Friday, July 2, 2010

Paper Reviews: A Great Learning Experience

Reading a fairly good, published paper is a very different thing from reading an unpublished paper submitted for a conference. Most papers presented in decent conferences are well organized and reasonably written and those are the only papers you probably have read in classes and for your research. For a task of reviewing as part of program committee, you get to read quite different papers and many of them are poorly written in one way or another. This I realized when I had to do my first paper review task for the papers submitted for the reputed CIKM conference of this year as my Professor is part of the program committee for this conference. The paper review task is assigned to all PhD students of our lab for learning how to write a good paper the premise behind it being that if you can review papers well then you can also write good papers, luckily I was the only MS student who got to do such a paper review job because out of the assigned papers by CIKM one was related to my MS thesis topic.

The review process is a very rigorous one with a whole round of discussions between the students and seniors (PhD and PostDoc students) ; we read each and every paper carefully along with identifying the problem statement in each paper, the related works in the dimension and the solution proposed to solve the problem. We then identify strong and weak points in each paper which is of course the tough part and is the determining criteria whether to accept or reject the paper.

This whole activity although time-consuming and cumbersome offers a lot to learn specially for students like me since you are in shoes of a reviewer who reads papers you submit to conferences. You are reminded of the do's and dont's while submitting your own paper and this is the entire point of this activity. Reading the papers makes you learn how to write a good paper by following some essential guidelines and keeping in mind the mistakes you should not do at all.

Most importantly the effort that goes into the review process of these credible and prestigious conferences is what Computer Science community in Pakistan should learn from..........these days there is a whole "blogging" boom with bloggers considering themselves extremely credible about which I also wrote and criticized few days back. The people who are related to Computer Science back in my home i.e. Pakistan and in other developing countries need to learn that credibility comes from published, reviewed and innovative work. At the end of the day Computer Science is a science and has to be treated like that, the technologists might be good in their respective fields but they lack the expertise needed to make a country prosper in the long run...............scientists are needed to create technologies of the future and this is what matters when it comes to real development of a country.

I wrote a quick post to voice out my concerns for the betterment of Computer Science in developing countries and now back to review job as writing the review is another tough part of the job which I have yet to finish.

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