The Machine Learning community is currently experiencing a reproducibility crisis and a reviewing crisis [Littman, 2021]. Because of the highly competitive and noisy reviewing process of ML conferences [Tran et al., 2020], researchers have an incentive to oversell their results, slowing down the progress and diminishing the integrity of the scientific community. Moreover with the growing number of papers published and submitted at the main ML conferences [Lin et al., 2020], it has become more challenging to keep track of the latest advances in the field.
Blog posts are becoming an increasingly popular and useful way to talk about science [Brown and Woolston, 2018]. They offer substantial value to the scientific community by providing a flexible platform to foster open, human, and transparent discussions about new insights or limitations of a scientific publication. However, because they are not as recognized as standard scientific publications, only a minority of researchers manage to maintain an active blog and get visibility for their efforts. Many are well-established researchers (Francis Bach, Ben Recht, Ferenc Huszár, Lilian Weng) or big corporations that leverage entire teams of graphic designers designer and writers to polish their blogs (Facebook AI, Google AI, DeepMind, OpenAI). As a result, the incentives for writing scientific blog posts are largely personal; it is unreasonable to expect a significant portion of the machine learning community to contribute to such an initiative when everyone is trying to establish themselves through publications.
Our goal is to create a formal call for blog posts at ICLR to incentivize and reward researchers to review past work and summarize the outcomes, develop new intuitions, or highlight some shortcomings. A very influential initiative of this kind happened after the second world war in France. Because of the lack of up-to-date textbooks, a collective of mathematicians under the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbaki [Halmos 1957], decided to start a series of textbooks about the foundations of mathematics [Bourbaki, 1939]. In the same vein, we aim at providing a new way to summarize scientific knowledge in the ML community.
Due to the large diversity of topics that can be discussed in a blog post, we decided to restrict the range of topics for this call for blog posts. We identified that the blog posts that would bring to most value to the community and the conference would be posts that distill and discuss previously published papers.
The format and process for this blog post track is as follows:
Write a post about a paper previously published at ICLR, with the constraint that one cannot write a blog post on work that they have a conflict of interest with. This implies that one cannot review their own work, or work originating from their institution or company. We want to foster productive discussion about ideas, and prevent posts that intentionally aim to help or hurt individuals or institutions.
Blogs will be peer-reviewed (double-blind, see Section 2.5) for quality and novelty of the content: clarity and pedagogy of the exposition, new theoretical or practical insights, reproduction/extension of experiments, etc.
As a result, we restrict submissions to the Markdown format. We believe this is a good trade-off between complexity and flexibility. Markdown enables users to easily embed media such as images, gifs, audio, and video as well as write mathematical equations using MathJax, without requiring users to know how to create HTML web pages. This (mostly) static format is also fairly portable; users can download the blog post without much effort for offline reading or archival purposes. More importantly, this format can be easily hosted and maintained through GitHub.
Please checkout the submitting section for a detailed overview on the process of creating and submitting a blog post.
David Tran, Alex Valtchanov, Keshav Ganapathy, Raymond Feng, Eric Slud, Micah Goldblum, and Tom Goldstein. An open review of openreview: A critical analysis of the machine learning conference review process. arXiv, 2020.
Hsuan-Tien Lin, Maria-Florina Balcan, Raia Hadsell, and Marc’Aurelio Ranzato. What we learned from neurips2020 reviewing process. Medium https://medium.com/@NeurIPSConf/what-we-learned-from-neurips-2020-reviewing-process-e24549eea38f, 2020.