3,000+ Submissions Received. Let the Reviewing Begin!

4 min readOct 8, 2020

Congratulations to all authors who successfully submitted to ICLR 2021! With a major crisis on our submission deadline, on top of the months-long pandemic, amid the stressful state of the world especially for our American colleagues, authors have contributed more than 3,000 final submissions, and they are available for your perusal on Openreview. As announced earlier on our website, ICLR 2021 will be fully virtual from May 4th to 8th, 2021, and while we are disappointed about not gathering in Austria, the virtual format offers access to a wider audience, and so we are looking forward to another great conference.

One major change in the submission process this year was the abstract submission. As ICLR grows rapidly every year, it is difficult to estimate the number of submissions. With an abstract deadline, we get a few more days to make sure we have enough area chairs and reviewers to handle the submissions we receive. Also, area chairs (ACs) get a head start on bidding on abstracts, and assigning ACs before reviewers allows ACs to make reviewer recommendations. That in turn allows us to assign reviewers to papers with more evidence: paper matching scores based on reviewer profiles, reviewers’ bids on papers, and AC recommendations. We hope that this new assignment process is an improvement through which we ensure that all papers are reviewed and meta-reviewed with the expertise and care that they deserve.

ICLR draws submissions from all over the world, and the unusual abstract (and full paper) submission time was in honor of the originally planned location of Vienna. This year, many authors, some more than others, were under additional stress, with the pandemic affecting many parts of the world and institutions providing different levels of support. We realize our colleagues in some Asian countries had to work with a deadline on one of their major holidays, and our colleagues in the Americas had to submit early in the morning. To all authors who faced challenges of one kind or another, we salute and appreciate your endeavors to make progress in representation learning research. And we will work toward being more supportive and inclusive of the diverse needs of the community in future ICLR conferences.

Now the important work of the reviewers and area chairs begins. This year we anticipated more submissions than last year and recruited over 400 area chairs and over 4,000 reviewers. These numbers are significantly higher than previous years, leading to a much lower reviewing load, and we are very grateful that so many have said yes to our invitation to serve. The process of their work can be seen in our diagram of the global review process, which is also available in the Reviewer Guide. New this year is the Code of Ethics, and the reviewers and area chairs are asked to flag any submissions that may violate the Code.

As you can see in the review process diagram, authors’ work does not end with submission. The upside is that you can make your paper stronger with additional work during the discussions. Reviewers will ask questions about your paper, requesting more explanation and sometimes even additional results. If you can anticipate what those comments and questions will be, you can prepare your answers and even revise your paper in advance. There may also be comments and questions from the general public (often other researchers) who are interested in your research. You can see the forums from ICLR 2020 to understand how the public discussions happen. You do not need to respond to every single question from them, but you can use the questions to clarify and highlight the important contributions of your paper. We try to make sure the process of peer-review and discussion is an overall positive experience, through which everyone learns and contributes to the advancement of the field. If you find any activity that violates our Code of Conduct including but not limited to trolling and inappropriate language, please let us know.

ICLR will feature excellent research papers contributed by the authors and curated by the reviewers and area chairs during the main session of the virtual conference from May 4th to May 7th, 2021. Following the main sessions is the Workshop Program on the 8th, for which we are soliciting your proposals by Oct 30, 2020. The workshops, featuring interesting and new research directions, draw active participation and lead to sub-communities for sharing and shaping on-going and future research. We look forward to seeing your proposals for workshops that will expand the horizons of ICLR and related research communities.

Authors, thank you for your submissions. Reviewers and Area Chairs, thank you for your service. Everyone else, thank you for your interest in ICLR 2021.

By ICLR 2021 Senior Program Chair Katja Hofmann(Microsoft Research Cambridge) and Program Co-Chairs Naila Murray (Facebook), Alice Oh (KAIST), Ivan Titov (U. Edinburgh)




International Conference on Learning Representations