As a reviewer for SIGGRAPH, you have the responsibility to protect the confidentiality of the ideas represented in the papers you review. SIGGRAPH submissions are by their nature not published documents. The work is considered new and proprietary by the authors; otherwise they would not have submitted it.
Of course, authors ultimately intend to publish their work; however, many of the submitted papers will end up being rejected from this year’s conference. Thus, it is likely that the paper you have in your hands will be refined further and submitted to another journal or conference, or even to SIGGRAPH next year. Oftentimes the work is considered confidential by the author’s employers: these organizations do not consider sending a paper to SIGGRAPH for review to constitute a public disclosure. Consequently, you must abide by a few simple rules to protect the ideas in the submissions you receive:
As a reviewer of a SIGGRAPH paper, you have a certain power over the reviewing process. It is important for you to stay clear of any conflict of interest. There should be absolutely no question about the impartiality of reviews. Thus, if you are assigned a paper for which your review would create a possible conflict of interest, you should return the paper immediately and not submit a review. Conflicts of interest include (but are not limited to) situations in which:
The submission review process strives to prevent most conflicts. But if you recognize the work or the author(s) and feel it could present a conflict of interest, send the paper back to the senior reviewer as soon as possible so they can find someone else to review it.
The paper publishing business at SIGGRAPH is very serious indeed: careers and reputations, as well as academic tenure decisions, often hinge on these publications; patent infringement cases have discussed whether something was considered novel enough to publish at SIGGRAPH.
This does not mean that we cannot have any fun in the paper sessions. But it does mean that we have a responsibility to be serious in the reviewing process. You should make an effort to do a solid and constructive review. This is obvious; but one of the complaints we have heard about the SIGGRAPH review process is that some reviews can be so sketchy that it looks like the reviewer did not even seem to take the time to read the paper carefully. A casual or flippant review of a paper on which the author has spent considerable time is not appropriate, and certainly not professional. In the long run, casual reviewing is a very damaging attack on the SIGGRAPH conference. There is no dishonor in being too busy to do a good review, or to realize that you have over-committed yourself and cannot review all the papers you agreed to review. But it is a big mistake to take on too much, and then not back out early enough to allow recovery. If you cannot do a decent job, give the paper back and say so. But please, do it early so that the senior reviewer has time to select another reviewer before the deadline.
Belittling or sarcastic comments are unnecessary in the reviewing process. The most valuable comments in a review are those that help the authors understand the shortcomings of their work and how they might improve it. Be respectful and carefully explain why you like or dislike a submission so the authors can learn from your expertise.
All reviewers are expected to maintain anonymity forever. In particular, it is never appropriate for reviewers to reveal themselves to the authors of an accepted paper, as this could be perceived as an attempt to curry favor. Requesting citations primarily to one’s own work may thwart anonymity, so it should be carefully considered.
Adherence to ethics makes the whole reviewing process indubitably more complicated and sometimes less efficient. But convenience, efficiency, and expediency are not good reasons to contravene ethics. It is precisely at those times when it would be easier or more efficient to bend the rules that it is most important to do the right thing. Ultimately, spending that energy and time is an investment in the long-term health of the technical papers sessions, the conference, and the entire community of computer graphics researchers.