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2023 Senior Area Chair (SAC) Guidelines

Thank you for agreeing to serve as an SAC for NeurIPS 2023! This document contains an overview of your responsibilities and some guidelines for how to fulfill your role as an SAC.

As an SAC, your role is to oversee the work of a small number of ACs, making sure that the reviewing process goes smoothly. SACs serve as the first point of contact for ACs if they need assistance or guidance. SACs are responsible for helping ACs chase late reviewers, calibrating decisions across ACs, and discussing borderline papers. During the final decision-making phase, SACs will be expected to consult with the program chairs (PCs) on particularly borderline or difficult paper decisions.

Contact Info

If you encounter a situation that you are unable to resolve on your own, please contact the program chairs at Any questions about conflicts of interest should go to the program chairs.

If the issue is related to OpenReview, email the OpenReview support team directly at

Important Dates

  • ACs and reviewers bid on papers: Sat, May 20 – Fri, May 26
  • ✅ ACs adjust reviewer assignments: Wed, June 1 – Tue, June 7 
  • Reviewing: Thu, June 8 – Thu, July 6
  • ✅ Invite emergency reviewers Fri, July 7 – Mon, July 10
  • ✅ Review assessment and emergency reviewing period: Mon July 10 – Mon, July 24
  • Author Rebuttal: Wed, Aug 2 – Wed, Aug 9
  • ✅ Reviewer-Author Discussions: Thu, Aug 10 – Mon, Aug 21
  • ✅ Reviewer-AC Discussions: Thu, Aug 10 – Wed, Aug 23
  • ✅ SAC-AC Discussions: Thu, Aug 24 – Thu, Sep 7
  • ✅ Meta reviews due: Thu, Aug 31
  • ✅ SAC-PC Discussions: Fri, Sep 8 – Thu, Sep 14
  • Author Notifications: Fri, Sep 22

Main Tasks

  1. Preparation & AC assignment:
    • Please ensure that your preferred email address is accurate in your OpenReview profile. We will send most emails from OpenReview (i.e., Such emails are sometimes accidentally marked as spam. Please check your spam folder regularly. If you find such an email in there, please whitelist the OpenReview email address so that you will receive future emails from OpenReview.
    • Please log into OpenReview and make sure that your profile is up to date, so that you will be assigned relevant ACs to work with.
    • Read and agree to abide by the NeurIPS code of conduct.
    • Read what constitutes a conflict of interest for NeurIPS 2023. This year we are implementing somewhat relaxed conflict of interest rules for SACs in particular, since SACs oversee such a large number of papers, ACs, and reviewers that eliminating all institution conflicts of interests can leave us with overconstrained assignments. Therefore, SAC conflicts of interest will include only current institutions and co-authors, rather than all institutions and co-authors for three years as is the case for ACs, reviewers, and authors.
    • In addition to the guidelines below, please familiarize yourself with the AC guidelines. You will be interacting significantly with ACs, so please make sure you understand what is expected of them. You can also view the Reviewer guidelines.
    • You will be assigned ~10 ACs to work with. When you receive your assignment, look it over carefully and email the PCs if you have any concerns.
  2. ✅ Help ACs with reviewer assignments if needed: Wed, June 6 – Tue, June 12
    • ACs will be reviewing and modifying reviewer assignments during this period. Your workload during this period should be light, but do make sure that each AC you work with has four qualified reviewers for each paper (three are automatically assigned; ACs can replace all but one but must add a fourth reviewer manually). If an AC has difficulty finding a qualified reviewer not in conflict with the paper, please help them. Recall that ACs do not have access to author identities.
  3. ✅ Ensure that all papers have at least 3 quality reviews: Fri, July 7 – Mon, July 10
    • Reviews are due Monday, July 11. Starting then, ACs should ensure that the reviewers have completed their reviews, send reminder emails if needed, and read all reviews to ensure they are up to standards. Your role during this period is to ensure that ACs are able to find emergency reviewers successfully and on time. We ask that all SACs check on their ACs if they have missing reviews, and provide appropriate guidance on how to make sure that by July 14, all papers have at least 3 high quality reviews. You are ultimately responsible for making sure the reviews are all there and high quality, so if an AC is unresponsive you will need to step in. Emergency reviewers should be assigned no later than Mon, July 10.
  4. Review assessment and emergency reviewing period: Mon, July 10 – Mon, July 24
    • During this period, ACs will go over reviews, obtain additional reviews if needed, ask reviewers to improve substandard reviews, and potentially flag papers for ethics review. Your role during this period is to make sure that ACs actually do this. We encourage SACs to quickly skim all of the reviews and point out any potential issues to ACs, and also to help ACs find additional reviewers if needed for papers that have unhelpful reviews or simply require more attention.
  5. Author response period: Wed, Aug 2 – Wed, Aug 9
    • During this period, reviews will be available to authors. If any reviews are still missing, it is urgent to help your ACs track them down or invite additional reviewers. Otherwise, no action should be needed from you during this period.
  6. Ensure that ACs initiate reviewer-author discussions: Thu, Aug 10 – Wed, Aug 16
    • As soon as the author response is entered in the system, ACs should lead a discussion via OpenReview for each submission and make sure the reviewers engage in the discussion phase. If your assigned ACs have not initiated discussions, prompt them to do so. This one-week phase discussion will be primarily for the reviewers to engage with the authors before the closed discussions among the reviewers and ACs.
  7. Oversee the AC-reviewer discussions: Thu, Aug 17 – Wed, Aug 23 
    • During these dates the reviewers should interact with the AC and among themselves. Please make sure there is active engagement, especially for the papers where there are positive and negative reviews. We strongly recommend that each SAC go through all borderline papers (where there is not unanimous agreement among the reviewers) and make sure the AC and reviewers are engaging in a discussion. If they are not, please contact the AC and guide them on conducting the discussion.
  8. Discussions between the ACs and SACs and meta-review preparation: Thu, Aug 24 – Thu, Sep 7 
    • ACs are instructed to prepare their meta-reviews by Aug 31, and your role during this period will be to help ACs with borderline decisions and calibrate decisions across ACs. We recommend reaching out to ACs prior to Aug 31 about any borderline papers and to invite discussion from them. Immediately after Aug 31, please go through all meta-reviews and perform a calibration pass to ensure a uniform standard for acceptance/rejection across ACs, point out any potentially questionable decisions that you would like to discuss with the ACs further, and ensure that the meta-reviews are of high quality. Good meta-reviews should clearly explain the reasons for the decision, explain how the paper should be improved for the final if accepted, or provide some indication for how the flaws in the paper might be addressed for a rejection. We also ask that SACs ensure that the meta-review takes the author response into account.
  9. Finalize decisions with program chairs: Fri, Sep 8 – Thu, Sep 14
    • Be prepared to discuss all borderline papers and cases in which the recommendation of the AC goes against the recommendations of the reviewers.
    • Update meta-reviews to accurately reflect the final decision.

Best Practices

  • Be responsive. Respect deadlines and respond to emails as promptly as possible. Make sure that your preferred email address is accurate in your OpenReview profile and that emails from don’t go to spam. If you will be unavailable (e.g., on vacation) for more than a few days—especially during important windows (e.g., decision-making)—please let the program chairs know as soon as possible.
  • Be proactive. It is your responsibility to ensure that the review process goes smoothly. Check in to make sure that the ACs you work with are responsive, help them find emergency reviewers, and make sure discussion is happening on their papers.
  • Be kind. It is important to acknowledge that personal situations, in particular during this year of a global pandemic, may lead to late or unfinished work among reviewers and ACs. In the event that a reviewer or an AC is unable to complete their work on time, we encourage you to be considerate of the personal circumstances; you might have to pick up the slack in some cases. If necessary, make a back-up plan with another reviewer or AC, and be flexible to the extent possible. In all communications, exhibit empathy and understanding.
  • Respect conflicts of interest. Since the reviewing process is double blind at the level of ACs, it is your responsibility to be on the lookout for uncaught conflicts of interest. If you notice a conflict of interest with a submission that is assigned to one of your ACs, contact program chairs right away. Do not talk to other SACs about submissions assigned to your ACs without prior approval from program chairs since other SACs may have conflicts with these submissions. Do not talk to other SACs or ACs about submissions you are an author on or submissions with which you have a conflict of interest.


You must keep everything relating to the review process confidential. Do not use ideas, code, or results from submissions in your own work until they become publicly available (e.g., via a technical report or a published paper for ideas/results, via open source for code). Do not talk about or distribute submissions (whether it is the code, or the ideas and results described in them) to anyone without prior approval from the program chairs. Code submitted for reviewing cannot be distributed. If you wish to invite an external reviewer, do so through OpenReview rather than sharing submissions through another channel.

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