JACM paper rejected


This weekend we got word from the paper we submitted to JACM early 2019. Not too surprised that it was rejected. Actually, rather surprised that we still hear of it after 3 years. So thanks to the reviewer for his/her time. The rejection was justified, and I got something useful out of it, despite a couple of the reviewer’s comments being very wrong1.

I’ve written over 30 research papers in my first years at university, most went from first conception to a paper in less than a month. I had only 2 rejects. That’s because they contained only work and very little ideas. I was bored out of my skull. It took me months to write the Ouroboros paper. Because I had no clear-cut conclusion yet to work towards. And definitely no engineering results.

Publish or perish. To write publications, you need results. To get results you need time. To get time you need funding. To get funding you need publications. The vicious circle ensuring that academics can’t take on any long-term high-risk endeavour that doesn’t fit the ever shortening funding cycles. What a waste of time.. Rob Pike saw it 20 years ago.

There’s a joke that in most jobs, people hope to win to lottery so they can quit. But in academia, they hope to win the lottery so they can keep it.

Carl Sagan famously said that great claims require great evidence. We’ve failed (and wasted tons of research time) trying to squeeze a paper out of this work-in-progress. As I detailed in a previous blog post, there is a lot of research and implementation work (not necessarily in that order) to be done before we can comfortably write a paper on these ideas. We’ll just have to ride it out.

Direction is more important than speed.



  1. Especially comments regarding the math. The graph theory definitions in the paper are based on Dieter Jungnickel’s sublime Graphs, Networks and Algorithms. I cannot recommend this work enough to anyone interested in graph theory. The math in the paper has been reviewed before submission by a professor that lectures discrete mathematics to engineering students and additionally, because I wanted a second opinion, a professor in pure mathematics (who had excellent comments, that definitely improved the definitions). I’ll take the reviewer’s notes as evidence that it was more than justified to add the basic math definitions and build everything up from scratch. I stand by the math in the paper.