It is now common practice to use electronic submissions for conferences, workshops, and journals. Usually, people can send their submissions by electronic mail. While, compared to mailing hard copies, this is a big step forward, it can still be quite cumbersome to maintain administration. In addition, the collection, maintenance and comparison of reviews by the program committee chair can also become quite tedious, if not cumbersome, due to the large volume of materials, even if they are emailed.
A very important point for conference organizations is that using CyberChair will save them a lot of money on copying documents and sending them to reviewers (which may open the field for delegating the management of the submission and review process - see below).
In short, CyberChair fully supports all activities related to the review process: submission of abstracts and papers (ready to print), assignment of reviewers (based on reviewers' preferences and experience), review submission process, acceptance and rejection notifications, preparation of proceedings (according to Springer-Verlag procedure) and abstracts for the conference website and program brochure. It was first developed for ECOOP'97 and has since been expanded based on new ideas and suggestions and comments from its users (chairs, reviewers and presenters). The following is an overview of the activities that CyberChair supports or implements.
CyberChair is based on the paper Identify the Champion, an organisational pattern language for programme committees, by Professor Oscar Nierstrasz (University of Berne, Switzerland). CyberChair's functionality is described in detail in a paper, which is titled CyberChair: A Web-Based Groupware Application to Facilitate the Paper Reviewing Process. Jean-Guy Schneider, Markus Lumpe and Oscar Nierstrasz describe CyberChair in Agent Coordination via Scripting Languages, Chapter 6 of the book Coordination of Internet Agents: Models, Technologies and Applications, Andrea Omicini, Fanco Zambonelli, Matthias Klusch and Robert Tolksdorf (Eds.), Springer, March 2001 (section 6.4.1, page 168).
Below is a description of the latest version of CyberChair. You may also want to take a look at 2 posters: an overview (pdf, 140 Kb) and a picture containing screenshots (pdf, 1.71 Mb). The original poster is in B1 format, so you may need to zoom in to read all details.
| You may try a demonstration version of CyberChair, by acting as:
- an author. This only allows submission of abstracts. The submission form in phase 2 is the same as the submission form in phase 1, except that authors must use it to upload their full paper file. To avoid 'pollution' of the demo data, uploading of files has been blocked.
- a reviewer. Use the first and last name (in lowercase) as login and password, respectively. You can submit reviews and find out what happens. Please put/leave the 'Would you like to receive a copy of your review per e-mail?' at 'No', because each 'reviewer' has been assigned a bogus email address, which will bounce. Please note that when you click on a paper number, this causes files to be copied, and generation of links to those files. Depending on how busy our webserver is, the copying may not be completed before you click on a link. Just retry a few seconds later if this happens.
- a chair. Use chair/chair as login & password combination. You will see a list of overviews that are available to the chair. These overviews are currently updated at 5 minutes before the hour.
Authors can submit their abstracts and papers using the web (upload). CyberChair provides web pages for reviewers to indicate their preferences on the papers they wish to review. Based on the reviewers' preferences and experience, CyberChair calculates a proposal for the chair in which as many reviewer preferences are respected as possible, provided that all papers are assigned to an equal number of reviewers (so even papers that did not get preferences) and that all reviewers are assigned an equal number of papers as far as possible. If done by hand, assigning jobs is usually time-consuming.
Each reviewer receives a personal, password-protected web page that contains links to the papers he or she has been assigned to review, so they can download them. Reviews can be submitted via a web page or completed offline and sent via e-mail. After submitting a review, reviewers can read other reviewers' reviews and prepare for the PC meeting. Reviewer pages are regenerated frequently to reflect changes (e.g., conflicting reviews). Downloading of articles by reviewers can begin as soon as the articles are submitted. There is no need to wait for the submission process to complete.
The level of agreement among reviewers is indicated on each reviewer's home page by a color scheme. When the level of agreement differs too much, the reviewers and the chair can devote special attention, even before the PC meeting. Reviews can be updated.
The review process can be monitored by the chairperson. The papers are evaluated using the highest and lowest grade assigned by the reviewers (A to D), as described in the above document.
Once the program committee has met and the papers have been selected, comments (anonymous) can be automatically sent to the authors.
CyberChair provides direct reflection on submitted reviews (for easy comparison with other reviewers' opinions), without interference from the maintainer.
In addition, there is support for trial preparation. The Table of Contents and Index of Authors are generated automatically. The resulting TeX file conforms to the Springer editor's instructions. Other formats will be included in future versions of CyberChair.
Support is also available for preparing proceedings (using the format required by Springer Verlag, the publisher of ECOOP's proceedings).
The result is a significant reduction in the workload of the program chair and the ability to instantly submit author information, articles, and reviews electronically. Although CyberChair is not something you can sit on (for that see www.cyberchair.com), when you are program chairperson you can sit back, relax and watch the submission and review process progress. All you have to do is prepare the meeting with the PC, write the acceptance and rejection messages, and prepare the process. CyberChair takes care of the rest.
CyberChair is written in the Python programming language. It is known to work in versions 1.5.2, 2.0.1, and 2.1.3, although the latter may cause deprication warnings (2.1 does not, while 2.2.1 certainly does) (deprication warnings indicate that certain language constructs may no longer be supported in future versions of the language).
Until about March 2000, CyberChair was regularly updated to include new ideas and suggestions from users. Thereafter, only bug fixes were made. The version currently available for download was introduced for ECOOP 2000. Other conferences and workshops using CyberChair(d) are available in an overview.
If you would like to use CyberChair, which is free software (GNU General Public License), please fill out the customization form. If you would like to use CyberChair, but prefer not to have problems with the installation and customization of CyberChair (and use the latest and best version of CyberChairPRO, which is easier to use, has more tools, and simplified versions of existing tools), you might consider delegating the organization of the presentation and review process to a spin-off company that specializes in managing this process, created by the author of CyberChair: Borbala Online Conference Services.
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