How many years it takes to publish a new idea

While the original idea could be traced back to a chapter in my PhD thesis, the actual work on large-scale e-voting started in 2009 when I was still working in Cambridge. With my colleague Matthew Kreeger, we began to critically examine the basic theory underpinning the 20 years research on End-to-End (E2E) verifiable e-voting, and attempted to design a new category of E2E systems that did not rely on any trustworthy tallying authorities. We called the new category “self-enforcing e-voting”.

We first released a technical report in IACR (2010), and then tried to publish it at a conference.

Until its recent acceptance by USENIX JETS (Vol. 2, No. 3, 2014), the paper had been repeatedly rejected by top conferences in the field. The final version of the paper is in the open-access domain (below). The technical protocol in the paper remains unchanged from its 2010 IACR report.

This has been an interesting personal experience, from receiving consistently harsh reviews and repeated rejections from top conferences, to getting surprisingly positive feedback from the ERC panel and a €1.5m starting grant to support my further work, until the final acceptance of the paper just recently.

Getting rejections is always a frustrating experience, but in the end, I feel I learned most from the rejections rather than the acceptance. Today’s top security conferences have developed an extremely rigorous reviewing process, which is good. But perhaps, the process could be slightly adjusted to give a little bit more tolerance to “new” ideas, albeit they may be controversial or have all sorts of shortcomings in the beginning.

Acknowledgement: The co-authors of the paper are Matthew Kreeger, Brian Randell, Dylan Clarke, Siamak Shahandashti and Peter Lee. We especially thank several dozens of anonymous reviewers – who liked or disliked the paper – for the feedback and for helping us improve the paper.

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