Two F-Words in Peer Review (Fraud and Feedback)

Monday, November 15, 2021 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Event Calendar Category

LIDS Seminar Series

Speaker Name

Nihar Shah


Carnegie Mellon University

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In this talk, we present two major challenges in peer review, propose solutions with guarantees, and discuss important open problems.

(1) Fraud: There have been several recent discoveries of fraud in peer review: A group of participants form a coalition, get assigned each other's papers by manipulating the system, and then accept each others' papers. We present an algorithm that mitigates such fraud by randomizing reviewer assignments and does not rely on assumptions about the malicious behavior. The algorithm yields an optimal-quality assignment subject to the randomization constraints, and we will discuss experiments characterizing this tradeoff.

(2) Feedback: Real-world systems rely on feedback about their performance for their continual improvement. A useful means of obtaining feedback about the peer-review process is to ask authors' opinions. However, author opinions are significantly biased by whether their paper was accepted. We formulate this problem and present algorithms to debias such feedback. Our work relies on the key observation that the direction of this bias is known: the program chairs know which authors' papers were accepted.


Nihar B. Shah is an Assistant Professor in the Machine Learning and Computer Science departments at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). His research interests span statistics, machine learning, information theory, and game theory, recently focusing on improving the peer-review process by designing computational methods, mathematical guarantees, experimental evaluations, and deployments. He is a recipient of a Google Research Scholar Award 2021, an NSF CAREER Award 2020-25, the 2017 David J. Sakrison memorial prize from EECS Berkeley for a "truly outstanding and innovative PhD thesis", the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship 2014-16, the Berkeley Fellowship 2011-13, the IEEE Data Storage Best Paper and Best Student Paper Awards for the years 2011/2012, and the SVC Aiya Medal 2010, and has supervised the Best Student Paper at AAMAS 2019.

An overview of research on peer review is available here