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Policy on Pre-Publication Evaluation

This document gives policy guidelines for the evaluation of material for ACM publication. The audience is both editors in chief and potential authors.

  1. Categories and Levels of prepublication evaluation
    1. Categories of publications
      The following defintions of prepublication evaluation are used to characterize sections or departments of publications, and by extension the publications themselves. The term "refereed journal" is reserved for serial publications which contain a preponderance of refereed material, and serve an archival function. If material in other categories is included, it should be distinguished in some fashion, and consideration to keeping the distinction clear should be given in deciding what to include in refereed journals. This designation implies a continuing body of editors and referee/reviewers, the setting up of which is implicitly authorized by the Publications Board in chartering the publication.

      Serial archival publications may also be appropriately designated formally reviewed or highly edited. In addition, conference proceedings and special sections of nonarchival publications may be so designated, if the criteria are generally met. The responsibility for judging whether all or part of a publication merits any of the three designations rests with the Publications Board. Publications consisting only of reviewed or unreviewed material are considered "informal," and may fall only nominally within the purview of the Publications Board.

    2. Five basic levels of prepublication evaluation are distinguished, applicable to all authored (that is, signed) material submitted for publication to ACM. The levels are: refereed, formally reviewed, reviewed, highly edited, and unreviewed.
      1. Refereed material is subjected to a detailed peer review, following a defined, formal process according to a uniform set of criteria and standards. Refereeing is generally directed to scholarly material for purposes of ascertaining originality, correctness, novelty, importance, and clarity of exposition. With refereed material, the editor and the publication assume responsibility for these attributes -- in practice, in order to assist the editor in discharging this responsibility in an environment of technical specialization, the aid of subeditors and referres is enlisted, and they in turn assume responsbility for the integrity of the evaluation. On the basis of referee reports, an editor may ask the author for specific revisions as a condition of responsibility publication. Except in special circumstances refereeing is anonymous, with editor mediating between author and referee.
      2. Formally reviewed material is subjected to a structured evaluation and critique procedure following a defined process uniformly applied as with refereeing, only without requiring that the tests of scholarly originality, novelty and importance be applied in the previous sense. Indeed, "novelty" may refer to the method of exposition -- as, for example, with a good survey article -- rather than to the content of the material. Evaluation for technical accuracy is still required, and the criterion of clarity of exposition may be interpreted as readability by a certain intended audience. Generally included in this category are papers submitted to conferences, where time constraints and the ad hoc nature of the evaluation group makes the designation "refereed" inappropriate; also "position paper" committee reports, where there is no author but a designated report editor, and the review is deemed accomplished by the committee's circulation of its statements to interested parties.
      3. Reviewed material is subjected to a more informal and not necessarily uniform process of volunteer review, with standards dependent upon the publication and the type of material. The evaluation is generally directed towards obtaining an independent assessment as to the importance of the material and of the methods of exposition, and there may still be requests for revision conveyed to the author. Besides the variable standards and criteria, reviewing differs from refereeing in that there need not be written reports and statements for record, although of course there may be. This category includes opinion pieces, where the accuracy of certain statements may be controversial, and pieces such as the written version of an invited lecture, where an editor cannot ask that what the lecturer said be revised, but may impose general constraints on the extent to which the written version may be an expanion or extension of the presentation.
      4. Highly edited material is professionally edited, usually by paid staff, with primary emphasis on exposition, graphic presentation, and editorial style rather than on content and substance. There is presumably considerable interaction between editor and author during the preparation of such a piece, and the final criterion for acceptability is consensus between the two. Work for hire generally falls in the category.
      5. Unreviewed material is published as submitted, with or without copyediting. The reason for accepting unreviewed material may be procedural, to permit rapid dissemination to technical commentary and the like, or may be in the nature of the material, as in the case of short committee reports or technical reports (where there of course may have been considerable review for the original publication).
  2. ACM Policy on Prior Publication
    1. The technical contributions appearing in ACM journals are normally original papers which have not been published elsewhere. Widely disseminated conference proceedings and newsletters are a form of publication, although they are usually only semiarchival and often unreferred. Publication, or republication, of a disseminated is permitted only if the Editor judges that
      1. the revision contains significant amplification or clarification of the original material, or
      2. there is significant additional benefit to be gained from journal republication. In either case, any prior appearance should be noted on the title page of the paper.
    2. The Board and the Conferences and Symposia Committee concur that authors of papers submitted to ACM Conferences should be able to anticipate to the extent possible whether publication in conference proceedings will or will not jeopardize future publication in formal ACM publications. As such, we are seeking cooperation in defining in advance, in the Call for Papers, whether or not the conference record will be "widely disseminated"; the appropriate box on the Technical Meeting Request Form should be checked.
  3. Policy on Backlog

    "Issue backlog" is the number of issues after the last issue was mailed, up to and including the issue into which any paper would go that arrives at HQ on the day the backlog is calculated.

    The Publications Board instructs HQ to show the following dates on each paper published in ACM journals:

    1. date received
    2. date of final revision
    3. date of acceptance