Topic: How to Use the Program Committee Online Forum (PC Online Forum)  (Read 4821 times)

(A German version of this article is available.)


ConfTool Pro offers a PC Online Forum as a discussion platform for the program committee. Members of the program committee (PC Members) can discuss there about acceptance or rejection of debatable submissions online after the review process. It also serves as a decision tool for the Chairs.

PC Members get an overview of all submissions with the review results in the PC Online Forum. When they access the reviews of other reviewers in the PC Online Forum, they can also see the internal review details including remarks from authors to the program committee, best paper recommendations or familiarity of the reviewers with the topics in order to have an online discussion and to vote for or against acceptance. Papers with personal conflict of interest are not shown to them. PC Members can create messages for other members with their opinion on whether the submission should be accepted, including a personal comment (see image 1).


Settings for the PC Online Forum

In order to use the PC Online Forum module, please go to:
Overview => Settings => Main Settings for the Review Process
… and scroll down to the section "Settings for Online Forum for Review Discussion", enable the module and set a start and end date (see image 2 - please note that you can find the same setting in "Conference Phases and Deadlines").

You can choose from several display options regarding anonymity using "Show Names of Message Authors". Here you can select who can access the names of the authors of the messages posted in the PC Online Forum. If the names are not shown, the ID of the reviewer for this submission or (if the person was not assigned as reviewer to this paper) the user ID is shown.

If the files uploaded by authors are of importance also during the discussions in the PC Online Forum, activate the option "Uploaded Files Available in Program Committee Online Forum". If enabled, the PC Members can access all uploaded files in the PC Online Forum. Without this option, only abstracts and the other reviews are visible.

You can also let PC Members have access to rebuttals and review ratings in the PC Online Forum when you activate the option "Rebuttals and/or Review Ratings Available in Program Committee Online Forum". If enabled, PC Members can access all rebuttals and/or review ratings from authors in the PC Online Forum. This additional information could help the committee to make the best possible decision.

If you enable the option "Link "Review Results" Page with Online Forum" and messages in the PC Online Forum already exist, the average votes and the number of messages are shown in the right-hand column of the page "Results of the Reviewing Procedure & Decision About Acceptance". They will be shown as long as the status has not yet been decided on (see image 3).

If you activate the option "Enter Votes with Forum Messages", you allow users of the PC Online Forum to select a vote ("Accept", "Maybe accept", "No vote / undetermined", "Maybe reject", "Reject") with every message they create (see image 1). All votes will be aggregated and visualized here:
Overview => Submissions & Reviews => Results of the Reviewing Procedure & Decision About Acceptance
This can facilitate the decision making process (see image 3).

The option "Close Discussion after Decision" can be used to close any discussions in the PC Online Forum on a submission for PC Members after an acceptance status other than "On Hold" has been chosen by the chairs.
This is only true for acceptance statuses for which the option "Show Results" has been enabled here:
Overview => Settings => Manage Acceptance Statuses => Edit Acceptance Status

You can also use the PC Online Forum for a slightly different purpose: the discussion about the presentations that have already been assigned to sessions in the ConfTool conference agenda. To use this function, please activate the option "Link Conference Agenda with Online Forum". It will show links on the ConfTool conference agenda page for each presentation and allows chairs or PC Members to write internal comments regarding the presentations.
Please note: We recommend disabling the options "Close Discussion after Decision" and "Enter Votes with Forum Messages" (i.e. set them to "No") when you use this function.

PC Online Forum for Different Submission Types / Tracks

You can enable or disable the PC Online Forum for each submission type / conference track according to your needs.
Only submissions of the selected submission types / conference tracks will be available in the PC Online Forum.

Please go to:
Overview => Settings => Manage Submission Types / Conference Tracks
… and select and edit the corresponding entry.
Scroll down to the section "Review Options" and enable the option "Online Forum for the Program Committee".

Click on the button "Save Changes" to update your setting.

Access of Reviewers to the PC Online Forum

You can also allow reviewers to discuss the papers assigned to them for evaluation in the PC Online Forum. You will have to activate the phase for the PC Online Forum, too. However, reviewers will never be able to access submissions in the PC Online Forum that have not been assigned to them, unlike PC Members, who have access to all submissions.

To use these options, please go to:
Overview => Settings => Main Settings for the Review Process

In the section “Access to Reviews of Co-Reviewers? / Access of Reviewers to Online Forum?” you have a number of options for reviewers. You can choose between general access to co-reviews of the same submission, access to co-reviews only after having entered a review and access to co-reviews and PC Online Forum after review submission. For all three options you can choose between anonymous and non-anonymous settings (see image 5).

Furthermore, you can change the settings for anonymity for messages sent via the PC Online Forum in the section “Show Names of Message Authors”. By default, reviewers do not have access to the PC Online Forum. If you give them access, reviewer names are usually not shown.