Easing the CHI Conference Papers Chair's burdens
Marilyn Salzman, Vice Chair for Publications and William Newman discuss a new committee designed to oversee continuity and support for the Papers Chairs at the CHI conferences.
One of the toughest and most time-consuming jobs in the CHI conference is co-chairing the Papers program. As co-chairs you must, for example, recruit 600 or more HCI experts to review a similar number of submitted papers, make sure all papers are assigned to suitable reviewers, and finally chair a two-day meeting of 40 associate chairs to decide which papers to accept, trying throughout to make sure every paper is fairly treated – and meanwhile doing your day jobs! It seems like an impossible task, yet every year two brave people take it on and do an astounding job.
This year, SIGCHI is setting up a CHI Papers Support Team under William Newman’s leadership. Its main roles lie in helping the Papers co-chairs with three of their biggest problems: innovation, continuity and evaluation. Innovation might seem out of place in an established institution like CHI Papers, but the paper intake and disciplinary breadth of the program have grown rapidly in recent years, creating a stream of problems in adapting and managing the review process. For example, not enough experienced people have been volunteering to review recently, and meanwhile the breadth of HCI’s coverage has been making it difficult to ensure equal treatment for all authors. The Support Team can play a role in suggesting solutions to such problems, commenting on co-chairs’ proposals and, if necessary, researching the likely outcome of major changes so as to help avoid nasty surprises.
A second important role of the Support Team will be to oversee evaluation and continuity of process innovations. Because new co-chairs are appointed each year, any change they make to the process is in danger of being dropped the following year or, worse still, retained even though it may have introduced new problems. Starting with CHI 2003, SIGCHI has been funding evaluations that provide co-chairs with solid data and analyses of process performance. Now the Support Team can take responsibility for seeing that these are conducted each year, and that new co-chairs are made aware of the findings.
What makes the Support Team unique is its potential third role in managing the staged introduction of major changes to the review process. This could overcome one of the big frustrations of being Papers Co-chair: you can see how the process should be redesigned, but the changes are too extensive to introduce in one year. You’d like, at the very least, to make a start on changing things, if you could only be sure that the redesign would be fully carried out. In these situations the Support Team can work out a staged implementation plan (including evaluations of each stage) and can cooperate with successive Papers co-chairs to see the innovation through to completion.
By providing support in these ways, and meanwhile drafting policies that incorporate the essence of what makes the Papers process work, the Support Team can help co-chairs meet the demands of CHI people, whether authors, reviewers, readers or conference attendees.
If you have ideas or concerns you’d like to express, we invite you to take part in the associated discussion.