How do I become a better academic reviewer? Join the ACM COMPASS Shadow Program Committee of course!
I remember the first time I was asked to review a paper for a conference. Admittedly, the person who contacted me was going through their rolodex of contacts in the academy and probably reached out to me as a last option. Didn’t matter to me. I was tired of my PhD colleagues humble-bragging about being asked to review papers. I also wanted to receive invitations to review papers, but no matter how many times I refreshed my inbox, I never got any!
The email I received was simple enough: it was an invitation to review this paper, followed by a choice to click one of two links: ACCEPT or REJECT . Knowing how important reviewing papers is to a successful academic career, I came to the conclusion that there is only one link I could click!
I made it! Academia here I come.
It’s only after clicking ACCEPT did I realise that I had no idea how to review. So I turned to the reviews I had received as a paper author, and looked at how I could imitate their structure. I fumbled my way through that review and some of the reviews I wrote since that first invitation opened up more opportunities to review!
Looking back in 2021, I wish I had more guidance in writing good reviews. I know that the quality of my paper writing improves when I get feedback, but who do I get feedback from to improve my reviews?
How does a budding reviewer hone their thinking and writing abilities so that they do the best possible job? When you are invited to a program committee, how do you know you are capable of writing a worthy review?
A great way to approach this problem is through Shadow Program Committees. Hafeni Mthoko and I are piloting such a committee at ACM COMPASS 2021 . A Shadow PC is an academy for training the next generation of academic reviewers. Early career researchers can join the Shadow PC and write reviews for real submissions to COMPASS 2021. You’ll get feedback from experienced academics on your reviews. This is an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to Patrick Olivier and Shaimaa Lazem (General Chairs at ACM COMPASS 2021), who have been very enthusiastic about this initiative.
The Shadow PC members will discuss papers and learn together about the components that make good and bad reviews. Participants will learn about how to review papers and the dynamics of choosing a conference program. Importantly, the Shadow PC reviews will be sent to the authors of the papers (marked as Shadow PC reviews). Feedback from the authors will be passed back to Shadow PC members to aid their learning.
Check out the call for proposals to find out more about joining the Shadow PC!
Delvin Varghese Shadow Program Committee Co-Chair, ACM COMPASS 2021