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A Companion document to the UIST 2005 Call for Participation

This document was last updated on January 14, 2005 by Dan Olsen, who inherited it from Steve Feiner, who inherited it from Joe Konstan, who inherited it from Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, who inherited it from Ari Rapkin, who inherited it from Beth Mynatt, who inherited it from George Robertson, who inherited it from Marc H. Brown, who inherited it from George Robertson, who got lots of help on it from Steve Feiner, Brad Myers, Jock Mackinlay, Mark Green, Randy Pausch, Pierre Wellner, and Beth Mynatt.

This guide describes the format and deadlines for submissions to UIST 2005. Authors submitting material to UIST 2005 should use this guide to discover how the review process works, and hence how to write more successful submissions.


This is a guide for authors submitting papers to UIST 2005, the Eighteenth Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. Submissions must not have been published previously (or be currently under review elsewhere) and should meet ACM standards for a scholarly publication. Accepted papers and TechNotes will be presented during three days of technical sessions at the conference and published in the conference proceedings.

UIST features papers, TechNotes, demos and posters, as described in the Call for Participation. While the material in this guide for authors is primarily oriented towards paper authors, its general emphasis on quality and stringent review is also applicable to authors of TechNote, demo, and poster submissions.

UIST is a peer-reviewed conference, which means that each paper is read by several reviewers. Unlike the reviewers for a refereed journal, UIST reviewers cannot suggest complex changes to the paper and review the paper again after the author has modified it. The paper must be acceptable as originally submitted, although a reviewer may request minor modifications before publication. The papers committee may suggest changes. Final acceptance of the paper will be conditional upon the appropriateness of those changes. There is a well-established procedure for reviewing papers to determine their appropriateness and acceptability for the conference. This guide is designed to give potential authors insight into that reviewing procedure and to present some guidelines on what constitutes a successful UIST paper. It is not written as an official UIST policy paper, but rather as a guideline for authors planning to submit papers to the conference.

The Reviewing Process

The reviewing process is administered by the program chair(s), who select and coordinate the program committee. The program committee is a group of user-interface researchers--professionals selected for their knowledge of the field, their experience with UIST, and their willingness to serve the community in this manner. The committee members act as senior reviewers for the conference.

Each paper is allocated to two senior reviewers, based on the subject area discussed in the paper as defined by the title, abstract, and a brief look at the body of the paper. Papers that clearly fail to meet UIST's standards for applicability, originality, completeness, or page length may be rejected at this point. One senior reviewer serves as the paper's "primary" reviewer, and is responsible for commissioning three "external" reviews from reviewers who are not on the program committee. The other senior reviewer is the paper's "secondary" reviewer. Each committee member will receive about ten papers as a primary reviewer and about the same number as a secondary reviewer, and is responsible for reviewing all these papers. Every effort is made in selecting reviewers to ensure a fair and unbiased review process. All reviewers are instructed to abide by the UIST paper review process code of ethics.

By the time the program committee meets in June, each paper will have been reviewed at least five times and the opinions collected, resulting in a list of papers ordered by review results. Papers uniformly receiving reviews that strongly recommend acceptance are usually accepted without much further discussion; those uniformly receiving rejection ratings also receive little further attention. The balance of the meeting is spent deciding which of the other papers to include in the program. Because program committee members attend the committee meeting in person, each paper will be represented at the meeting by at least two people who have read it (more than two when additional members are asked to read papers under discussion). As soon as the program committee meeting is finished, the selected papers are sorted into sessions and the advance program is finalized.

Authors will be notified of acceptance or rejection shortly after the program committee meeting, on or before the date specified in the Call for Participation.  With the notification of acceptance may come revision suggestions. Authors are expected to respond to these suggestions either by making revisions or indicating why they should not be made. Decision on acceptability of the revisions will be made by the primary reviewer with disagreements between the authors and the primary reviewer being decided by the program chair. Contacting the program chair, or anyone on the committee, before the notification date to see "how your paper did" is a really bad idea.

General Guidelines

A paper should include a descriptive title, an abstract of 100 to 200 words, keywords, a discussion of how the reported results relate to other work, illustrative figures, and citations to the relevant literature. The paper should present a sufficiently detailed description of the new work, plus appropriate background references, to convince reviewers that the ideas presented are correct and the work performed could be duplicated. The acceptance or rejection decision is based on the content of the paper as submitted, since there is no way to guarantee that shortcomings will be corrected in the final version.

Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Novel, enabling technologies such as augmented reality, perceptual user interfaces, tactile user interfaces, tangible user interfaces, multimedia user interfaces, CSCW user interfaces and unconventional input devices.
  • Innovative user interfaces for difficult or challenging applications, such as the management of large, complex information sets, or domains, such as ubiquitous computing.
  • Software architectures and development environments for user interfaces, including those associated with user-interface management systems, window systems, toolkits, and knowledge-based user interfaces.
  • Tools and techniques for designing and constructing user interfaces, including automated tools, object-oriented techniques, and visual programming. User interfaces with special system software requirements, such as real-time, multi-user, multi-modal, multi-threaded, or distributed user interfaces.
  • Technical aspects of user interfaces for people with special needs.

A paper must not have been published previously and we will make every effort to avoid duplicate publication of papers. Furthermore, a paper identical to or substantially similar to one submitted to UIST should not be under consideration for another conference or journal during the review process. If you have a previously published paper or one that is under review that you would like to distinguish from your UIST submission, don't hesitate to clarify the distinction in the body of your paper. UIST reviewers are often familiar with the papers under review for other related conferences and journals, and submissions that are substantially similar run the risk of being rejected by all venues on grounds of duplication alone. Professional honesty dictates that authors should notify the program chair immediately if a paper they have written that is related to one submitted for review to UIST becomes accepted for publication elsewhere. However, it is not appropriate to submit substantially the same paper to multiple conferences or journals, intending to withdraw the paper from the other venues as soon as the paper is accepted by one of them; at the very least, this will waste the time of program committee members and reviewers involved with the withdrawn papers.

You are encouraged to submit a revised and longer version of your UIST paper to a journal such as ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction or Human-Computer Interaction after it has been presented at the conference.

Supporting Video Material

Since user interfaces are inherently interactive, 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.

Authors should make video material short (at most five minutes for papers, three minutes for TechNotes) 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 verbal description 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 and TechNote authors will have the chance to submit a higher-quality video for the conference DVD 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 the input devices if that is relevant. The DVD proceedings chairs have put together a guide describing how to make good videos.

Supporting 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.

Video Proceedings

All authors are encouraged to use video when appropriate as part of their conference presentation. A high-quality master copy of each video file should be sent to the DVD proceedings chairs by the date indicated in the acceptance notifications for inclusion in the DVD proceedings, which will be distributed to conference attendees only. Information will be provided later about the video formats that will be accepted for the DVD. It is not necessary for the videos to be of SIGCHI or SIGGRAPH quality, and they do not need to stand alone -- it is assumed that everyone who sees the video proceedings will also have access to the paper proceedings.

Rest assured that we will not duplicate for public distribution any video included with your initial submission, so please don't worry! Those tapes or files will only be used during the review process, and then all copies received by UIST will be destroyed or deleted.


The final formatted length for accepted papers is up to ten double-column pages in the UIST conference style (up to four pages for TechNotes). Submissions for review must also be in the final conference format, except they should have page numbers so the reviewers can more easily refer to portions.

Submissions must be in PDF format, and video submissions must be in one of the approved file formats. Submission details can be found at the UIST Electronic Submission site.

If you want to format-by-example (a reasonable strategy), you can download a sample paper, properly formatted. Sample text-processing source files are available for LaTeX (sample04.tex and uist04.sty) and Word (uistSampleRTF.rtf). Please note that the content of these samples is dated; there are lots of obsolete references to hardcopy submission and marking up camera-ready copy. Also, TechNotes may now be up to four pages long. However, the format is correct. Note that UIST uses 10 point fonts with 11 points between baselines for the body text (unlike the official ACM sig template, which uses 9 point fonts). As indicated in the samples, submissions are not anonymous. Note: On April 4, the Author's Guide was updated to include a revised .pdf file, new .tex and .sty files for LaTeX users and a revised version of the sample .rtf file for Word users. The only important difference in the revised files is that they actually use 11 points between baselines as advertised. Submissions created using the older files (with 12 points between baselines) will also be accepted.

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 UIST 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 or TechNote is expected to give a conference presentation lasting approximately 20 minutes for papers and 15 minutes for TechNotes (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.


The authors and their employers, other than employees of the U.S. government, must be prepared to sign a copyright transfer form before the submission is published. "It is a policy of ACM to own the copyrights on its technical publications to protect the interests of ACM, its authors, their employers, and at the same time to facilitate the appropriate reuse of this material by others." (Extracted from ACM Copyright Procedures.)

Review Criteria

A good UIST 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 or TechNote. 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 UIST. On the other hand, beware of trying to write a paper with too large a scope.

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. You should assume your audience has a working knowledge of user-interface development and access to the major journals in computer science, electrical engineering, and psychology. A short conference paper can only present a few concise ideas well.

Can this paper be presented well?

While UIST 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 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.

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 UIST. 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 UIST 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 screen snapshots 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, a UIST 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!

UIST 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.

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. (I know, 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 UIST 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.

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