How to Submit and Present an MTT Paper


If you've never done this before, it can be an intimidating prospect. Just think: you're going to give a presentation to about 600 experts in your field, all of whom are skeptical as hell and will do whatever they can to show the world you're an idiot. It's enough to turn your shoes brown.  

Actually, it's really not so bad. After all, you can always sell insurance to make a living. Or, you can prepare well and feel confident that you've got it all together. Here's how the system works and what you should know about paper submission and presentation.

What's publishable? 
    Lots of people have answers to this. Here's mine. 
    The MTT symposium is a research symposium. This means that a paper must present, well, research. The term research can be broadly defined to include a variety of things, but the essential component is novelty. An MTT paper must present something that can be considered new information. It can be sophisticated academic research or an ingenious practical application or design method, but it must not be obvious or trivial. The rule is quite broad; however, the element of novelty is essential. If it's been done before, or it's obvious that it can be done, don't bother submitting it. 
    Having heard all that, you will be pleased to know that MTT papers tend to be more practical than most archival publications. Most of the papers in the MTT Transactions are designed less to inform than to make some particular academic's reputation. Such papers do show up at the MTT Symposium, but they don't do well: after all, who can understand pages of industrial-strength mathematics at a glance? The gutsy, practical stuff is more interesting and useful in the kind of environment we have at the MTT. And, that's what the attendees come for. 


How to get it accepted 
    It is essential that a submitted paper be--let's use an all-encompassing term--professional. This means that all claims and statements are precise and justifiable. Everything is clear. There is no "marketing" of an idea; the more dispassionate, the better. The results must be complete and convincing. All data that should be measured must be provided. 

    Click here for a copy of a paper on the subject that appeared in the MTT Newsletter a few years ago. (Sorry, some parts are getting a little dated; see below.) For a less reverent treatment of the subject, click here


  How to submit a paper 
    Gee, that Call for Papers on the main IMS web site is long and confusing! Do those guys really need to receive all that stuff? 

    It's really not so bad. Initially, you submit a summary of the paper, not the paper itself. The summary must not be too brief; it must show what was done, what was novel, and what the results were. It must be clear that the results are significant, novel, and worthy of publication. Conversely, however, including lots of math and nonessential details wastes the reviewers' time, when they are reviewing several dozen papers. Excess detail will not endear you to them. When the paper is accepted, you then submit it in final form, for publication in the digest. 

    To avoid the need for a second pass through the corporate publication-approval cycle, many authors submit their papers initially in final form. This is generally OK, but, if you take this route, you should still avoid excess detail. 

    The most common reason for rejection of papers is lack of clear information about what was done and what new results were obtained. Make these things clear, and you're already way ahead of the pack. The second most common reason, of course, is that the paper is simply crap.

    In the last few years, the MTT has moved from paper to electronic submission. (Can we still call them papers? Maybe we'll have to call them silicons!)  Only a few years ago, the  Instructions for Authors form still began with "Put a new ribbon in your typewriter." Egad!

    Although it changed a bit in the first few years, the submission process is now pretty stable. Still, check the web site for submission information and download everything you need. It's not a bad idea to get a template for the paper and to use it. The IEEE publication organization seems to be infatuated with third-rate word processors like MS Word and Tex. They have never recognized FrameMaker, even though it is the primary product used by corporate publication departments worldwide. For a template in FrameMaker format, according to the 2004 standards, click here. It should be close to what you need for the current year. 

    In general, however, you must create a PDF of your paper and upload it to the IMS website. In this process, fonts are a perennial problem. You should be aware that fonts are part of  your computer's operating system, not part of your document; the next guy's computer may not have the same fonts as yours. So, to be safe, make sure your fonts are embedded in the PDF document. Also, you can use color in your paper, but it's a good idea not to depend on it too much; many reviewers don't like to deal with PDFs on-screen, so they print out the papers on monochrome printers.

    PDF generation is a perennial problem. The PDF has to satisfy IEEE XPlore standards. Unfortunately, the IEEE's own Adobe Acrobat setup files sometimes don't create acceptable PDFs. Usually, an on-line conversion system is available. It's a good idea to use it. 

    The IMS no longer publishes paper digests, only PDFs on CD, so color can be used freely in the final version of the paper.

Incidentally, the MTT Symposium's acceptance rate runs around 45% - 50%. 


Paper accepted! Now what? 
    You now have to write two papers. One is a PDF copy for the digest. It is important to observe the rules for preparing your manuscript and to observe all the PDF requirements. The IEEE provides on-line PDF conversion, which is guaranteed to meet IEEE standards. Use it--you almost certainly won't generate an acceptable PDF on your own. The guys who assemble the digest have a lot of work to do; don't waste their time by sending a paper they'll have to return. You absolutely must observe deadlines! Most academics view deadlines as mild suggestions, and they drive everyone on the Digest Committee nuts. Publication deadlines are real deadlines. You meet 'em or die trying! 

    Be sure to sign and submit the copyright form. This is the most frequently forgotten part of the package, but it is absolutely essential. Your paper won't be published without it. 

    Your second paper is the slides for the symposium presentation or, if your paper was accepted for it, the posters for the Interactive Forum. Now, before you create these, think a little! What will be most useful to people in the audience? What do they want to learn from your work? Do they want to see a lot of highfalutin' mathematics? Do they want to see a lot of slick Powerpoint viewgraphs with really cool color schemes and animation? Or, do they want to know what you did and what the results were, and how to use them in their own work? Design the presentation accordingly. 

    Presentations are all electronic. You can use PDFs or Powerpoint files. Using your own laptop computer is not allowed, nor is loading a new version of the presentation just before the session begins. These days, presentation materials are submitted before the symposium date and preloaded onto the computers. Even if the papers have been preloaded, you should bring a backup on a USB memory stick. (don't use a CD; many computers don't have CD drives any more.) Before the session begins, check the computer and make sure your paper is there. Open the file and make sure it is the right one and is working properly. 

    Most papers are in Powerpoint form. Because of its clumsy graphics and difficulty dealing with equations, Greek letters, and mathematical symbols, I find Powerpoint inadequate for technical presentations. I always use PDFs of viewgraphs, with fonts embedded. In any case, remember that fonts are in the computer, not in your document (unless you embed them in a PDF, of course). Your presentation may look great on your computer, then, in your presentation, have question marks where the Greek letters should have been.)

The Big Day The presentation 
    Beforehand, practice the presentation. This may seem obvious, but many people don't do it. Practice speaking clearly, not too fast, and projecting your voice, so everyone can hear and understand. Remember that a large part of the audience are not native English speakers, so clear language devoid of colloquialisms is very helpful. Don't feel you have to be formal and stilted, but don't try to be clever, cute, or breezy, either. Just explain things in a direct, clear, natural manner. 

    Stand up straight and look at the audience. It's amazing how many people turn their backs to the audience, stare at the projection screen, and mumble.

    It is best to bring a backup of your presentation to the session on a USB memory stick, even though it has (presumably) been preloaded onto the presentation computer. Don't use CDs or other media that are unreliable or might not be supported. Get to the session early and check it by opening the file. 

    The MTT Symposium has a speaker's preparation room where you can load your presentation onto a computer, check it, and remind yourself of what you intend to say.  

    On the day of the presentation, go to the speaker's breakfast and meet the session chairman. You need to know who he is, and he needs to be reassured that you are there. Come to the session well in advance, identify yourself to the chairman, and sit in the front row. Check out the audio-visual equipment so you know how it all works. Get a glass of water if you might need it. 

    When it's time to give your talk, try not to throw up on the lectern.

    After the talk, there may be a few questions. Many speakers are petrified of this part of the talk, but they shouldn't be. Really hostile questions are rare at the MTT; MTT people are just too polite. (Well, OK, a lot are complete twits, but, in any case, they're not very aggressive.)

    Finally, stay for the whole session and hang around awhile afterward to answer questions by people who didn't have a chance to ask them after the presentation. This is a traditional courtesy. 


Rules The Rules 
    Yes, there are rules for publications, and you damn well better follow them! People who publish regularly know all this, but, for you neophytes, here they are: 
    • The Fundamental Law of Publications: submit a publication to only one symposium or journal at a time. Never, never, NEVER submit a paper to two symposia at the same time. Doing so is not only unethical, but it also violates copyright laws.
    • A paper submitted to the MTT must be distinctly different from any previous publication and must contain new information. It is not enough simply to alter some of the language in a previous publication; it must be genuinely different from all previous publications, in journals or in symposia.
    • Between submission and presentation, you must not give information about the paper to another entity. For example, the abstract must not be published (e.g., in a trade journal) without permission of the MTT Society. 
    • The paper must be released for publication by your company's management, government censors, or anyone else who must approve it, before submission. Be sure that all managers who approve publication know that such approval, once granted, cannot be rescinded. 
    • Similarly, material that may be deemed classified, proprietary, or secret must be released by the appropriate authority. The MTT will assume that submission implies that the information need not be protected, beyond ordinary reviewer confidentiality, and, if accepted, is freely publishable.
    • The paper's copyright must be transferred to the IEEE. You must submit a copy of the IEEE copyright form with the paper. The IEEE will assume that the person signing the form has the authority to do so. IEEE will not retain the copyright if the paper is not accepted and, even if it is, will return rights to the author to use it in other situations (e.g., company reports).
    • Acceptance of a paper creates an obligation for one of the authors to attend the symposium and present the paper. 
    • You must meet all deadlines. The digest of papers must be ready in time for the symposium. There is no alternative.