Database Systems (TODS)


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Information and guidelines for reviewers

Referee Rights

ACM TODS recognizes that reviewing is a service to the profession. The Rights and Responsibilities in ACM Publishing lists an extensive collection of rights that ACM provides its reviewers, underscoring ACM's commitment to those who play a critical role in ensuring quality in its publications. ACM TODS guarantees all of those rights, and extends some of them. Specifically, reviewers can expect ACM TODS to do the following.

  • Not ask them to provide reviews for submissions that do not satisfy either stated publications requirements or which are obviously inappropriate for the publication. The TODS Editor-in-Chief checks every submission to ensure that it satisfies the stated publication requirements and is appropriate, and desk rejects those that are inappropriate.
  • Request them to review only submissions for which the editor feels they have expertise.
  • Strive to not overload referees with TODS reviews. Specifically, TODS will not expect referees to formally review more than one TODS paper in any twelve-month period.
  • Not routinely ask them to make up for delays introduced by other participants in the reviewing cycle.
  • Ask them if they are willing to review before the submission is sent to them. The paper's abstract and the deadline for the review will accompany this request.
  • Recognize that they have the right to decline a requested review, both before and after they have been sent a manuscript.
  • Allow a reasonable time for a review, at least two months for an initial formal review.
  • Maintain anonymity of reviews. TODS employs double-blind reviewing (see below for referee guidelines for double-blind reviewing). The identity of reviewers will not be revealed to the authors or to the other reviewers.
  • Acknowledge their efforts in the publication process, while maintaining confidentiality of which submissions they reviewed.
  • Inform them of the editorial decisions for the submission, including the author-visible portion of reviews. Sending reviewers all the reviews allows them to see what the other reviewers thought of the manuscript and allows them to calibrate future reviews.
  • Tell them who will see the reviews. The author-visible portion of reviews as well as the final editorial decision will be provided to the contact author as well as to the reviewers once an editorial decision has been made. No one else will be shown the reviews.
  • Recognize that reviewers own the copyright for their reviews.

There are some provisos and exceptions for these policies. Informal reviews and reviews of revised manuscripts can be quicker than two months. Revised papers should be reviewed by the same referees, and this review will probably occur within twelve months, but that will just extend the required interval before the next review. And referees are welcome to volunteer for more reviewing than the maximum of one formal review per year, if they wish.


Referee Guidelines

ACM TODS recognizes that reviewing is a service to the profession; this publication endeavors to treat reviewers with courtesy and respect. The TODS web site lists many guarantees that TODS provides reviewers.

Papers for the ACM Transactions on Database Systems (TODS) must be of high quality and fall within the scope of the journal. There are four main ingredients to an acceptable paper.

  1. The technical quality is high.
  2. The relevance to significant computations is high.
  3. Interest and novelty is high.
  4. The presentation is effective.

Few papers excel in all of these, but a substandard level in any is sufficient ground for rejection. Many papers require substantial revisions before acceptance, and reviewers should not hesitate to recommend that a paper be rejected pending changes that are required for completeness, correctness, or to substantially improve clarity.

More specific criteria apply to papers presenting theoretical results, which has been a particular issue in distributed or parallel computing. ACM TODS does not accept papers that belong in more theoretical journals (e.g. JACM). This does not imply that all theoretical papers are to be rejected; rather it implies that theoretical papers that cannot establish their direct relevance to current issues in the development of computer systems will generally be rejected. An acceptable paper of this type should contain: (a) motivation and technical analysis of the method, (b) evidence of effectiveness and practicality, and (c) demonstration of superiority compared to alternative approaches. In addition, reviewers should be aware that because of the relative rarity with which such papers are accepted, the standards for originality and impact are unusually stringent in these cases

The following is a list of other considerations to be taken into account when reviewing a submission.

  1. TODS will publish outstanding papers which are "major value-added extensions" of papers previously published in conferences; that is, TODS will not automatically reject papers that are substantial extensions of previously published conference papers. These papers will go through the normal review process.

    The submitted manuscript should thoroughly consolidate the material, should extend it to be broader, and should more carefully cover related research. It should have at least 30% new material. The new material should be content material: For example, it should not just be straightforward proofs or performance figures that do not offer substantial, new insights. This affords an opportunity to describe the novel approach in more depth, to consider the alternatives more comprehensively, and to delve into some of the issues listed in the other paper as future work.
  2. TODS would like to foster closer fusion of theory and systems by strongly encouraging the authors of theory papers to indicate applications and implementation considerations/ consequences, and the authors of systems papers to indicate the use of existing theoretical results and to point to possible theoretical research issues. Please determine if the paper you review satisfies this criterion, and, if it does not, make notes for the authors and editor as to how the paper may be revised to meet the criterion.
  3. TODS would like to make papers it publishes more easily readable. TODS strongly encourages authors to include examples where appropriate and to make greater efforts to target their presentation to a broader audience than specialists doing current research in the topical areas of the papers. Please determine if the paper is readable. If it is not, suggest how it may be improved (e.g., by requesting illustrative examples, expanded discussions on key points that are not clear, etc.)
  4. TODS would like to discourage excessively long papers (the main body of a paper cannot exceed 45 double-spaced pages including figures, references, etc.) and unnecessary digressions even in shorter papers. This is to help the authors to focus on the most important aspects of their submission, to make it easier for the reviewers and readers, and to allow more papers to be published in any given issue. Please determine if the paper you review can be shortened without materially compromising the completeness and worthiness of the paper.
  5. In a similar vein, TODS now encourages shorter submissions, including even very short (say, five page) submissions. The primary criterion for acceptance is improving on the state-of-the-art in some significant way.
  6. TODS also publishes focused surveys. These should be deep and will sometimes be quite narrow, but would make a contribution to our understanding of an important area or subarea of databases, broadly defined. More general surveys that are intended for a broad-based Computer Science audience or surveys that may influence other areas of computing research should continue to go to ACM Computing Surveys. Brief surveys on recent developments in database research are more appropriate for SIGMOD Record. TODS surveys should be educational to database audiences by presenting a relatively well-established body of database research. Surveys can summarize prior literature on a theoretical or systems research topic, or can explain approaches implemented in commercial systems. A survey of the former type summarizes a literature on a particular subject, presenting a new way of understanding how the papers in this literature fit together. A survey of the latter type summarizes the best industrial art, and can be acceptable even if it represents no new contribution over what has been used in industry for years, if the paper's content is not to be found in the published literature.
  7. Consistent with the ACM Policy on Reviewer Anonymity, reviewers must maintain the confidentiality of reviewer identities, as well as the reviews themselves, that are communicated to them at any time.


Referee Guidelines for Double-Blind Reviewing

It is TODS policy to use double-blind reviewing for all papers, in which authors and reviewers are unaware of each other's identities. It is TODS policy that every submission should be judged solely on its own merits. The identity and affiliation of the authors should not influence, either positively or negatively, the evaluation of submissions to TODS. In particular, you are asked not to go to unusual lengths to try to discover the identity of the author. On the other hand, you should still be diligent in determining the contribution of the submission over previously-published work by the author or by others.

Authors have been given guidelines on how to approach double-blind reviewing. Please review the submission page to familiarize yourself with these guidelines. If authors have not made reasonable effort to conform to double-blind reviewing, the paper could be rejected. "Reasonable effort" means the author followed the guidelines in the submission page. Your ability to guess/discover an author's identity based on your past experience, extensive web search, non-obvious "clues" in the submitted paper, and other exploratory means are not necessarily grounds for rejection.

Should you need access to the material referenced by anonymous citations (those stating "details omitted due to double-blind reviewing"), say to judge the novelty requirement, simply notify the Associate Editor handling this paper and give your reason and the full citation will be revealed to you. If you have any other questions about double-blind reviewing, please also contact the Associate Editor.

More information can be found in the DBR FAQ.

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