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A CHI Rebuttal

Back in late September in the brief window that I was in the UK between coming back from ISEA in Turkey and going away to Australia for IMPACT, I received an email from the one of people associated with CHI saying she had seen my and Chris Speed’s TOTeM paper at ISEA and would I be able to submit a paper for CHI?

CHI is one of the top ranking conferences in the world for Human Computer Interaction and anyone worth their salt knows this one is a good one to present at. It is also very very VERY hard to get into, and the review process is very strict, so being asked to submit a paper doesn't mean it will actually get in. Still, to be noticed by the folk at CHI was a compliment. For non- tecchies it is a little on the dry side and rather geeky, but it does get you marvellous REF brownie points! For 2012 they have Digital Arts strand, so it has the potential to be a little more stimulating to arts based research.

So when I was asked to submit a paper I was rather chuffed. The problem was the deadline was 2 days away and at very moment (the risks of checking email on my iphone) I was actually packing to catch a plane with my 2 year old to Australia the very next day. My headspace was in toddler clothing, what toys to take and weight restrictions, not HCI, explaining my research and word counts.

I emailed back explaining the situation, saying the best I could do was submit my ISEA paper, formatted for their requirements. I was told this would be OK, because if the paper did get accepted I would have until January to make changes and by then it would be a different paper. So I changed the title and submitted, knowing that it was a total wild card (to be honest I didn’t even read it when I submitted), and we would be damn lucky to get in.

We got the reviews of the paper a couple of days ago, and I wasn’t surprised that it didn't get a very high ranking, but I was surprised that it wasn’t out and out rejected. One reviewer actually gave it a 4 (out of possible 5), which was balanced out by one who gave it a 1.5, and the 3rd review was somewhere in the middle. I think if it had been accepted in its current state I would have been rather disappointed in CHI and begin to doubt their credibility.

The reviews, I feel, are actually really useful, and one reviewer actually took the time to list some really good online resources. The whole process is great for me to focus on disseminating my research and being able to clarify it to wider audiences. We have to write a rebuttal (5,000 word character count limit, including carriage returns) and actually I am looking forward to this, even if it is due at the end of this week and I am currently in bed with a nasty bout of the flu.  This will give me the opportunity to write I guess, more of a proposal for what I would really like to present at CHI, still on the same research, but done much better than throwing them a second-hand paper at the last minute from another conference. Their recommendations in my opinion seem fair and would definitely strengthen our paper, so I am quite happy to have been given the opportunity to go through the rebuttal process, even if we don’t get any further.

Since I do sit between quite a few disciplines, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of CHI’s rebuttal process, or the way in which they review and score papers, so I did a bit of research and came up with some useful blog posts:

David Karger is a CHI reviewer and his article on “Do we need three reviewers for every paper”? was quite helpful in understanding how they score papers, how many submissions they get and the general acceptance rates.

Gene Golovchinsky’s blog post on “Writing a CHI Rebuttal” is excellent.

Bryn Marie Evans' post on “Tips for dealing with CHI rebuttals” is also very useful.

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