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 definitions of prepublication evaluation are used to characterize sections or departments of publications, and by extension the publications themselves.

      The term "archival" is used to refer to publications that present a form of work expected to stand the test of time, and specifically a form of work reviewed according to criteria intended to assess its correctness. Once a work has been published in archival form, it generally will not be accepted for republication without significant extensions.

      ACM's serial archival publications other than journals (e.g., magazines, newsletters, or serial publications with titles such as "Communications," "Letters," "Notes," or other titles approved by the Publications Board), ACM's conference proceedings, and special sections of ACM's non-archival publications may appropriately designated as formally reviewed or highly edited. In some cases, such publications may also be designated as refereed, though a refereeing process is rare in venues other than journals. 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.

      The term "refereed journal" is reserved for serial publications which contain a preponderance of refereed material, and serve an archival function. If articles that were not subject to refereeing are included, they 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 referees, the setting up of which is implicitly authorized by the Publications Board in chartering the publication. All ACM Transactions and Journals, i.e., all titles published by ACM including the term "Journal" or "Transactions on", shall be refereed journals.
    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. Refereeing is generally directed to scholarly material for purposes of ascertaining originality, correctness, novelty, importance, and clarity of exposition. With refereed material, the editor or program chair and the publication assume responsibility for these attributes - in practice, in order to assist the editor or program chair in discharging this responsibility in an environment of technical specialization, the aid of subeditors, program committee members, and referees is enlisted, and they in turn assume responsibility for the integrity of the evaluation On the basis of referee reports, an editor or program chair may ask the author for specific revisions as a condition of responsibility publication. Except in special circumstances refereeing is anonymous, with editor or program chair mediating between author and referee.
      2. Refereed material is subjected to a detailed peer review, following a defined, formal process according to the following standards.
        1. Submitted papers shall be reviewed by at least three qualified, independent reviewers who are asked to assess the originality, correctness, novelty, importance, and clarity of exposition of the paper; and who are asked to provide a written review report that shall be provided to the author.
        2. In cases where reviewer comments suggest that a paper may be acceptable only with revisions, the author(s) shall have an opportunity to submit a revised paper. Minor revisions may be reviewed by an editor, program chair, or designee. Major revisions should be reviewed by independent reviewers, generally to include the reviewers who originally considered the paper not acceptable in its original form. Refereed venues may limit the number of rounds of major revision before a paper is considered as a new submission, but must permit at least a single round of major revision.
        3. Editors and program chairs have the discretion to accept a paper with fewer than three reviews on very rare occasions when it is impossible, after diligent effort, to secure reviews from three expert reviewers (e.g., in cases of very specialized topics)
      3. 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 venue provide an opportunity for major revisions. Written evaluation by multiple independent expert reviewers is still required. 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.
      4. 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 expansion or extension of the presentation.
      5. 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.
      6. 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).

      ACM considers refereed and formally-reviewed material to meet the requirements of rigorous peer-review suitable for archival publications.
  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 semi-archival and often unrefereed. Publication, or republication, of a previously disseminated work 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. Authors of papers submitted to ACM Conferences and Workshops 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

Revised May 16, 2014

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