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Guidance for Area Chairs

Area Chairs play a critical role in curating the technical programme for ICLR. Use this as a resource for any questions related to your role as an Area Chair. Please contact program chairs via email ( with any other question or comment.

AC Timelines for ICLR 2020

  • Submission Deadline: Wednesday, 25 September 2019, 6pm East Africa Time.

  • Reviewer and AC Bidding: 27 September - 2 October 2019

  • Review Period: Monday, 3 October 2019 - 23 October 2019

  • Substitute Reviewing Period: 23 October 2019 - 4 November 2019

  • Review Release: Monday, 4 November 2019

  • Discussion Stage 1:  4 November - 7 November 2019

    •  Public Discussion. Anyone may post a comment on a submission.

    • Posts from public are not anonymous.

  • Discussion Stage 2: 8 November - 15 November 2019

    • Only authors, reviewers and AC may post a comment on a submission

    • Comments are all anonymous

  • Discussion Stage 3: 16 November - 22 November 2019

    • Only Reviewers and AC may post a comment on a submission

    • Comments are all anonymous

  • Meta-review Period: 25 November - 6 December 2019

    • No public comment is allowed

  • PC/AC Calibration Period: 9 December - 12 December 2019

  • Decision Notification: 19 December 2019

  • Best Paper Selections: Subset of ACs will be asked to form a committee to select the best papers and mentions.

  • Conference:  27-30 April 2020

Multi-Stage Discussion

In this year’s ICLR, we have designed the review process in a way that maximizes discussion but also to clearly distinguish various stages of discussion. After the initial review period, during which each assigned reviewer is required to submit a formal review, there will be three stages of discussion. 

  • In the first stage (Public Discussion), anyone can post a comment on a submission. Authors may respond to these comments anonymously, and the assigned reviewers and AC may post further comments. Public commentators can also participate and leave comments, but cannot do so anonymously, of which the decision was made to avoid any potential adverse behavior. 

  • In the second stage (Author/Reviewer/AC Discussion), the authors, assigned reviewers and AC are allowed to post their comments, while posts from public are not allowed during this period. 

  • During the final review stage (Reviewer/AC Discussion) only the assigned reviewers and ACs discuss merits of the submission. Discussion in this final stage is kept private and will not be made public even after the decision notification. 

The design of the three-stage discussion addresses a few concerns and complaints that were received during past iterations of ICLR. First, it clearly designates a fixed period over which authors are expected to respond to the reviewers', ACs’ and public’s comments, thereby removing the burden of non-stop commitment of several months on the authors. Second, by gradually reducing the size of participants toward a core set of decision makers (assigned reviewers and ACs), we facilitate the convergence of discussion toward the final decision. Lastly, each comment on a submission is marked with the stage in which it was made. This is expected to help ACs and PCs easily identify the maturity/stage of each comment, which in turn gives us a better ability to judge the merit and significance of these comments when making the final decision.

Your Roles


Each submission is considered a forum on its own, and you as an AC has a responsibility in moderating and encouraging active discussion.

  • Make sure papers get enough attention.
  • Engage with assigned reviewers as well as authors and ask for clarification or argument.
  • Moderate discussion by discouraging the participation in any discussion that is irrelevant to scientific claims and merits of a submission.


We have invited you to serve as an AC because of your expertise and reputation.

  • Your assessment of a submission is a critical factor behind the overall decision-making process.
  • Actively participate in discussion not only as a moderator but also as a scientific expert.
  • Ask authors (as well as any other commentator of the submission including assigned reviewers) for clarification. You are also active participant in discussion.

Decision maker

Eventually, you are asked to make a recommendation of each submission’s decision.

  • Recommendations should be made with clear reasoning based on the three stages of discussion.
  • Use your buddy. 
  • When writing your meta-review, please refer to the meta-review guide.

AC Buddy

We are introducing the AC buddy system which has been tested in other conferences, such as CVPR 2013 and NeurIPS 2018. We introduce this system in order to reduce the burden of making an important, and sometimes stressful, decision from a single AC.

  • Two AC’s will be paired to be the buddy of each other and will have access to their buddy’s assigned submissions. You'll have a seperate role called Buddy in OpenReview.
  • AC Buddies are strongly encouraged to discuss with each other all of their submissions especially during the final weeks of the review process (Meta-review Period and PC/AC Calibration Period.)
  • AC Buddies should read the meta-reviews from their partner ACs and give feedback.  


Submission Revision

  • The authors may revise their submission during the first two stages of discussion (Public Discussion Period and Author/Reviewer/AC Discussion Period). You should consider this revision; you can ignore this revision if it is substantially different from the original version.

Substitute/Emergency Reviewers

  • Finding emergency reviewers has become a neccessary component of the reviewing process. You will need to think of this when:

    1. Assigned reviewers are unresponsive and are close to missing the deadline.

    2. Additional reviews could improve the confidence in your recommendation.

  • This is an important part of your responsibility, as we strive to provide timely feedback to the authors so that they can appropriately and fairly respond to these feedback. Especially if a review had not been submitted by the review deadline, immediately start looking for and recruiting an emergency reviewer. When you find an emergency reviewer, you will be able to assign them to the paper using the links in   your AC console.

  • If you struggle to find an emergency reviewer, please get in touch with us ( as soon as possible.