Proposal for Mentoring Program for the ICAIL 2007 Conference
Target Audience: Authors (generally graduate students) never before published at ICAIL
Conditions: Legible drafts are to be submitted ten weeks before the ICAIL07 deadline, no later than November 14th. Authors who submit drafts by this time will receive a thorough set of constructive comments and observations from a mentor assigned from the ICAIL community. These comments should be available by the end of November.
Expectations: A core nucleus (e.g., John Zeleznikow, Burkhard Schafer, Jack Conrad) will distribute the papers to a team of roughly a dozen volunteer reviewers (e.g., past or present PC members or established ICAIL authors). Note that the “core nucleus” can themselves serve as reviewers.
Topics for Review: Reviewers will be welcome to discuss organization, coverage of prior art, methodology, evaluation, justifiability of conclusions, writing style, etc. Reviewers should not get involved in the details of actually rewriting portions of papers.
Advantages for the AI & Law Community:
(1) Will flag weak papers early and give the authors a chance to strengthen them in a variety of ways, based on the feedback; should thus serve to substantially improve papers before PC reviewers set eyes on them;
(2) Will permit the AI & Law community to identify deficient citations and, where appropriate, to point authors to previous work done within the community;
(3) Will permit the community to help advisors from other communities who are unacquainted with AI & Law expectations, quality, granularity, etc;
(4) Will indirectly educate a host of advisors on the merits of the AI & Law community and its historic research contributions;
(5) Will give reviewers the chance to recommend that new authors consult with native speakers in order to bring the quality of the language up to standard;
(6) Will give reviewers the chance to manage expectations by informing authors of how suitable (or unsuitable) their topics are for the AI & Law discipline (recall how some papers submitted to ICAIL really were not applicable to either Law or AI);
(7) Despite a marginal "hit rate" (i.e., mentored papers that are likely to be accepted), the program is truly an investment in the future of the community, since it will send a clear signal that the AI & Law community does indeed care about up and coming researchers;
(8) The mentoring program may thus expand the pool of ICAIL authors as well as participating countries engaging in AI & Law research. The program may prove very beneficial for researchers from developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico. Such countries are arguably ripe for the expansion of AI & Law, since our research may serve to significantly increase access to justice.
(9) Conversely, the mentoring program may prevent the loss of young researchers with different backgrounds (i.e., associated but not exactly AI & Law) to other disciplines. At the moment, many legal researchers in IT & Law work on Intellectual Property issues—because this is where money is and where recognition is to be found. Moreover, many Law Schools do not presently see AI & Law as an area of significant research (even though it poses many interesting jurisprudential problems). So through initiatives like the mentoring program, we may be able to additionally attract legal academics to the AI & Law domain.
(1) If the pool of volunteers is small, may require more than one paper assigned to an individual volunteer.
(2) Papers will require prompt attention from the assigned mentors in order to avoid schedule congestion during the Holiday season.
Reservations already Addressed:
Expressed Reservation (1)--A mentor/reviewer would not be eligible for a final review of the paper, thereby diminishing the pool of competent reviewers.
Response: Tom Gordon commented that there is no reason why a mentor could not ultimately also serve as a reviewer of the paper s/he already mentored.
Expressed Reservation (2)--Qualified advisors should either provide such mentoring like this themselves, or provide it to their students from other sources.
Response: Not all advisors are familiar with the field or with established, reliable authorities in the field. Although Trevor expressed a variant of this reservation in Bologna, he also mentioned (to Jack) that he has in the past provided such mentoring in an informal capacity to some of his French colleagues.