Q: How are papers reviewed for the main program?

A: FAccT uses mutually-anonymous (often called “double-blind”) peer review, a process that is widely employed across scientific fields. In mutually-anonymous review, authors are not told the identity of their reviewers and vice versa. This allows the reviewers to focus on the content of a scientific paper, rather than for instance the prestige of the authors or institutions involved. Our full review process is described in our Call for Papers.

Q: Who decides what papers appear in the program?

Each paper is assigned to an “Area Chair”, an experienced member of the FAccT scholarly community who is responsible for overseeing the reviews, facilitating a discussion between reviewers, and making a recommendation as to whether to accept or reject that paper. The final set of selected papers is determined by the Program Chairs, considering factors such as the overall capacity and disciplinary mix of the program. The Program Chairs, Area Chairs, and their affiliations are enumerated in the conference committee list.

Q: Who reviews papers for the main program?

Most reviews come from members of the Program Committee, a group of volunteer researchers and practitioners from the FAccT community who review and discuss papers to inform the final acceptance decisions. These volunteers are recruited and managed by the conference’s Area Chairs, who in turn are recruited and managed by the conference’s Program Chairs. Sometimes a paper will also be reviewed by external reviewers recruited specifically to inform consideration of a particular paper when not enough reviews have been submitted or the paper would benefit from a very specific set of expertise. All reviewers are bound by the same ethical obligations, including confidentiality.

Q: Are reviewers ever able to infer the authors of a paper they are reviewing?

Reviewers are sometimes able to make educated guesses as to the authors of a paper they are evaluating based on the content of the paper. Reviewers can also encounter pre-submission drafts of the papers they are assigned to review (e.g. on arXiv), but reviewers are asked not to make any efforts to determine author identities and are asked to disclose when they are submitting their reviews if they believe they were able to infer author identity. Our full review process is described in our Call for Papers.

Q: Do conference sponsors have any say over the review process or conference program?

A: Absolutely not. As described in our sponsorship policy, sponsoring institutions have no input into the program and are required to provide only unrestricted funds.

As is the case in most fields, individual scientists employed by sponsoring institutions do take part in the review process, but no reviewer can review a paper of a colleague working at the same institution (or manage that paper as an Area or Program chair), in addition to a long list of additional restrictions for avoiding conflicts of interests (see below).

Q: How are conflicts-of-interest handed in the review process?

Conflicts-of-interest are handled with great care, like is the case for nearly all computing publication venues. FAccT uses the definition of conflicts-of-interest provided by the Association for Computing Machinery (“ACM”), the largest computing professional society. One consequence of this policy is that submitted papers are not reviewed by people who share an employer with any of the paper’s authors. More generally, people who share an employer with any of the paper's authors are not involved in the decision process from that paper; they do not review it, and if they are Area Chairs or Program Chairs, they are recused from the decision process for that paper.

Q: Are the authors of a paper allowed to post online or share the paper when it is under review?

Yes. See the Call for Papers (“Dual Submission Policy”).

Q: Are FAccT reviewers allowed to disclose to non-reviewers the contents of a paper they are reviewing?

Absolutely not. As per section 1.7 of the ACM Code of Ethics (Honor Confidentiality), any such disclosure would be a major violation of professional ethics in computing. The program chairs, with support from the Executive Committee and ACM as needed, will investigate any violations of this principle.

Q: Which fields are welcome at FAccT?

ACM FAccT is an “interdisciplinary conference focused on computing systems”. This means the conference is both a home for computer scientists working in areas of interest to the conference, and also social scientists, lawyers, activists, humanities scholars, and many others who are doing the same. See the conference's strategic plan for more on this topic (the strategic plan was approved by the Steering Committee in early 2019). The TL;DR is that everyone is welcome.

Q: Is FAccT the same thing as FAT*?

Yes. The conference changed its name after the 2020 conference to support greater inclusion. It chose the new name after a year-long process that involved input from the community and an extensive auditing phase. See the conference’s Twitter feed for more.

Q: What do the different chairs and committees do?

The Program Chairs are responsible for organizing the scientific program of a particular year of the conference and managing the overall review process, and the General Chairs organize that year’s conference as a whole. The Executive Committee oversees the ongoing management of the conference series from year to year. The Program Chairs consult with the General Chairs and Executive Committee on goals and processes for the technical program, but GCs and EC are not involved in decisions on individual papers (except in their individual capacity when a GC or an EC member is also an area chair or a member of the program committee). The Conference Bylaws provide full details.