ICLR 2021 Guidance for Workshop Proposals

(Document updated: Nov. 5, 2020)

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Virtual Conference (formerly Vienna), AUSTRIA

ICLR Workshop Co-Chairs 

  • Chelsea Finn, Stanford University & Google Research
  • Sanmi Koyejo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign & Google Research

This is the third year that ICLR will have workshops. With the rapid growth and interest in ICLR and its associated workshops, the competition for workshops has grown. To attempt to mitigate confusion and anxiety regarding what is expected, the workshop chairs have agreed on the following guidance for proposals to hold a ICLR workshop in 2021. Organizers of workshop proposals should take care to respect every piece of guidance provided here, and to provide explicit answers to the questions implied throughout, as well as explicitly addressing the selection criteria listed below.


  1. Workshop Application Open: Sep 11, 2020

  2. Workshop Application Deadline: Nov 09, 2020

  3. Workshop Acceptance Notification: Dec 11, 2020 02:00 PM PST or

  4. Suggested Submission Date for Workshop Contributions: 26 February 2021

  5. Mandatory Accept/Reject Notification Date: Mar 26, 2021

Note that the final submission date for workshop contributions is suggested, and there is a trade-off between how much time workshops give authors to submit versus reviewers to review in the period between December 11, 2020 and March 26, 2021. 

Workshops that do not meet this accept/reject notification deadline will have their speaker tickets withheld. 


Selection Criteria

  1. Degree to which the proposal is focused on an important and topical problem, and the degree to which it is expected that the community will find the workshop interesting, exciting, and valuable. 

  2. Intellectual excitement of the topic. Is it likely to break new ground, or merely reiterate tired, old debates?

  3. Diversity and inclusion, in all forms. (See expectations below.)

  4. Degree to which the proposed program offers opportunity for discussion.

  5. Quality of proposed invited speakers (including expertise, scientific achievements and presentation ability). Workshop organizers are encouraged to confirm tentative interest from proposed invited speakers and mention this in their proposal.

  6. Degree to which the organizers have offered means to engage in the workshop for those unable to attend in person.

  7. Organizational experience and ability of the team.

  8. Other dimensions in the expectations below not explicitly listed in these criteria.

  9. Points of difference. What makes this workshop enticingly different to the ICLR workshops held previously?


Assessment Process and Criteria

The workshop chairs will appoint a number of reviewers who will provide written assessments of the proposals against the criteria listed above. Their reports will be considered by the workshop chairs who will jointly decide upon the selected workshops (subject to the notes on COIs listed below). The final decisions will be made by the workshop chairs via consensus and judgement; we will not simply add up scores assigned to the different criteria.

Hard Constraints/Workshop Requirements

  • Global Notification Deadline Prior to Mar 26, 2021: By submitting a workshop proposal, workshop organizers commit to notifying those who submit contributions (including talks and posters) to their workshop of their acceptance status before Mar 26, 2021 to allow time for visa acquisition. A timeline should be included in the proposal that will allow for this.  This deadline of Mar 26, 2021 will be published on the ICLR main web page and cannot be extended under any circumstances.

Managing Chair and Reviewer Conflicts of Interest

  • Workshop chairs cannot be organizers nor give invited talks at any workshop, but can submit papers and give contributed talks.

  • Workshop reviewers cannot review any proposal on which they are listed as an organizer or invited speaker, and may not accept invitations to speak at any workshop they have reviewed after the workshop is accepted.

  • Workshop chairs and reviewers cannot review or shape acceptance decisions about workshops with organizers from within their organization. (For large corporations, this means anyone in the corporation world-wide).

Managing Organizer Conflicts of Interest

  • Workshop organizers cannot give talks at the workshops they organize. They can give a brief introduction to the workshop and/or act as a panel moderator.

  • Workshop organizers should state in their proposal how they will manage conflicts of interest in assessing submitted contributions. At a minimum, an organizer should not be involved in the assessment of a submission from someone within the same organization. 

Other Guidance and Expectations for Workshop Proposals 

  1. We encourage, and expect, diversity in the organizing team and speakers. This includes diversity of viewpoint and thinking regarding the topics discussed at the workshop, gender, race, affiliations, seniority, geographic location, etc. If a workshop is part of a series, the organizer list should include people who have not organized in the past. Organizers should articulate how they have addressed diversity in their proposal in each of these senses.

  2. Since the goal of the workshop is to generate discussion, sufficient time and structure needs to be included in the program for this. Proposals should explicitly articulate how they will encourage broad discussion. 

  3. Workshop proposals should list explicitly what the problems are they would like to see solved, or at least advances made, as part of their workshop. They should explain why these are important problems and how the holding of their proposed workshop will contribute to their solution.

  4. Workshops are not a venue for work that has been previously published in other conferences on machine learning. Work that is presented at the main ICLR conference should not appear in a workshop, including as part of an invited talk. Organizers should make this clear in their calls and explain in their proposal how they will discourage presentation of already published machine learning work.

  5. We encourage workshop submissions of varying lengths and scopes. Organizers should state whether their workshops are meant to be large-attendance talk format, or small group presentations. Organizers should articulate what they hope to achieve from the format proposal beyond the talks listed.

  6. With the extraordinary growth of ICLR, and noting the finite capacity of venues and the impossibility of accurately predicting attendance, organizers should explain how they will provide access to the content of the workshop for those who cannot attend in person. This might include recording of talks, publishing short working papers or posters on the web, having a follow-up special issue of a journal, curating and maintaining a web page with a range of content, or other ideas.

  7. Workshops should allow for choice of attendance based on content. Good workshops will put talk titles up publicly prior to site publication and note the archival status of their submissions. Organizers should articulate how they will do this.

  8. Organizing a workshop is a complex task, and proposals should outline the organizational experience and skills of the proposed organizers (as a team). We encourage junior researchers to be involved in workshop organization, but prefer some collective experience in organizing a complex event.


Example Successful Proposals

With permission of the respective workshop organizers, we are providing the successful proposals of past ICLR workshops as examples: the ICLR 2020 BeTR-RL Workshop and the ICLR 2020 Workshop on Neural Architecture Search.


Frequently Asked Questions From Past Workshops

Workshop Series
We neither encourage nor discourage workshops on topics that have appeared before. Membership of an existing sequence of workshops is irrelevant in the assessment of a workshop proposal (it neither helps nor hinders). Workshop proposals will be evaluated solely on their merits for this year’s conference.

Overlapping Proposals
We will not forcibly merge proposals.  If multiple strong proposals are submitted on similar topics, we will choose a single proposal to accept. We will then reach out to the organizers of the rejected proposals to ask whether they would like us to share their proposals with the organizers of the accepted workshop. The organizers of the accepted workshop may then optionally initiate a merge.

Where will accepted be workshops listed?


Publicizing your workshop 

When publicizing your workshop, you may mention the hashtag #ICLR2021