The VB2019 CFP - how the selection procedure works

Posted by   Martijn Grooten on   Jan 24, 2019

Last week, we opened the call for papers for VB2019, which is to take place 2-4 October in London, UK. The deadline for the call for papers is Sunday 17 March.

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We are often asked how the selection procedure works, and since we believe transparency, and since an explanation of what we are looking for may actually help you submit better abstracts (which in turn will help us to put together a better conference), we decided to outline the process here.

The first thing to note is that our goal is to put together the best conference possible. While this may sound obvious, it is not the same as simply selecting the best abstracts, or the abstracts that score the most highly among our reviewers (more on which later).

For Virus Bulletin, the 'best' conference means a broad set of talks about the threats that we're facing and the things we're doing to mitigate them – things that are usually grouped together under the term 'threat intelligence'. From discussions of APT operations to botnet analyses, and from details of threat analysis tools to ways to harden an organisation's network.

On top of this, we believe that the conference benefits from talks that discuss issues that affect the industry as a whole, and talks that just seem very interesting for the audience. Last year's conference, for example, had talks on Fake News, Internet Balkanisation and the industry's hiring problem.

In order to achieve our goal, the selection procedure consists of two phases:

  • In the first phase, a broad group of industry experts assess each of the submitted abstracts, each reviewer assigning each abstract a score of between 0 and 5. They can read the full abstract, but they cannot see the name or affiliation of the author. They can leave comments, and read comments made by other reviewers, but they cannot see who said what, and they cannot see each other's scores.

  • In the second phase, the organisation committee uses the ranked abstracts to put together the programme. In this phase, we see the names and affiliations of the authors as well as their biographies. Occasionally, we contact authors to ask for clarification or to see if they can change the focus of the paper a little to make it more suitable for the conference. Again, this phase is not necessarily about selecting the highest scoring abstracts, but about putting together an appropriate selection of talks to create an interesting and diverse programme.

We think this two-phase approach helps us to achieve our goals. We like to treat the selection procedure more like an interview process than a competition, and would encourage submitters to do the same: try your best when writing the abstract, be as clear as possible, and make sure that you can deliver what you promise.

Finally, here are some tips that may be helpful:

  • We typically receive around four times as many submissions as there are available speaking slots, and often there are many submissions on more or less the same topic. Even if you submit an abstract on a 'hot topic', there is no guarantee it will be selected.

  • We hope to get a good mix of speakers that includes both those who are new to the conference circuit and those who are more experienced, and we encourage both to submit. We are happy to help those who are less experienced with their talk and/or paper, should they want it.

  • A small number of slots will remain open for 'last-minute papers', for which a call for papers will open in the summer with a deadline of around one month before the conference. These slots are intended explicitly for hot and timely research, not for papers that weren't selected in the first round.

  • To give you some idea of the content and style of VB conference presentations and papers, you can watch many videos from past VB conferences on our YouTube channel and read conference papers in our Bulletin.

  • Don't hesitate to contact me (martijn.grooten@virusbulletin.com) if you have any questions about the call for papers, or if you want to provide extra information about your abstract that doesn't fit into the submission form.

  • Even if you don't have anything to submit, we still hope you can attend. If you want to come with some colleagues, why not ask about partnership opportunities, as these packages come with free tickets?

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