CONFLICT OF INTEREST GUIDELINES ============================================================================= A program committee member (including the chair of the committee) is considered to have a conflict of interest on a submission that has an author in any of the following categories: 1. the person themselves; 2. a past or current student or academic adviser; 3. a supervisor or employee in the same line of authority within the past five years; 4. a member of the same organization (e.g., company, university, government agency, etc.) within the past five years; 5. a co-author of a paper appearing in publication within the past five years; 6. someone with whom there has been a financial relationship (e.g., grants, contracts, consultancies, equity investments, stock options, etc.) within the past five years; 7. someone with whom acceptance or rejection would further the personal goals of the reviewer (e.g., a competitor); 8. a member of the same family or anyone considered a close personal friend; or 9. someone about whom, for whatever reason, their work cannot be evaluated objectively.
These guidelines are roughly the same (with minor variations) as what I've come to expect from other networking conferences. I feel I have to point out the remarkable difference between how conflicts are treated in the networking world and the theory world. In the theory community #1 is a standard conflict; #2 and #3 are also pretty standard although, in my experience, definitely not universally applied; and after that conflicts are generally, in my experience, up to the individual PC member to declare if they happen to feel like it.
There's been debate on this blog about the subject before, and I certainly don't mind there being more. I maintain that the theory community is far too lax in its handling of conflicts. We can certainly reasonably argue whether the true impact of conflicts in actual decisions in theory conferences is negligible or substantial -- a matter of appearance or a matter of substance. I can say that, in terms of appearance, people from the networking side (and other communities) are shocked by the lax approach adopted by the theory community.
Thanks to Muriel and Tim for allowing me to post from their document.