EIC Conflict of Interest

(This policy was adopted at the Publications Board Meeting on March 21, 2000)

The purpose of this policy is to address the conflict-of-interest (COI) that arises when an editor-in-chief (EIC) of an ACM journal is an author of a paper submitted to that journal. There are other COI issues that arise in handling papers for a journal. The scope of this policy is, however, strictly limited to the specific issue of EIC authored papers.

ACM has traditionally given its EICs considerable freedom in establishing policy for each journal. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work well for the diverse computing disciplines addressed by different ACM journals. This policy therefore establishes a minimum baseline that all ACM journals should follow. Each journal can, in addition, establish additional requirements, at discretion of the journal's EIC.

ACM does permit an EIC to be an author of a paper in the EIC's journal. Outright prohibition of EIC authorship is considered too severe for at least three reasons. First, it can unduly penalize the EIC's co-authors. In several computing disciplines the ACM Transactions is the premier, and sometimes the sole high quality, archival research publication. A strict prohibition will impact the EIC's co-authors especially if they are just starting their research careers. Second, it can prevent high-quality papers from appearing in ACM journals. ACM's stated mission is to be the publisher of choice. Good work should be evaluated on its merits and not on authorship. Third, it can be a disincentive for leading researchers to serve as EIC, especially insofar as this prohibition would affect co-authors particularly graduate students. Many ACM Conferences do not permit the Program Chair to submit papers to the Conference. The three arguments given above apply with some force to ACM Conferences also. However, the multi-year terms of EICs makes a more compelling case for journals than for conferences.

The ACM policy for processing papers with the EIC as an author is as follows.

1. The EIC will submit the paper to an Associate Editor who is specifically designated for this purpose and explicitly identified in the web pages for that journal. The designated Associate Editor must have agreed to accept this responsibility and should not be a collaborator of the EIC or from the same organization as the EIC.

2. The Associate Editor designated in step 1 (say Alice) will not process the paper herself, but will hand it to another Associate Editor (say Bob) whose identity will not be disclosed to the EIC. Bob will obtain reviews and make all decisions regarding processing of the paper (such as reject, requires major revision and second review, conditional accept, accept, etc.) and will convey these decisions to the EIC by way of Alice. Alice will keep the identity of Bob anonymous from the EIC, and Bob will keep the identity of the reviewers anonymous from Alice.

3. In case of guest edited special issues, such as based on papers invited from Conferences, the guest editor will make the final decision directly but will annonymize all reviewer information in corresponding with the authors, including the EIC.

4. In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, existing standards of acceptability must be rigorously applied when considering papers (co-)authored by EICs. Papers which are marginal in any way should be rejected.

Each Journal, at discretion of its EIC, can impose additional requirements. In the extreme EIC authorship can be prohibited. In all cases the policy should be explicitly posted on the web page of the Journal. The EIC is required to inform the Publications Board Chair whenever the policy is modified, especially if modified to be less stringent than it was. When a new EIC is appointed additional requirements in place by the outgoing EIC can be changed by the incoming EIC as a condition of acceptance. 

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