What and why: changes in the RecSys’21 paper submission

4 min readMar 13, 2021


By Alain Starke, Publicity Co-Chair RecSys’21

The 2021 RecSys conference takes place in Amsterdam September 27 — October 1. The deadline for submitting papers to the main track is already on May 4 (abstracts are due April 27), and that date is inching closer. With this blogpost, we like to draw your attention towards a few changes that have been made to the main paper track, compared to previous RecSys editions.

Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

Based on what we’ve learned in recent years, RecSys’21 has implemented a numbers of changes compared to last year. All the details can be found on the official website: https://recsys.acm.org/recsys21/call/. This post summarizes them and explains why we have made these changes.

Short & long papers: no more
We have heard from the community that the distinction between short and long papers is sometimes hard to deal with. Think about being forcing to trim down a paper to a short paper, just because your research happens to fall inbetween the two tiers (short + long) of the main paper track.

ACM RecSys values novel and interesting archival contributions to the field *in all sizes*. Hence, from this year forward, there is no longer a distinction between long and short papers, nor a challenge of whether to edit down or beef up medium-length ones. Instead, authors should submit a paper whose length reflects what is needed for the content of the research, and reviewers should assess whether the contribution is appropriate for the given length. Papers that are shorter in length should describe a smaller contribution (e.g. an idea that can be demonstrated with a simple experiment). Likewise, longer papers should contain methodological and experimental depth to warrant their length.

We hope this new streamlined process, with just a single paper track, will preserve the variety of paper lengths without creating an artificial distinction among them. Work-in-progress should not be submitted in the research track. Authors should consider whether such submissions are more appropriate for a different track, such as late-breaking results.

The new format obviously also requires new reviewer guidelines. We will publish these in due time, before the deadline, so that both prospective authors and reviewers can take heed of the most important aspects on which submissions will be scored.

Photo by Aswathy N on Unsplash

The response phase
In previous years, authors had no way of corresponding about a paper decision. Although our (senior) program committee has always taken the utmost care to do justice to all RecSys submission, some issues might be avoided or resolved if there is *some* author feedback.

We have seen that a short response from the authors can help clear up a misunderstanding about a paper and can result in better program committee decision-making. Therefore, we have added a response phase this year. As opposed to an elaborate “rebuttal”, responses will be short-form (up to 1000 characters) so as to limit them to simple clarifications and to respond to factual errors in the reviews. These responses will be provided to the reviewers and meta-reviewer of your paper during the discussion phase of the review process.

The conciseness of the response phase should ensure that factual errors are resolved. At the same time, it does not put much of an additional burden on our reviewers.

Ethical Considerations
Following the trend of several related conferences, we encourage authors from this year onward to include a section addressing the potential ethical implications of their work. This section should be included in any paper with ethically sensitive aspects. It must describe how sensitive data is sourced or how the informed consent procedure is followed in participant studies. Authors may wish to discuss, among others, potential biases in their training data, fairness and diversity issues, consequences of unsuccessful recommendations, and issues arising from the use of sensitive data. Authors may also wish to discuss the negative as well as positive implications of applying the algorithms, technologies, and findings of their work, such as more effective suggestive selling, more addictive media experiences, etc.

We also like to draw your attention towards how to report research that involves human subjects. ACM RecSys expects all authors to comply with ethical and regulatory guidelines associated with human subjects research, including research involving human participants and research using personally identifiable data. Papers reporting on such human subjects research must include a statement identifying any regulatory review the research is subject to (and identifying the form of approval provided), or explaining the lack of required review. Reviewers will be asked to consider whether the research was conducted in compliance with applicable ethical and regulatory guidelines.

Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash

Conference format
As the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is still present, authors are given the opportunity this year to attend and present at the conference remotely. At least one author of each paper must register for the conference or their paper may be withdrawn from the conference proceedings.

We hope that this blogpost has not only informed you, but that it has nudged you to start preparing. That it has made you think and look forward towards RecSys’21. The organizing committees have already gone to great lengths to this an unforgettable edition of our beloved RecSys conference, setting up an inclusive format that accomodates remote attendance.

We certainly hope to see you in Amsterdam!

Take Care,
Organizers of the RecSys’21 Conference




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