Why Publish in ACM TOSEM in the Twenties?

ACM SIGSOFT Blog
6 min readApr 23, 2022

By Mauro Pezzè, Editor-in-Chief, ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology

Can journals still serve the frenetic evolutions of contemporary research? Does the archival nature of classic software engineering journals meet the interdisciplinary evolution of leading-edge research? Can we harmonize the review process of archive journals with the pressing career deadlines of the research community? Can archive journals offer the visibility needed for the timely impact that new ideas deserve today?

In the last years, we deeply revised the scope and processes of ACM TOSEM to meet the needs of the new millennium. We introduced the fast-impact track, the board of distinguished reviewers, the editor-reviewers discussion forum and a slim review process, aiming to offer predictable and acceptable turnaround review time, which is now often less than the ICSE review time from the initial submission to the final decision, with major and minor revisions in-between. We introduced continuous special sections and survey papers, to widen the scope of TOSEM, by offering competent forums to interdisciplinary research and retrospective analyses. We strengthen journal-first-papers, reduce the time to web publishing, and introduce social presence, to offer the visibility that TOSEM cutting-edge papers deserve.

The forthcoming replicating computational result (RCR) and preregistration papers will offer new opportunities to replicate and comparatively evaluate experimental results, and respectively to early validate experimental-intensive research ideas and facilitate the publication of valuable negative results.

We witness an extraordinary growth from 190 submitted and 26 accepted papers in 2018 to a record number of 527 submitted and 102 accepted papers in 2021, with a still positive trend in the first quarter of 2022. TOSEM issues moved from about 160 pages per issue in 2018 to over 900 pages per issue in 2022, and we expect to move from quarterly to bimonthly issues in 2023.

What’s New in TOSEM?

In the last years we deeply transformed TOSEM to offer a valid and strong forum to all software engineering researchers, by introducing many novelties.

Fast-impact Track

With the fast impact track, we commit to review the first submission within 90 days, and the following revision within 45 days, to offer a predictable, timely and thorough review process. Fast-impact papers are journal first papers with no-more than 45 pages of text (not including bibliography), that is, in-depth presentations of novel ideas and research results, within a very relaxed page limit. We ask authors to revise the papers within 45 days, to target a total turnaround review time of 180 days, with the opportunity of a major revision and an interactive discussion with the editor. We fulfill our commitment for most fast-impact papers now, and we complete the review cycles of many fast-impact paper within 120 days, including revisions, in line with the normal ICSE review time (September-December). We are still not able to guarantee the review time-bound for all papers, but the time of unlimited waiting for a TOSEM review is over, and we are working hard to eliminate the few outliers left, and offer our authors the bounded response time that excellent research deserves, without giving up the opportunity of revising the paper, by benefitting from the feedback of competent reviewers and editors.

Continuous Special Sections

Continuous special sections host leading-edge results in cross disciplinary topics. We welcome papers for continuous special section at any time, we host dedicated guest editorial boards with cross-disciplinary competences, and reserve special sections over many consecutive issues. Continuous special sections turn the spotlight on hot and relevant areas and offer dedicated and competent editors, albeit without the unnatural pressure of hard deadlines and the ephemeral lifespan of classic special sections. The first continuous special sections on artificial intelligence and software engineering and on security and software engineering already attracted over 150 original submissions, and hosted over 45 papers so far. We will incrementally open new continuous special sections on hot emerging interdisciplinary issues to widen the scope of TOSEM and offer competent forums to our community.

Survey Papers

Survey papers systematically overview research in relevant topics of software engineering and related areas, to consolidate the effort of our community over many decades. We offer an unlimited page budget to host thorough and detailed surveys of lively and relevant topic areas. The over 20 submissions in the first year of survey papers confirm the importance of the initiative and the interest of the community. We welcome papers that thoroughly survey the many software engineering areas, as well as in relevant interdisciplinary context.

Discussion Forums

TOSEM editors now share decisions and concerns with the reviewers, to offer detailed and consistent feedback to the authors. The recently started editor-review-forum encourages editors to discuss their recommendations with the reviewers to solve inconsistencies and contradictions that may emerge from reviewers, especially when dealing with interdisciplinary papers. Reviewers are more and more involved in the review decisions, and offer very valuable comments and suggestions. The forum is still in its infancy, however, it grows very fast and we hope to consolidate it soon with the help of editors and reviewers and the feedback of authors.

Board of Distinguished Reviewers

The new board of distinguished reviewers reduces the idle time during the review process, leads to thorough and valuable reviews consistently and on time, and acknowledges the invaluable work of the many reviewers, who get official recognition and are considered for the editorial board after good service time. Ten of the over eighty distinguished reviewers already accepted our invitation to join the TOSEM editorial board after an excellent service as distinguished reviewers, and many more will follow in the next years. We are open to self-nominations, we only ask for some experience in publishing papers in top software engineering venues, and some evidence of good service as reviewers. We offer the opportunity to get early exposed to leading research results by reviewing papers, improve the reviewing expertise by participating to discussions in the editor-review-forum, and get acknowledged in the TOSEM web presence and with invitations to join the editorial board.

Social Presence

The thousands followers of the recent @acm_tosem presence on Twitter and Facebook get timely information about the exciting papers accepted for publication in TOSEM and useful links to learn about the most recent results in the area. We offer a forum for sharing news, ideas and links to research results open to the lively TOSEM community that we see growing every day. We commit to share relevant information without flooding them with useless messages.

What’s Next in TOSEM?

In the coming years we plan to offer new tools to share and archive not only research ideas, but also data, tools and results, and to give the visibility that experimental-intensive research deserves, by introducing replicating computational result (RCR) and preregistered papers.

Replicating Computational Result (RCR)

The forthcoming replicating computational result (RCR) papers will offer authors the opportunity to share data, tools and results with the community timely and in the long term. RCR papers will offer links to replication packages to promote independent comparative evaluations, boost research by letting the community build on top of data and tools, and increase the visibility of the results presented in TOSEM papers.

Preregistered Papers

The forthcoming Preregistered papers will offer a timely forum for the publication of riskier research which could potentially result in interesting but negative results. We will first pre-evaluate research idea and experimental evaluation plans, based on novelty, significance, soundness, experimental methodology, but not on the actual results, and will publish papers that complete the pre-registered report with the results obtained according to the evaluation plan. We will offer forums for early visibility of the ideas and of interesting either positive or negative results, thus fostering riskier research that characterizes groundbreaking ideas.

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ACM SIGSOFT Blog

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