before I suffered burnout). Since I read more abstracts than I was assigned, this came down to an average of one hour per abstract.

In reading an abstract, I had to try to understand the work presented, the significance of it, and possible problems with it. I spent at least 30-40 minutes on almost every abstract, sometimes coming back to an abstract several times. I spent over four hours each on several abstracts. In one case this was because the abstract looked interesting but was badly written; in another case, because the abstract dealt with a dense subject. In several cases, I spent several hours on a paper simply because I had expertise or interest in the topic described by the paper.

The program committee met for two days to discuss the submitted abstracts and choose those to be accepted. A preliminary numerical ranking provided by the reviews received in advance of the meeting helped structure our discussions. On each of several passes through all the submissions, some papers were eliminated from consideration, others were retained for further discussion and some were accepted. Finally, we had a total of 28 accepted papers.

What is an Extended Abstract?

An extended abstract is not simply a long abstract. An extended abstract should contain references, comparisons to related work, proofs of key theorems and other details expected in a research paper but not in an abstract.

An extended abstract is a research paper whose ideas and significance can be understood in less than an hour. Writing an extended abstract can be more demanding than writing a research paper.

Some things that can be omitted from an extended abstract: future work, details of proofs or implementation that should seem plausible to reviewers, ramifications not relevant to the key ideas of the abstract.

Some Issues Considered by the Committee:

Final Comments for Authors: