“Make it so, Number One.”

You’ve done it!  You have played the key role in a compelling piece of research.  You are the first author.   You get the glory, but you also have a lot of work to do.

Many things must happen for paper to be successfully submitted and accepted by a conference.  The most important of these have to do with the paper’s content — its Why, What, and How.  As the first author, you played a critical role in these parts of the paper, but so did you co-authors.  Your co-authors probably help write some text and prepare some figures too.

Technical content is not enough, though.  There are also a bunch of logistical tasks — tracking deadlines, filling out the submission form, submitting on time, etc.  These tasks start before before submission only finish when the final, camera-ready version of the paper is completed.  The first author is responsible for all these tasks.

Before submission

The logistics work begins before the paper is submitted.  Your goal is to eliminate surprises near the deadline.  You and you co-authors will be very busy working on the paper’s technical details just before the deadline.  You don’t want an unexpected formatting error or a misunderstanding of the deadline to cause last-minute chaos.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Prepare the skeleton of the paper according to the conference submission guidelines.  Make sure you get the right/latest version of the template.
  2. Check the skeleton into github or wherever your group keeps its papers.
  3. Make sure the paper builds properly.
  4. Know the conference deadline, including the abstract submission deadline and the final submission deadline.  What timezone are they in?  What time of day?
  5. Make sure the paper is registered by the abstract deadline.  You’ll need a title and an abstract.  Discuss these with your co-authors ahead of time.
  6. Distribute the account and login information for the paper submission site to your co-authors.
  7. Collect and enter author and conflict of interest information for the paper.  Make sure to give co-authors several days to respond with/fill in their conflict information.
  8. Select a set of topic areas for the paper.  Confirm them with your advisor.
  9. Provide anything else the submission site needs.
  10. Forward emails you receive about the paper to your co-authors.
  11. If the submission site has a format checker, run the current draft of your paper through it.  If it doesn’t pass, fix it.
  12. Do what’s necessary so paper authors will receive notice of commits.
  13. Know the page limit.   Does it include references?
  14. If you have questions or are unclear about something, ask your advisor.

At Submission

The big moment.  Again, make sure there are no surprises.

You will be responsible for successfully submitting the paper.  At about T-minus 1 hour from the deadline, you should have the submission site loaded up in a web browser and be logged in.  You should submit drafts regularly up until the deadline just to be safe.

You should submit the paper from the machine you are using to build the paper, so there’s no need to transfer files around.  You should be able to ‘git pull; make’ and submit a new version of the paper in a few 10s of seconds, so you can incorporate last minute changes.  Practice this ahead of time.  I’m not kidding — practice!

After submission

Hurrah!  The paper is submitted.  Well done!  Cross your fingers and do a little bit of house cleaning:

  1. Ensure that the paper builds correctly from a clean checkout, so you can reproduce it later.  Do this right away, while you still know how the paper’s supposed to build.
  2. Add and commit the submitted version to the git repo as ‘submitted.pdf’.
  3. Tag the repo with ‘submitted_to_isca_2017’ or something similar.
  4. Go to sleep.  Or for a drink.


The rebuttal period is an opportunity for you to respond to your reviews and correct any misunderstandings.  Not all conferences provide a rebuttal period.

  1. Be aware of the rebuttal period and send out a reminder email to the authors a few days before.
  2. When the review period starts, check the web site regularly for the reviews to become available.
  3. Continue to check regularly throughout the rebuttal period.  Late reviews may appear, and you’ll need to respond to them, too.
  4. Send out a copy of the reviews and a link to them.
  5. Check in a copy of the reviews as ‘reviews.txt’.
  6. Summarize the reviews.
    1. Sort the reviews according to the topic of their complaint.
    2. For each main complaint, synthesize all of the reviewers’ comments into single complaint you can address.
    3. Also include the full text of the relevant comments from each reviewer, so your co-authors can check that your summary is complete.  Label each quote with the reviewer it came from.
    4. Send out the summary to your co-authors.  
  7. Draft a response to each of the high-level points.  Know the word limit, but worry about sticking to it in your initial draft.  We’ll trim it down.  Check it in to git as “rebuttal.txt”
  8. Send it to your co-authors.  It should go out no more than 12 waking hours after the reviews become available.
  9. Iterate on the rebuttal with your co-authors.
  10. Make sure the rebuttal is submitted on time.  Commit to git.

After (hopefully) Acceptance

Celebrate!  Then get to work:

  1. You will receive the “author packet.”  Read it.
  2. Check for changes to the page limit.  The final paper can often be longer.
  3. Know the deadline for the final version.
  4. Email your co-authors with the due date, the new page limit, and any other important details from the author packet.
  5. Add the authors to the paper and reformat the paper to meet the specifications, and check it in.
  6. Add an “Acknowledgements” section.  Ask your co-authors (and especially your advisor) who should be in it.
  7. Take care of any paperwork (e.g., copyright forms) that need to be printed/signed/faxed. 
  8. Take the lead on getting the paper into camera-ready shape (a whole topic in itself).
  9. Do not submit the camera ready with your advisor’s approval.  The camera-ready deadline is soft, and once your submit, your paper is set in stone.  You will get increasingly frantic emails about how you need to submit.  Forward them to your advisor.

And That’s It

Now, go get started on your talk…