A Companion document to the ISWC 2014 Call for Participation

This guide describes the format, deadlines and other relevant information for submissions to ISWC 2014. Authors submitting material to ISWC 2014 should use this guide to discover how the review process works, and hence how to write more successful submissions.


This document is a modified (with permission) version of the UIST 2011 author guide. It was updated in October 2011 by Daniel Ashbrook for the ISWC 2012 Author Guide and slightly updated by 2013's TPC chairs to reflect the publishing by ACM in March 2013. For this version only references to the year 2013 and dates were removed.


ISWC features papers, demos, and posters, as described in the Call for Participation. While the material in this guide is primarily oriented towards paper authors, its general emphasis on quality and stringent review is also applicable to authors of demo and poster submissions. Accepted papers will be presented during technical sessions at the conference and published in the conference proceedings.

ISWC Requires Novel Manuscripts

Paper submissions must not have been published previously. A paper is considered to have been previously published if it has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal or meeting proceedings that is reliably and permanently available afterward in print or electronic form to non-attendees, irrespective of the language of that publication. This includes papers that are reviewed only as abstracts, but are published as a complete paper. Works presented only as conference abstracts or talks but not involving a publication are considered as novel manuscripts.

ISWC Supports Sharing Preliminary Work

ISWC sees significant value in sharing early work through posters,demos, and informal venues. Indeed, ISWC strongly encourages the submission of exciting, early research as an ISWC poster or demo. Sharing preliminary research through these short, lightly reviewed venues does not inhibit subsequent publication at ISWC-provided that the ISWC submission makes a contribution beyond (i.e. provides more or newer information than) the previous, shorter document.

Non peer-reviewed documents such as theses and tech reports are not considered prior publications, and thus do not preclude submission of a paper on the same topic by the same authors. Prior work should, of course, be referenced appropriately. ISWC authors are welcome to post information and videos about their work online while submissions are under review; sharing research online does not constitute prior publication or otherwise affect the ISWC review process.

Concurrent Submission is Prohibited

A paper identical or substantially similar (or even a subset or superset) in content to one submitted to ISWC should not be simultaneously under consideration at another conference or journal during the entire duration of the ISWC review process (i.e., from the submission deadline until the notification of decisions are emailed to authors). This restriction applies even if the overlap in review timelines between ISWC and another venue is just a few days or a few hours, and even if it is your intention to withdraw the submission from the other venues as soon as it is accepted by one of them. This restriction also applies even if the other venue allows simultaneous submission. We will make every effort to identify simultaneous submissions, and ISWC reviewers are often familiar with the papers under review at other related conferences and journals; as such, submissions that are substantially similar run the risk of being rejected by ISWC and the other venues on grounds of duplication alone.

Revision for Journals is Encouraged

ISWC often partners with journals to encourage the submission of revised and extended versions of highly-regarded papers for further publication. For ISWC, selected papers might be invited to submit to the journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing after it has been presented at the conference.

Anonymous submission process

Paper submissions are anonymous.

What does anonymous mean for ISWC submissions? Primarily, it means that submissions must remove all author and institutional information from the title and header area of the first page of the paper.

Furthermore, all references must remain intact. If you previously published a paper and your current submission builds on that work, the reference-with authors-should appear in the references. Submission should not have blank references (e.g., "12. REMOVED FOR REVIEWING").

We encourage authors to refer to their previous work in the third person. Further suppression of identity in the body of the paper, while encouraged, is left to the authors' discretion.

Why did ISWC adopt this particular strategy of lightweight anonymization? ISWC has a long tradition of excellent, thoughtful reviewing. This policy seeks to balance two goals. The first goal is to emphasize for all parties involved that reviews assess the content of a submission, not its authors. This is why names must be omitted from the masthead. The second goal is to encourage papers that clearly explain the research. Sometimes doing so requires (at least implicitly) disclosing information about the authors or an institution. This is why anonymization within the body of the paper is encouraged, but at the authors' discretion. If you have comments or questions about this policy, please email the ISWC PC chairs.

The Reviewing Process

The Papers Committee and a set of external reviewers, both consisting of recognized experts, will review submitted papers. Then, at their meeting, the committee will select those papers to be presented at ISWC.

The Committee will using the following process:

  1. In the week following the submission deadline, the Papers Chairs will assign each submitted paper to a primary reviewer who is a member of the paper committee. Papers that are inappropriate may be rejected during this assignment process, without being sent to a primary reviewer. Papers will normally be rejected at this stage only if they are clearly off-topic for ISWC, or if they are discovered to have been published previously or to have been submitted simultaneously to another conference or journal.
  2. The primary reviewers may, upon conferring with the Technical Papers Chairs, recommend a paper to be rejected without additional review. A paper will normally be rejected at this stage only if it falls into one of the categories listed in phase one, but this fact was not detected during the initial paper assignment. It is possible, although unlikely, that a paper may also be rejected at this stage if it solves a problem that is known to be already solved; or if it does not cite (and the authors seem unaware of) important prior work on the same problem and doesn't address how it is different; or if it has no evaluation via proof, experiment, or analysis; or if it is solving a problem sufficiently minor that the senior reviewers do not believe that it belongs in the program; or if it addresses a topic that is clearly outside the purview of ISWC.
  3. The primary reviewers distribute each paper to at least two additional experts, called secondary reviewers. The primary and secondary reviewers all write full reviews. Thus, at least three reviews are written for each paper that has not been rejected during phases one and two. The primary reviewer knows the identities of the authors of the papers, but the secondary reviewers do not.
  4. After the primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews, any paper for which all three reviews fall below a rejection threshold will be rejected. These rejected papers will not be discussed at the PC meeting.
  5. The full papers committee meets, to determine acceptance or rejection of each paper. In cases where a consensus on a paper was not reached during the pre-meeting discussion phase, additional committee members may read the paper and write short reviews, and their evaluations will be taken into account in the decision.
  6. After all reviews are complete, reviews will be distributed to authors.

Possible Outcomes for a Paper

Email notifications of the Technical Papers Committee's decisions will place each paper in one of the following three categories:

  1. Rejected
  2. Conditionally accepted for presentation in its current format. Papers in this category go through the conditional acceptance process (below) to verify that any changes required by the primary reviewer have been made.
  3. Conditionally accepted for presentation in a reduced format. Sometimes, the program committee will agree that a paper has ideas worthy of presentation and publication, but that the paper is too long to justify acceptance in its current form. In such cases, the committee will recommend acceptance in a shorter form; for example, a long paper may be accepted as a short paper or poster, or a short paper may be accepted as a poster. Papers in this category go through the conditional acceptance process (below) to ensure that final paper conforms to the quality standards of the conference.

Conditional Acceptance

Conditionally accepted papers undergo a second reviewing process, in which a referee (a member of the Papers Committee) verifies that the final version of the paper is acceptable (that any required changes have been made, and that other changes made by the authors, perhaps in response to reviewer comments, have not compromised the paper in any way). This second and final stage determines the final acceptance status of all papers. The referees' decisions are final. Papers that do not satisfy the referees in the second stage of reviewing and/or that are not uploaded in final form by the final deadline, together with the original or revised versions of the submitted supplementary material, will be rejected. This process (also referred to as "shepherding") is often an intensive process where the PC member judging the paper (also referred to as "shepherd") makes iterative comments until the paper has become acceptable for publication, or until the shepherd finds that the authors cannot make the final deadline in time. All accepted papers will appear in the conference proceedings.

Review Criteria

A good ISWC submission will result in both a respectable document for the proceedings and a good conference talk. As an author, you should ask yourself the following questions before writing your paper. Submissions that do not provide good answers to these questions are unlikely to be accepted.

What problem are you solving?

There is no point in publishing a paper unless it presents a solution to a problem. Try to state all your constraints and assumptions. This is an area where it can be invaluable to have someone not intimately familiar with your work read the paper. Include a crisp description of the problem in the abstract and try to suggest it in the title. The choice of senior reviewer for the paper is based almost entirely on the answer to this question.

What were the previous solutions?

What are the relevant published works in your problem area? What deficiencies in their solutions are you trying to overcome? How does the new solution differ from previously published results? Don't expect the reviewers to know this information without your telling them in the paper, as they are unlikely to remember the precise details of all the relevant literature. Make specific comparisons between your work and that described in the references; don't just compile a list of vaguely related papers.

How well did you solve your problem?

Based on your problem statement, what did you accomplish? You are responsible for proving that the problem is solved. Include pictures, statistics, or whatever is required to make your case. If you find this part of the paper difficult to write, perhaps the work is not yet finished and the paper should be deferred until next year.

What does this work contribute to the field?

What are your new ideas or results? If you don't have at least one new idea, you don't have a publishable paper. Can your results be applied anywhere outside of your project? If not, the paper is probably too special-purpose for ISWC. On the other hand, beware of trying to write a paper with too large a scope.

Does the paper have enough detail?

One of the ways ISWC papers are evaluated are through the question, "Does the paper contain enough detail to replicate the research?" Be sure your reviewers can answer this question in the affirmative. Provide sufficient detail about hardware, software, study design, and prior work your research is based on for someone knowledgeable in the field to have a good chance of reproducing your system, application, or results.

Also, be sure to state your assumptions. If you describe something as "important", be certain that the reader will understand why you consider it so.

Is the paper complete?

The question that generates the most discussion at the program committee meeting is whether a paper is complete. If the paper presents an algorithm or technique, an experienced practitioner in the field should be able to implement it using the paper and its references. If the paper claims to present a faster or more efficient way of implementing an established technique, it must contain enough detail to redo the experiment on competing implementations. When you quote numbers, be sure that they do not lie; state clearly whether they were measured, simulated, or derived, and how you did the measurements, simulations, or derivations. For example, CPU time measurements are meaningless unless the reader is told the machine and configuration on which they were obtained.

Does the paper contain too much information?

Many large, poorly written papers contain a good paper trying to get out. It is the author's responsibility, not the reviewer's, to discover this paper and turn it into the submission. If you have solved a single, practical problem, don't try to generalize it for the purposes of publication. If you have a formal theory or elaborate architecture, don't include all the vagaries of the implementation unless they are critical to the utility of the theory. Don't include the contents of your user's manual; instead, describe the model or functionality achieved. If you tried several things that didn't work before arriving at a solution, only include the failed attempts if their solutions can shed light on similar problems that other researchers might face. You should assume your audience has a working knowledge of basic concepts relevant to wearable computing, as well as access to the major journals in computer science, electrical engineering, and so forth. A short conference paper can only present a few concise ideas well.

Can this paper be presented well?

While ISWC papers are judged primarily as technical papers, some consideration is given to how suitable the topic is for a conference presentation. Think of how you would present your ideas, and how big the interested audience is likely to be. Papers that have a small number of concisely stated new ideas and that are visually interesting tend to appeal to a large audience and be easy to present. As recent conferences clearly show, these criteria do not eliminate papers that have taxonomies or strong theoretical content, or appeal to a specialized audience, if they contain significant new ideas.

Will the paper print well?

The ISWC proceedings are typically printed in black and white, and often reviewers and readers who later download the PDF will print on a non-color printer. Ensure that your graphs and figures are still legible in black and white, and printed at a normal size.

Is your paper about activity recognition?

Activity recognition papers have a long history at ISWC, and as such, deserve a section all their own. In order to be novel enough for publication, a paper about activity recognition must significantly raise the bar over prior research. If your paper involves affixing sensors to a person, training a recognizer, and testing said recognizer, consider carefully whether your paper is different than previously-published work. Simply applying known techniques to a new domain is not enough, unless the new domain presents challenges that significantly change how the problem is approached or the techniques are applied.

Visit for instance this link for some exemplary activity recognition papers previously published at ISWC.

Systems And Applications Papers

Papers that present new algorithms, techniques, or hardware are the easiest to write and review. If the content is truly new and effective, and makes a significant contribution to the state of the art, the paper is likely to be accepted for ISWC. Equally valuable, but harder to write and evaluate, are papers that describe systems and applications. While the criteria above will be applied to all papers, here we offer some additional guidance for authors of systems and applications papers.


A systems paper may present a real system, either by a global survey of an entire system or by selective examination of specific themes embodied in the system. Alternatively, it may present the design for a system that includes ideas or techniques you feel are important to present to the technical community, even without an implementation. Make it obvious from the abstract and introduction which kind of paper yours is.

If a system has been implemented, include information about how it has been used and what this usage shows about the practical importance of the system. Do the users include anyone other than the authors? Do they depend on it for their work or do they just play with it? Have formal user studies been done and, if so, what are the results? While user testing is not required for ISWC papers, authors should be careful not to make unsubstantiated claims for systems which have not been tested. However, papers can say that the system "might be easier to use because . . ." or that "feature xxx is expected to make the system easier to use because . . .". Also, if the system has been implemented, including screenshots is vital to convincing readers and reviewers that the system is real. Do not fake or redraw screen shots; fakery is usually obvious and is a clear indication that the system is not real.

If the system is still being designed, it is most important to state the design criteria and constraints. Back up your decisions with references to similar systems that are already implemented, stating what problems you are solving or what solutions you are including in your design. Reviewers tend to be very skeptical of design-only papers, unless there are new ideas of obviously high quality.

It is very important that you clearly identify what is implemented and what is merely designed. Do so at the beginning of the paper, not the end.

The paper should emphasize the novel aspects of the system, what underlying themes are present, what problems were anticipated/encountered in building the system, and how the structure presented provides solutions to these problems. In general, avoid details that are only of interest to users of the system and concentrate on those that would be interesting to someone else building a similar system. Avoid sweeping claims, especially for paper designs. Roy Levin and David Redell's article " How (and How Not) to Write a Good Systems Paper , although oriented towards operating systems, is highly recommended for further guidelines on writing systems papers.


An application paper presents an application area and a problem in that area that benefited from innovative user interface techniques. The techniques used don't have to be unique, but their use must not be completely obvious. The author should concentrate on what was learned, and how well the user interface works compared to previous techniques for solving the same problem. As in a systems paper, the intended audience should be other user-interface developers, not the end user. Successful applications papers provide some general insight into the use of interactive techniques to solve problems.

Be Kind To Your Reviewers

As previously stated, an ISWC paper is accepted or rejected based on the ratings it receives from the reviewers. Paper reviewing is a volunteer activity; the only benefit that the reviewers get is the knowledge that they have contributed to the field. In many ways, the success of the technical program is more a function of the quality of the reviewers than the work of the program chair or the program committee. We are lucky to have excellent reviewers for this conference and paper authors should be considerate of them.

Many of the senior people in this field receive a large number of papers to review each year. With this in mind, authors should think about their reviewers when they are preparing their papers. In the following paragraphs we provide some advice on how to prepare your paper so it makes the best impression on a reviewer.

The most important point is to put a reasonable amount of effort into the production of your paper. When the author appears to have put little effort or thought into the production of a paper, the reviewer is not motivated to read the paper carefully and produce a good review. There is no excuse for spelling mistakes in papers, since spelling checkers are now widely available. A large number of misspelled words in a paper just indicates to the reviewer that the author didn't care enough about his or her paper to run the spelling checker on it. With this attitude on the part of the author, why should the reviewer bother doing a good job? The same goes for missing references, mislabeled figures, and other trivial problems that could be caught by thorough proofreading. Don't expect reviewers to read your paper carefully if you are not willing to read it carefully first.

If your native language is not English, you can greatly increase your chances of an acceptance by getting a native English speaker to proofread your paper before submission. Every year, many papers are rejected because reviewers had a difficult time understanding the ideas in the paper due to difficult-to-read wording.

ISWC reviewers will have several papers to read in a short period of time. Therefore, you should write your paper so that it is easy to read. Try to write your paper so it flows smoothly. A paper that is easy to read will usually get a higher rating.

Use the active voice. While many publication venues in the hard sciences often encourage passive voice ("a system was developed"), papers using the active voice ("we developed a system") are much easier to read and understand. An good resource describing the differences between active and passive voice, and how to check and modify your writing, can be found at http://www.lavc.edu/wcweb/activepassive.html

Has this paper been submitted to a conference before and been rejected? If this is the case, think carefully before you submit it again. There must have been some reason why the paper was rejected. (Yes, we all blame bad reviewing, but there must also have been some other reason.) Read the reviewers' comments and try to determine what they would like to see changed, and then make those changes. There is a surprisingly good chance that a resubmitted paper will be reviewed again by a reviewer who gave it a poor rating before (or who recalled the deliberations over your previous submission in a program committee meeting of another conference). If the paper has not been changed to reflect that reviewer's comments, it is likely that your paper will get an even lower rating. Yes, sometimes the reviewer's comments are wrong (reviewers are only human after all), but this usually implies that you need to write more clearly or provide more evidence for your claims. Each of us has received what we originally considered to be bad reviews on some paper, but after calm consideration (weeks, or even months, later) realized that these reviews pointed out real faults in the paper. If a hand-picked reviewer is confused about what you are saying, the chances are good that the average reader will also be confused.

A highly recommended technique is to write the paper, and let it sit on your desk for a week or two. Then go back and read the paper as if you were a reviewer who doesn't know the author. While you are writing a paper, you are too closely tied to the work to be able to criticize it effectively. After a break of a week or two, you will be much more objective and may see organizational problems that weren't evident when you were actively working on the paper.

A Final Note

The single most important thing you can do to improve the odds of having your paper accepted is to have your own colleagues do an "in house" review of it before you submit it to the conference for formal review. That requires beginning far enough before the deadline that you have a protective cushion in your schedule, but remember that the majority of ISWC papers are rejected. It's far better to start a week or two earlier and get your paper accepted, than it is to get rejected and feel as if you wasted your time.


Each paper must be submitted as a single PDF file in ACM two-column format. Full papers must be no longer than eight pages, and short papers no longer than four pages. If you want to format-by-example, you can download a latex template (zipped) or doc template, properly formatted. Submissions for review must be in the final conference format, except they are allowed to have page numbers so the reviewers can more easily refer to portions.

Written submissions must be in PDF format, and video submissions (see below) must be in one of the approved file formats. Submission details can be found at the call page.

Remember that paper submissions are anonymous.

It is to the author's advantage to make the reviewer's job as easy as possible. A well-written paper containing useful illustrations will appeal to reviewers. Given that many of the papers presented at ISWC are about systems, it is not surprising that most accepted papers include pictures or a video to support the ideas presented. It is not necessary to have the ultimate picture or the final, polished version of the video for review. However, the reviewers are much more likely to prefer papers containing some indication that the author's claims are supported than those that leave the final results to the reviewer's imagination.

Conference Presentation

An author of each accepted paper is expected to give a conference presentation (exact length requirements will be provided soon after notification of acceptance). Authors should include a note with their submission if they are planning anything for the presentation that is not obvious from the document; for example, an author may point out that there will be a video or live demonstration at the conference showing the results described in a paper. Authors of accepted submissions will be sent detailed instructions for preparing their conference presentation.

Supporting Video Material

Many submissions to ISWC can benefit from further illustration than is possible in a static paper. Therefore, authors are encouraged to include video material with their papers. The optional digital video that you include with your submission will be used only for confidential internal distribution to the reviewers. Video supporting paper submissions should be anonymous. Authors should make video material short and accessible without being misleading. A video should give the same impression as a live demo. For example, a long computational pause can only be removed if its absence is made obvious through techniques such as a visual dissolve and a clear indication (verbal and/or visual) of how much time was removed. Videos about technology mock-ups should be clearly indicated as such. Mock-ups should be avoided when the video is about an implemented system.

The supporting video accompanying a submission for review is used only to help reviewers evaluate the submission; accepted paper authors will have the chance to submit a higher-quality video for the electronic conference proceedings. Acceptable videos can be made without expensive production or special effects. A camcorder, tripod, and some planning can help guide the viewer's attention. A smooth zoom into the interaction area and then out to the full screen is often much more effective than a static screen shot. Show how the user manipulates input devices if that is relevant. The UIST website has a nice guide describing how to make good videos.

Although a video may help the reviewers understand your paper, your paper must stand alone without the video: although it would be nice if they did, not every reviewer will watch your video. On the other hand, the video need not be stand alone, because the reviewers will have the paper. However, the paper must be understandable without the video, and the paper should not include any references to the video. You can assume that everyone who has the video has the paper, but not vice versa.

Rest assured that we will not duplicate for public distribution any video included with your initial submission. Those files will only be used during the review process, and then all copies received by ISWC will be destroyed or deleted.

Video Proceedings

All authors are encouraged to use video when appropriate as part of their conference presentation or to accompany their paper in the proceedings. A high-quality master copy of each video file should be sent to the proceedings chairs by the date indicated in the acceptance notifications for inclusion in the proceedings, which will be distributed to conference attendees only. Videos will be distributed along with the proceedings. Information will be provided later about the video formats that will be accepted. As with videos submitted during the review process, it is not necessary for the videos to stand alone-it is assumed that everyone who sees the video will also have access to the paper proceedings.

The authors must be prepared to sign an ACM copyright transfer form before the submission is published.

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