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Double-Blind Reviewing Policy

  1. TSC reaffirms the general ACM policy that "the quality of a refereed publication rests primarily on the impartial judgment of their volunteer reviewers."
  2. TSC will continue to strive to ensure fairness in reviewing, even if that involves more work for the TSC editorial board.
  3. Scientific studies have demonstrated opportunities for bias inherent in single-blind reviewing.
  4. It is TSC policy that every submission should be judged on its own merits. The identity and affiliation of the authors should not influence, either positively or negatively, the evaluation of submissions to TSC.
  5. In consideration of the above, TSC will utilize double-blind reviewing, in which the identities of the reviewer and author are not made known to each other
  6. TSC will continue to strive to make the submission process for authors as simple as possible.
  7. TSC will continue to strive to effect a comprehensive review of each submission.

Note that this policy is not dependent on absolute or even relative blinding efficacy. The central and unambiguous message is that every submission should be judged solely on its own merits. This message applies even when reviewers know exactly who the authors are.

Preparing Your Paper for Double-Blind Reviewing

TSC strives to ensure fairness in reviewing. It is TSC policy that every submission should be judged solely on its own merits. The identity and affiliation of the authors should not influence, either positively or negatively, the evaluation of submissions to TSC. For this reason, all submissions to TSC will undergo double-blind review, in which authors and reviewers are unaware of each other's identities. Note that editors will still know the authors' names and affiliations, which is necessary to avoid conflicts of interest in assigning reviewers.

Ensuring Anonymity

To ensure anonymity of authorship, authors must blind their manuscript by performing the following simple alterations.

  • Authors' names and affiliations must not appear on the title page or elsewhere in the paper.
  • Funding sources(s) must not be acknowledged on the title page or elsewhere in the paper.
  • All personal acknowledgments should be omitted. Research group members or other colleagues or collaborators must not be acknowledged anywhere in the paper. There should also be no acknowledgment section in the paper.
  • Source file naming must also be done with care. It is suggested that the submitted file be named as submission.pdf. Also, if your name is Jane Smith and you submit a PDF file generated from a .dvi file called Jane-Smith.dvi, one can infer your authorship by looking into the PDF file. Similarly, you should remove name and affiliation information from the "properties" of your document. Some forget this, since such properties are filled in silently when a document is created or copied. For example, Microsoft Word fills in your Name and Company that it maintains from the installation process. This information is sometimes transferred even when you convert to another form, such as PDF.

Despite the anonymity requirements, you should still include relevant prior published work of your own in the references—omitting them could potentially reveal your identity by negation. Prior published work is defined as any research paper that has been published and made available prior to submission to TSC (a) in the online or printed proceedings of a refereed conference or refereed workshop, (b) as a longer poster papers (4 pages or more) in such a conference or workshop, or (c) in an online or printed issue of a journal. However, you should not cite a published demonstration paper of your own even if it is in prior published work as defined above.

You must use care in referring to your prior published work. For example, if you are Jane Smith, the following text reveals the authorship of the submitted paper:

In our previous work [1,2], we presented two algorithms for .... We build on that work by ...



Bibliography


[1] JOHN DOE and JANE SMITH, A Simple Algorithm for ..., Proceedings of ACM SIGMOD International Conference on Management of Data, pp. 1-10, 1997.

 


[2] JANE SMITH, A More Complicated Algorithm for.., Proceedings of ACM SIGMOD International Conference on Management of Data, pp. 34-44, 1998.

The solution is to reference your prior published work in the third person (just as you would any other piece of work that is related to the submitted paper). This allows you to set the context for the submitted paper, while at the same time preserving anonymity.

In previous work [1,2], algorithms were presented for ... We build on that work by ...



Bibliography


[1] JOHN DOE and JANE SMITH, A Simple Algorithm for ..., Proceedings of ACM SIGMOD International Conference on Management of Data, pp. 1-10, 1997.
 

[2] JANE SMITH, A More Complicated Algorithm for.., Proceedings of ACM SIGMOD International Conference on Management of Data, pp. 34-44, 1998.


Anonymous Citations

Referring to any work (including but not limited to your own work) that has been submitted elsewhere for review (and hence is as yet unpublished), or that has been accepted for publication at a referred conference, referred workshop, or a journal for which proceedings (printed or online) will be made available after the submission of your TSC manuscript, requires a different protocol to ensure consistency with double-blind reviewing. In the body of your TSC submission, you may refer to such work in the third person as follows.

The authors have also developed closely related techniques for query optimization [20], but...

In the above example, the reference in the bibliography would then read:

[20] Details omitted due to double-blind reviewing.

Note that you should mention neither the authors nor the title or venue of publication while describing anonymous citations like that above. Be sure to place all anonymous citations after the list of your regular citations. Of course, this does not mean you are not responsible to provide the details of such anonymous citations. You should disclose (for use by the Editors only) full details of each such anonymous citation in your cover letter, which will not be made available to the reviewer. Furthermore, you may be asked to submit a copy of one of these papers corresponding to such citations. An editor will contact you during the review period if this becomes necessary.

Technical reports (or URLs for downloadable versions) of your own work should not be referenced. Self-references should also be limited to only papers that are relevant and essential for the reviewing of the submitted paper.

Well-Known or Unique Systems

Papers on well-known or unique systems may be more difficult to blind. All that is required is that blatant statements that could identify one of the authors be ambiguous.

A common approach is to state that the developers of the system (which might well have been the authors of the submitted paper) made the system available to the authors of the submitted paper (which is strictly a true statement). For software, the developers might have shared the source code with the authors; for a hardware system, the developers might have made the system available for use by the authors. It might even be useful to explicitly mention that the developers provided guidance on the internals of the system.

There is no expectation that manuscripts be extensively rewritten to attempt to mask the identity of the authors.

Anonymity in Revisions

All comments to the reviewers and all manuscript revisions except for a possible final revision after the paper has been accepted (should the paper be accepted) should also follow the guidelines above.

Summary

It is the responsibility of authors to do their very best to follow the specific steps listed here to preserve anonymity. Papers that do not follow the guidelines will be returned for revision.

The steps can be summarized quickly.

  1. Anonymize the title page.
  2. Remove mention of funding sources and personal acknowledgments.
  3. Anonymize references found in running prose that cite your papers.
  4. Anonymize citations of submitted work in the bibliography.
  5. Ambiguate statements on well-known or unique systems that identify an author.
  6. Name your files with care and ensure document properties are also anonymized.

Authors need only take these six steps to adequately blind their papers.

Common sense can go a long way toward preserving anonymity without diminishing the quality or impact of a paper. The goal is to preserve anonymity to a reasonable degree while still allowing the reader to fully grasp the context (related past work, including your own) of the submitted paper and while making it relatively easy for the author to follow the required steps. If you desire specific guidance, please contact the Editor-in-Chief.

The ACM Transaction on Database Systems has an FAQ with answers to further questions about the double-blind review procedure.

 
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