I took the time to count how many new reviews for the ECMFA’14 conference were uploaded each day to the easychair account for the conference.
The results, displayed below, are exactly what I was expecting (it’s also my own behaviour 🙂 ). Even if the reviewers had one full month to complete the reviews, 80% of them came in during the last week (day 30 in the graphic was the deadline, as part of the last week I count late reviews arrived days 31 and 32).
Even if this data is taken from a single conference (hey, this a rant blog post, not a scientific paper!) I’m sure you have the same feeling: no matter how much time you give to the reviewers, most of them they will always do the reviews last minute. If so, then, why do we need to give so much time to review (conference) papers? We could have a quicker turnaround (which should be one of the main benefits of sending a paper to a conference) if we just drastically cut the reviewing period and give just two weeks.
Based on our collective behaviour (there are always so many “urgents” things to do that we don´t plan, we just react so until we start getting the warning about upcoming deadlines we don´t put that on top of our to-do list) I don’t think the quality of the reviews would be worse than what we have now and authors would get their notifications earlier.
What do you think?