After the conclusion of the CHI 2021 PC meeting, all associate chairs (ACs) were invited to share their feedback on the virtual program committee (PC) meeting in a shared google document. The intent of this document was to create space for an open, engaged, and transparent discussion where members of the CHI PC could share critiques and complaints, to give feedback that could be incorporated for next year. The following feedback, however, must be addressed without delay:
“I was aware that we had a split in our session extending from the west coast of the US to Japan. The people in Asia were admirably professional, but I couldn’t help feeling that, as it got into the small hours of the morning for them, they must have felt a need to close down discussions or not engage to a degree that they might not have felt if we had all been sharing the same time zone. Don’t see this is easy to fix, but it’s yet another dimension to add to the lottery for authors, i.e., if you have the misfortune to have your paper come at the end of a session and it's controversial, you might not get the same level of debate and engagement.”
In the comment above, a member of our community mentioned the wide range of time zones, bringing up “people in Asia” (all of whom—on our PC—actually were Asian) who had been “admirably professional”, suggesting that the quality of discussion and reviewing had suffered because it had gotten into the “small hours of the morning for them” and “they must have felt a need to close down discussions or not engage to a degree that they might not have felt if we all been sharing the same time zone.”
These remarks, and several that followed, carry several implicit assumptions: that ACs in western time zones or those in Australia/New Zealand were not similarly discomfited (in fact many of them had 4am start times), that subcommittees scheduled their meetings taking western time zones as their default (not the case), and that subcommittee chairs did not do their best to ensure that all papers got a fair hearing (also not true). Such remarks cast doubt on the integrity of CHI ACs and CHI reviewing on account of where an individual is located or when one’s paper might be discussed: “...if you have the misfortune to have your paper come at the end of a session and it’s controversial, you might not get the same level of debate and engagement.” Indeed, these remarks imply that tired ACs in Asia were not responsible and conscientious enough to ensure that their papers were reviewed fittingly over a three-day PC meeting. And that if they did in fact do so, they could be described as “admirably professional.”
It should not have needed to be said that our ACs in Asia are as “admirably professional” as any and all other ACs, no more and no less; they have all dedicated endless hours to fulfilling their peer review commitments for the CHI 2021 conference. As the CHI and SIGCHI leadership, we unequivocally reject such remarks as patronizing and unacceptable at best, and racist at worst. Whether thus intended or not, they cause harm to valued members of our global community, othering and disrespecting, and questioning their integrity. We must do better.
The organisers for 2021 would like to strongly thank Neha Kumar for drafting this statement along with Shaowen Bardzell, Ding Wang, Regan Mandryk, Loren Terveen, Dakuo Wang, Helena Mentis, Yubo Kou, Xinning Gui, Katta Spiel, Nithya Sambasivan, Can Liu, Michael Muller, Bonnie Nardi and the associate chairs from our community from Asia and across the world who spoke up and mobiliized on this issue. We will be updating this blog post in the coming days with further notes of thanks as many people have helped guide us.
The general chairs and papers chairs further noted that the critiques, complaints, discussions and legitimate concerns raised throughout this feedback process are not being dismissed but are being considered carefully for the PC meeting planning next year.
CHI Papers Chairs
CHI Technical Program Chairs
CHI GDI Chairs
CHI General Chairs
SIGCHI Executive Committee