Guidelines for the Programme Chair of a SIGPLAN Event

Executive Summary

You may be an experienced Programme Chair, in which case much of the advice on this page may already be familiar to you. Nevertheless, even experienced chairs sometimes forget some important points, so please at least skim this page, paying particular attention to the following:

  • SIGPLAN's conference submission review policy
  • SIGPLAN's diversity policy
  • for a SIGPLAN-sponsored event, seek approval for the Programme Committee from the SIGPLAN Vice-Chair, before sending invitations
  • consult with the conference Steering Committee before diverging from any existing conventions
  • make explicit in the Call for Papers that authors of accepted submissions are expected to transfer the copyright to the ACM

Submission and Reviewing Policies

The Programme Chair may not submit papers to the conference, and SIGPLAN Executive Committee recommends that the General Chair also not be allowed to submit papers. If Programme Committee members are allowed to submit papers, their papers should be held to a higher standard, in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Make all Programme Committee members and reviewers aware of SIGPLAN's policies on reviewing of conference paper submissions and on plagiarism.

The conference steering committee should be consulted for any changes to the accepted way of organizing and running the conference.

You, the Programme Chair, in consultation with the General Chair, should decide on any general policies relating to the programme committee, such as:

  • Will you have a physical PC meeting? If so, when and where will it be held? (SIGPLAN expects PC members to participate fully in the PC meeting, except in unusual circumstances.)
  • Who pays for the travel expenses of the PC members?
  • Who pays for the conference registration of the PC members? Typically, the PC member is responsible for all of his/her expenses, including registration. If a decision is made to provide funding for some/all of the members, these expenses must of course be included in the budget.

The previous year's Programme Chair for the same conference is a good resource; contact them for suggestions.

Programme Committee

With help from the General Chair, develop a list of potential Programme Committee members. In formulating this list, be mindful of SIGPLAN's diversity policy. Expect some people to decline the invitation, so have a list of alternates.

Send the list (including the alternates) to the SIGPLAN Vice Chair for their comments and approval (one year prior to the meeting). Make arrangements for the Programme Committee meeting: place, if physical, and time. After SIGPLAN approval of PC members, invite the people on the list to serve. Explain what is expected of them, and any policy decisions. Give them the date for the PC meeting.

Call for Papers

Develop a call for papers. Note that you can produce a preliminary call without listing the PC members. Make sure to put the call on the web site for the conference (established by the General Chair). The web page should refer prospective authors to SIGPLAN's Republication Policy and to ACM's Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism. Once the conference web page is in place, establish a link to the page from the SIGPLAN conference page by contacting the SIGPLAN Information Director.

If the proceedings will be published by ACM, declare explicitly in the call for papers that authors of accepted submissions are expected to transfer the copyright to the ACM. If presentations are to be videoed, mention that presenters must sign a permission form in order for the video to be released online. Mention that publication of auxiliary material is encouraged, and note the associated copyright policy (see 'Auxiliary material', below).

The conference web page should include information about the various benefits offered by the SIGPLAN Professional Activities Committee to SIGPLAN members attending SIGPLAN-sponsored conferences. These benefits include travel and lodging assistance for student authors and assistance for members who need a companion care-provider in order to attend.

Author Response

Many SIGPLAN conferences have included author response as part of the paper review process, and the general feedback concerning author response has been positive (see Experiences with Author Response at PLDI and ICFP 2004, Kathleen Fisher and Craig Chambers, SIGPLAN Notices, Dec. 2004). Programme Chairs and Steering Committees are encouraged to consider allowing author response or rebuttals as part of the paper review process.

Submission and Review

Set up the paper submission web site. Many services are available for this purpose. Most include support for the ABCD rating scale, author feedback, and double-blind reviewing.

Some advice: Many systems make it easy to include ratings on a large number of different scales, but please don't do this. Most experienced PC chairs use only two scales, an overall rating and an expertise rating. It also works best to have just two or three text fields: one for a summary of the paper (this is optional), one for comments for both the PC and the authors, and one for comments to be seen by the PC only. The ABCD scale avoids ranking papers by average: instead you can group papers by highest and lowest rating (not a linear scale, since AD neither precedes nor follows BC). For more details see: Conferences with improved management and style, Philip Wadler, SIGPLAN Notices, Feb. 2006.

Before papers are received, develop an evaluation procedure. Send submitted papers and a description of the evaluation procedure to the PC members.

PC Meeting

Before the PC meeting, decide on any policies that should be in effect, such as:

  • What defines a conflict of interest?
  • What happens if a PC member has a conflict of interest?
  • What are the rules of confidentiality?
  • Do you want to have a best paper award?

During the PC meeting,

  • decide how many papers you want to accept
  • decide what papers should be accepted
  • plan the sessions and the session chairs

It is strongly recommended that the Programme Chair have an assistant during the PC meeting, to take on certain administrative and logistical tasks during the meeting and allow the Programme Chair to concentrate on leading the discussions of papers. Typical duties of the assistant would be to keep track of the disposition of papers for the PC, interface with the on-line review system, and record any relevant information about a particular paper (e.g., paper Y paper is being shepherded by committee member X, committee member X agrees to revise their on-line review, etc.). Past Programme Chairs have used graduate students or post-docs as assistants, with good results.

Any PC meeting expenses that are to be reimbursed by the conference should be put in the conference budget. Send receipts to the ACM Representative to SIGPLAN for reimbursement.

After the PC Meeting

Send acceptance and rejection letters as soon as possible after the PC meeting. Authors using LaTeX should be directed to the template developed by SIGPLAN. This template was designed to allow more material in a paper while remaining easy on the eyes (typically, a paper that requires 12 pages with the standard ACM format requires 11 with the SIGPLAN format, and most readers find the SIGPLAN style easier to read).

Managing the Proceedings

The Sheridan proceedings service can be initiated once you decide that you want formal proceedings. Please contact the ACM Publications Coordinator, Adrienne Griscti, to begin the process. ACM will provide Sheridan with pertinent conference information. Sheridan will forward you a schedule and instructions on how to proceed.

Draft a "Letter from the Programme Chair," which should include a description of the paper selection process (number of papers submitted and accepted, etc.). Forward the letter to Sheridan along with any other front matter (perhaps a "Letter from the Conference Chair," a List of Reviewers, etc.) for inclusion in the proceedings. Sheridan will format all front matter; their schedule will include a deadline for front matter submission. They will also compile the table of contents/author index, using the schedule of talks/advanced programme that you provide to determine paper order.

Accepted authors will submit their papers directly to the Sheridan web site. Once Sheridan have collected all of the papers/copyright forms and front matter, compiled the table of contents/author index and paginated the volume, they will provide camera-ready copy for your review. The proceedings will not be printed until this has been approved. It is a good idea to send the table of contents to the contributing authors to confirm the spelling of their names and affiliations. You then will be asked to provide conference shipping information and the number of proceedings needed for the conference.

At the Conference

At the meeting, give a short summary of the paper evaluation process. Include the number of submissions, in what topical areas, and the number of accepted papers. You might want to compare the number of submissions and acceptances with the previous year (these numbers should also be in the proceedings and the final report). You should also explain the review process, e.g, how many PC members reviewed each paper and the organization of the PC meeting. You might want to talk about the geographic distribution of submissions and any unusual trends. The summary should take about 15 minutes.

After the Conference

Help the Conference Chair prepare the post-event report for SIGPLAN EC.

As former Programme Chair, you may be invited to serve on the conference's Steering Committee. For the steering committee formal rules for your particular conference, consult the relevant SIGPLAN conference web page. Links to these pages can be be found here.

The programme chairs of the major SIGPLAN conferences, POPL, PLDI, OOPSLA, and ICFP, are automatically on the selection committee for the following year's SIGPLAN Programming Languages Achievement Award.

Auxiliary Material

The ACM Digital Library and Sheridan Printing, who prepare many ACM proceedings, are both set up to accept auxiliary material. The SIGPLAN EC encourages SIGPLAN-sponsored conferences to accept such material as part of the publication process. (Some conferences also accept auxiliary material with submissions; this is an independent issue.)

Auxiliary material may include:

  • A technical report with additional details
  • Source code for software
  • Source code for automated theorem provers
  • Test data

or anything else relevant. It is SIGPLAN policy to encourage authors to publish adequate auxiliary material to enable others to reproduce their work. Authors retain copyright of their auxiliary material, while copyright of the paper is normally assigned to ACM. Referees may examine auxiliary material, if it accompanies the submission, but this should not be considered part of the review process. There are two reasons for this: one is to reduce burden on referees; the other is that ACM requests the copyright to reviewed material, but ceding copyright to software or other auxiliary material may be problematic. For an example of auxiliary material in the Digital Library, see here and click on "source materials".

Important Email Addresses

SIGPLAN Vice Chair:
SIGPLAN Information Director:
ACM Representative to SIGPLAN (Fran Spinola):

See Also

Some columns containing useful advice for conference organizers have been published in SIGPLAN Notices over the years: