Sun 15 - Fri 20 November 2020 Online Conference

Onward! Essays is looking for clear and compelling pieces of writing about topics important to the software community. An essay can be long or short.

An essay can be an exploration of the topic and its impact, or a story about the circumstances of its creation; it can present a personal view of what is, explore a terrain, or lead the reader in an act of discovery; it can be a philosophical digression or a deep analysis. It can describe a personal journey, perhaps the one the author took to reach an understanding of the topic. The subject area—software, programming, and programming languages—should be interpreted broadly and can include the relationship of software to human endeavors, or its philosophical, sociological, psychological, historical, or anthropological underpinnings.

Onward! Essays invites not only experienced academics but graduate students to submit essays with constructive criticism of current software development technology and practices, as well as presentations of ideas that could change the realm of software development. Practitioners who are dissatisfied—or satisfied!—with the state of our art are also encouraged to share insights about how to reform—or improve—software development, perhaps by presenting detailed examples of a new approach, demonstrating concrete benefits and potential risks.

Onward! Essays is not looking for research-as-usual papers—an essay doesn’t contain definitive validation; however, regardless of its form or topic, the essay must have “substance.” An essay may or may not have a conclusion, but it must provide some insight or compelling argument, either directly or indirectly stated; the reader should be left—perhaps after some reflection—in no doubt about the claimed insight or argument. The key characteristic of a successful essay is that it shows a keen mind coming to grips with a tough or intriguing problem in such a way that, as Virginia Woolf wrote, “it explains much and tells much.”

Long essays are fine, but essayists are encouraged to consider the virtues of short essays that deliver their points sharply and with precision. Essays as short as a single page are welcome at Onward! Essays. Short essays will be accorded the same status at Onward! Essays as longer ones.

Accepted Essays


Call for Essays

Selection Process

Onward! essays are peer-reviewed in a single-blind manner. Accepted essays will appear in the Onward! Proceedings in the ACM Digital Library. Submissions will be judged on the potential impact of the ideas and the quality of the presentation.

The Onward! Essays track follows a two-phase review process. This enables us to welcome contributions that contain promising material and have the potential to meet the conference’s standards, but which may fall short of this in their initial form. At the end of the first round, all essays will be either accepted normally, subject to major revisions, or rejected outright. The authors of essays in the second category will get around one month to complete the requested revisions, at which point the original reviewers will decide on final acceptance or rejection. As usual, essays in the first category will also receive feedback from the reviewers, and the corresponding authors will be required to take that feedback into account for the final submission.

In order to facilitate the second round of review, authors of essays in need of major revisions will be requested to accompany their second submission with a cover letter mapping the requested revisions to specific parts of the essay. The program committee will use the cover letter and the revised submission to arrive at a final decision.

The second phase will only be used to elevate promising work to the conference’s standard, not to require additional work on essays already deemed up-to-standard.

Instructions for Authors

Essays should use the ACM SIGPLAN Conference acmart Format, with the sigplan and review \documentclass options. This produces two-column, 10pt files. If you use LaTeX or Word, please use the provided ACM SIGPLAN acmart templates provided here. All submissions should be in PDF format. Please also ensure that your submission is legible when printed on a black and white printer. In particular, please check that colors remain distinct and font sizes are legible.

The following list describes the typical expectations for a submission. However, given the nature of the Onward! Essays track, we understand that authors of certain submissions might have special requirements. For example, if a contribution might require a different media (video, interactive presentation or an art piece). If that is the case for your submission or if you have any other concerns, please contact the PC chair (or, if you prefer, a different PC member) to discuss the issue.

  • All submitted essays should conform to the formatting instructions unless there is a reason founded in the nature of the essay to do otherwise; in this case, please preface the essay with the reasons for the variation.

  • Essays must describe unpublished work that is not currently submitted for publication elsewhere as described by SIGPLAN’s Republication Policy. Submitters should also be aware of ACM’s Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism.

  • There is no limit on the length of submissions, but note that reviewers will not be obligated to read beyond the end of their interest. The main part of the final version should not exceed 25 pages unless there are two program committee members who believe the content requires a longer essay, and the quality of the writing is likely to sustain readers. If otherwise your final version is longer than those 25 pages, you must re-submit it before the final deadline so the program committee can reëxamine it. No limit is imposed on the bibliographic section or other appendices.

Submission Site

To submit a paper, please use the Onward! Essays 2020 submissions page.