The Rise and Fall of the Note: Changing Paper Lengths in ACM CSCW, 2000-2018

R. Stuart Geiger
August 28, 2019

A short paper (or note) quantitatively examining changing paper lengths in the Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. I focus on several major changes in editorial policy as natural experiments, particularly around the rise and fall of the 4-page “note” format (which was a formal submission category from 2004-2012) and the venue’s decision in 2013 to remove all official minimum and maximum length restrictions.

Abstract: In this note, I quantitatively examine various trends in the lengths of published papers in ACM CSCW from 2000-2018, focusing on several major transitions in editorial and reviewing policy. The focus is on the rise and fall of the 4-page note, which was introduced in 2004 as a separate submission type to the 10-page double-column "full paper" format. From 2004-2012, 4-page notes of 2,500 to 4,500 words consistently represented about 20-35% of all publications. In 2013, minimum and maximum page lengths were officially removed, with no formal distinction made between full papers and notes. The note soon completely disappeared as a distinct genre, which co-occurred with a trend in steadily rising paper lengths. I discuss such findings both as they directly relate to local concerns in CSCW and in the context of longstanding theoretical discussions around genre theory and how socio-technical structures and affordances impact participation in distributed, computer-mediated organizations and user-generated content platforms. There are many possible explanations for the decline of the note and the emergence of longer and longer papers, which I identify for future work. I conclude by addressing the implications of such findings for the CSCW community, particularly given how genre norms impact what kinds of scholarship and scholars thrive in CSCW, as well as whether new top-down rules or bottom-up guidelines ought to be developed around paper lengths and different kinds of contributions.

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R. Stuart Geiger