I'm hearing rumors that some submissions to ESA 2010, the deadline for which was Monday night, have already been rejected due to violating the strict formatting requirements of the call for papers. ESA submissions were required to be in LNCS format with no modifications to the margins, at most 12 pages long including titles and references, and to include proofs of all claims either in the paper itself or an attached appendix of unlimited length.

No doubt this rejection will come as a rude shock to the rejected authors who have become accustomed to submission formatting requirements being more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. But I think it's a good idea: it's unfair to authors who play by the rules to be compared against others who don't, and it's unfair to the program committee to be made to read longer submissions by authors who can't or won't trim their papers to the right length. Also, I think it's very helpful to the program committee to see the paper as the author intends to publish it, rather than in some different form that may have to be trimmed severely to fit into the proceedings; I think it would be a good thing for other theory conferences (SoCG/STOC/FOCS/SODA) to move to a system where submissions and proceedings have the same format.

One possible issue is that, with different conferences having different formats, one has to do extra work to reformat a paper that was rejected from one conference to be ready to submit to a different conference. But my experience with doing that is that it can often lead to improvements in the paper, beyond whatever feedback one may have received from the earlier rejection: the effort of fitting a paper into a new format (especially one with a tighter limit on total length) can be helpful in getting me to rethink which parts of a paper really are important.


justinwsmith: Clearly and in bold text
Although being disappointed by such a rejection is understandable, there would be no reason to complain. The CfP (http://algo2010.csc.liv.ac.uk/esa/) clearly says,
Papers failing to adhere to them (by not being in LNCS format, being more than 12 pages, or not providing the omitted proofs in an appendix) will be rejected without consideration of their merits.
Since conferences require/provide a quick turn-around, the need for strict guidelines is understandable. I hope those rejected b/c of formatting hadn't purchased their tickets to Liverpool yet!
11011110: Re: Clearly and in bold text
Not everyone reads the cfp carefully, though (except maybe the part about the submission deadline: we've come to expect those to be strictly enforced).
We ended up not submitting our paper to ESA because of the harsh formatting rules, and the strong language about adhering to the rules. The paper, which relies on a bit of topology build up to make the algorithmics make even remotely sense, become almost completely unintelligible once we had fit it into 12 pages + appendix. For this particular case, reworking it to fit a tighter format destroyed the paper rather than improving it. We'll expand it and submit it to a journal instead now.
Of course, you'd have had to format it this way if it were accepted anyway. So I imagine it was a good thing that you made an earlier discovery that your paper wasn't a good fit for the format, and had more time to find a better home for your paper.
We just submitted. Would we already know if our submission was out of compliance ?
I don't know but I suspect so. The story I heard (third hand or so) was that submissions were monitored as they were coming in and the authors given a warning at that time if they were out of compliance.
ext_231556: Length
With respect to your last paragraph and Mikael's comment, wouldn't it make everyone's life easier if different conferences allowed for roughly the same amount of space? ESA's requirements seem to make its papers roughly 60% of the SOCG/SODA size. I also feel that the flow of papers is often broken when proofs are moved to the appendix, making them harder to review. Given that reviewers really have guidelines rather than enforceable requirements, does it really make sense to put hard requirements on the submitters?
11011110: Re: Length
Nowadays with electronic proceedings there's much less reason for having tight page limits at all rather than just allowing each paper as much space as it needs to make its point. But I guess ESA at least is still intending to have a paper proceedings through LNCS. I seem to recall that the most recent SODA had a 10-page limit on submissions but then allowed up to 20 pages in its electronic proceedings; maybe that was a one-time thing due to a late decision to remove the limits in the proceedings, but doing something like that on a regular basis would seem very strange to me.
justinwsmith: losing good submissions
With such strict restrictions they're bound to lose some really good submissions. Superficial rules rarely provide the intended effect.
None: Who reading proceedings version, anyway?
I think many people do not read papers in the conference format anyway. They try to find the full version online, and read it. I couldn't care less about the format the conferences want to use to publish my papers. In fact, the worse it is the better it is as far as forcing the interested reader to read the full (probably updated) version. In particular, while I think enforcing strict page limit makes sense (it makes refereeing easier, make the writeup better in many cases, etc) for the conference submission, the LNCS format is pretty awful. Forcing people to submit papers using the LNCS format is probably in violation of the Geneva convention and basic human rights...
11011110: Re: Who reading proceedings version, anyway?
LNCS is kind of a waste of paper with its big margins, but on the other hand that makes it much nicer than two-column formats to read on kindles and similar devices. Or did you mean some of their strange typographic choices, like the one about using dashes in place of bullets for itemized lists?
None: Re: Who reading proceedings version, anyway?
I think the waste of paper and font size is what I find irritating. The bib style is also pretty bad.
11011110: Re: Who reading proceedings version, anyway?
I hope the enforcement of publishing formats at this stage doesn't extend to bib styles. I would be out of compliance myself, because I followed Gasarch's suggestion of including links in the bibliography and the default lncs style doesn't do that well.
None: stupid, stupid arguments
But my experience with doing that is that it can often lead to improvements in the paper... I HATE stupid arguments like this. The kind that seem superficially legitimate but are actually idiotic. Translating your paper to French might also "often lead to improvements..." but this would be a stupid thing to do, because the same amount of effort could be devoted to ACTUALLY TRYING TO IMPROVE YOUR PAPER. The latter effort will be a much better use of your time. We are in the 21st century. Papers should be written so they are easy to read, not so they are easy to print, or so that they fit into page limits. ...helpful in getting me to rethink which parts of a paper really are important. Maybe you should view conference rejections as a way of getting you to rethink what problems are really important to be working on.
11011110: Re: stupid, stupid arguments
If you want to rethink what problems are really important to be working on, why not just actually try to rethink what problems are important to be working on, rather than wasting all that effort writing a rejected paper first? Be consistent.
ESA rejecting these papers is a very unfair thing to do. Not because it is wrong to reject papers that don't follow the instructions, but because it is wrong to do this when you have already set a precedent of not enforcing these rules in the past. If all of a sudden you want to start enforcing these rules, you need to have a "warning period" of one or two years, during which you send the papers back to the authors and give them an extra two days to reformat according to the guidelines. Then people will know you mean business with your rules.
justinwsmith: grace period
I would agree; instead of simply rejecting the paper, give the authors who submit on time a couple extra days to correct superficial formatting problems.
in reading a conference paper for research purposes I want to pore over everything carefully and understand every detail. As a conference reviewer I will be reading many times the number of papers I would read for research purposes in the same time frame. Because of the different way I would want to read papers for these two different purposes there is no reason to enforce the same format for both. For example, a 2-column 10-page STOC/FOCS/SODA paper in 9pt font would involve too much reading for review purposes. If the reviewers want utility and a view of what the final paper would look like I suppose that they could ask for a conference formatted version of the paper in addition to the review version!
None: separate formats for review and publication?
I have two problems with your arguments. First, you only take the interests of the readers (reviewers and researchers) into account, not the authors' interests. The reason to use the same format for review and for publication is to save the authors the trouble of formatting the paper twice. Second, if you want to read a paper carefully to understand every detail, would it not be better to read the full version (journal or arXiv version)? In my humble opinion the printed conference versions are also for review purposes: not for review by the programme committee, but for review by conference participants who want to decide whether or not they are interested in reading the full paper. Ten pages in two columns may actually be a bad format, because it may be too much for review purposes, while it is usually not enough to contain all details and serve as a substitute for a journal or arXiv version. The above notwithstanding, I do not think any author is ever forced to write more than two (or maybe three) different versions of a paper: a full version for publication in a journal and/or on arXiv, and an extended abstract that is short enough so that one can submit it to any conference for review (and maybe a shorter abstract for informal workshops). As far as I know, one is never forced to make a separate version with appendices for review (it suffices to attach the full paper or include a link to it), and one is never forced to actually write a new version for publication in the conference proceedings. As far as I know, conferences that require different formats for review and for publication, always allow at least as much text in the publication version as in the review version, so all one needs to do is reformatting one's 10-page single-column paper, for example, into a 7-page two-column paper. No conference requires that you actually fill the extra space you get for the printed version. Herman
Rejected these papers after the submission period? if so, that seems a bit harsh. Why not create an automatic system that checks the submission and doesn't let you go through with the submission?
None: Another reason against LNCS formatting
Now that I am getting papers to referee for ESA - LNCS formatting has no page numbers on the submitted papers. Speak about a brilliant idea. Not.
None: Re: Another reason against LNCS formatting
Well, its up to the authors to use the style-file properly. By \documentclass[runningheads]{llncs} page numbers, title, and authors are printed on each page.