With a conference the size of COLING, managing conflicts of interest in the reviewing process is a challenge. Below, we sketch our COI handling policy, in the interest of transparency. In all cases, our goals are to maintain the fairness and integrity of the double-blind review process while also making sure that our hard-working volunteer program committee members can still also submit to COLING.
reviewer <> author
Softconf will automatically COI any reviewers from the same institution as an author. In addition, in the bidding phase, we will ask reviewers to indicate any COIs that were not automatically caught. When ACs match reviewers to papers, this will be done so as to avoid COIs.
AC <> author
Any paper for which an AC has a COI (beyond being simply sharing affiliation) will be handled by rerouting the paper to another area. Here we’re talking about papers authored by ACs, their students, or other close collaborators. Since the areas are emergent (rather than strictly defined a priori) we anticipate it being relatively straightforward to find the area that is the next best match for all such papers. For papers authored by ACs themselves, this is relatively straightforward to detect. Beyond that, we will be asking ACs to identify any such COI papers as we assign papers to areas.
PC chair <> author
Perhaps the trickiest case is COIs involving the PC co-chairs ourselves. Neither of us are submitting our own papers to the COLING main conference. (Workshops, being handled entirely separately, are fair game in principle.) However, the fact that we’ve taken on this role shouldn’t prevent our students and other close collaborators from submitting to COLING. In this case, the entire process (including assignment to an area or possibly the “Special Circumstances” ACs, assignment to reviewers, and final accept/reject decision) will be overseen by our counterpart in conjunction the General Chair, Pierre Isabelle. This way, we still ensure that two people are present at every level of chairing.