Publishing in the Distill Research Journal

Distill is on an indefinite hiatus and no longer accepting submissions.

Why Publish in Distill?

Flexibility  Distill encourages you to go beyond traditional academic forms. The goal is to best communicate science and serve the reader.
Distill articles are peer reviewed and appear in Google Scholar. Distill is also registered with the Library of Congress and CrossRef.   ISSN: 2476-0757    DOI:
Neutrality Distill provides a neutral platform for multiple authors to jointly publish. This is in contrast to a personal website, where outside contributors may get less credit.
Impact Distill articles are read by tens of thousands of people.

Journal Scope

Distill is an academic journal in the area of Machine Learning. The distinguishing trait of a Distill article is outstanding communication and a dedication to human understanding. Distill articles often, but not always, use interactive media.

One good test for whether your article is a fit for Distill is whether your collaborators and you are willing to put in whatever time is necessary to write and illustrate an outstanding article. In our experience, this often takes 100+ hours. Typically, this means that there is at least one collaborator who is very enthusiastic about explaining things well.

Article Types

Distill is open to publishing a wide range of academic artifacts, provided they meet our editorial standards:

Research  Distill publishes novel research results of significant interest to the community.
Exposition Distill publishes articles explaining, synthesizing and reviewing existing research. This includes Reviews, Tutorials, Primers, and Perspective articles.

The editorial team is especially interested in explorable explanations.

Examples: Why Momentum Really Works, Attention and Augmented Recurrent Neural Networks

Commentary Distill occasionally publishes non-technical essays on topics ranging from public policy to meta-discussion of science.

Please discuss intentions with prior to submission.

Examples: Research Debt

& Artifacts
Distill is willing to publish non-traditional academic artifacts. This includes resources such as datasets and tools, but also more unusual artifacts.

Please discuss intentions with prior to submission.

There are no word count limits for any article type. Articles should be whatever length best serves the reader — just be aware that rambling is an easy failure mode.

What Distill Reviews For

Distill primarily reviews for three things:

All Distill articles must significantly advance the research community’s dialogue.

This could mean presenting significant novel results, giving a new perspective on known results, or even commentary on public policy.

Distill holds itself to an extremely high standard for communication.

This often, but not always, means that articles will use interactive media.

Articles should not only accurately report results, but also make sure high-level description of work matches the results, and be transparent about any weaknesses.

Distill provides the Distill Reviewer Worksheet to help evaluate articles. Reviewers and authors alike are encouraged to refer to this worksheet, be it for self-evaluation or during the review process.

In order for Distill to best serve the community, and to create a respected space for non-traditional contributions, it’s critical for Distill to hold high publication standards. Unfortunately, this means many articles have to be rejected, including good articles that may be publishable elsewhere.

Writing a Distill Article

Distill is on an indefinite hiatus and no longer accepting submissions.

Distill articles are prepared in HTML using the Distill infrastructure — see the getting started guide for details. The infrastructure provides nice default styling and standard academic features while preserving the flexibility of the web.

Distill articles must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Distill is a primary publication and will not publish content which is identical or substantially similar to content published elsewhere.

To submit an article, first create a GitHub repository for your article.1 You can keep it private during the review process if you would like — just share your repository with @distillpub-reviewers. Then email to begin the process.

Distill handles all reviews and editing through GitHub issues. Upon publication, the repository is made public and transferred to the @distillpub organization for preservation. This means that reviews of published work are always public. It is at the author’s discretion whether they share reviews of unpublished work.

The Distill Review Process

Distill is on an indefinite hiatus and no longer accepting submissions.

Distill only considers complete article submissions and evaluates them as is.

Editorial Review Peer Review Post-Publication Review Distill has ongoing review after publication. This allows subject experts and people trying to build on work to raise issues after publication. Peer reviewers give detailedfeedback to help articles meet Distill’s high standards. Distill does an initial assessment of whether a submission looks like a fit. This saves both Distill and the authorsenergy if it doesn’t make sense. Publication Submission Accepted for Review Approximately 1–3 months Ongoing Approximately 1–4 weeks

The first two stages of review are led by an editor. The editor will bring in external peer reviewers based on their discretion as to what perspectives are needed, optimizing for high-quality review and an excellent review experience for all parties. The amount of time these stages take is highly variable depending on how responsive the authors are.

For all publications, Distill will review for outstanding communication and design, in addition to scientific quality and integrity. Our reviewing criteria are more explicitly described in the Distill Reviewer Worksheet, which will be used by external reviewers to evaluate a submission. We recommend authors also spend some time using it to self-evaluate and identify areas for improvement.

In the third stage of review, readers can raise new concerns through GitHub issues. The issues will be moderated by Distill’s moderators. Significant issues may be displayed in the article margin if the author does not address them.

Distill may occasionally publish editorials, commentary, and invited content without peer review. This content will be clearly marked.

Prior updates to Distill’s Review Process

Distill went on hiatus and stopped accepting submissions for the indefinite future.

The hiatus and the motivations behind it were announced on Distill’s front page.

Distill removed the editorial team’s mentorship policy, and added procedures for choosing acting editors in the case of a conflict of interest.

These changes were anounced on Distill’s front page and you can view the prior version of our policy here.

Articles published before this date were informally reviewed without an official policy on how to do so.

Distill may occasionally publish revised versions of this policy. When the review policy changes significantly, the revision will be anounced in an editorial update on Distill’s front page.

Conflicts of Interest

Distill editors cannot be involved in the review process for a paper on which they are an author or where they are unable to be objective. In the event of a conflict of interest, Distill editors will select a member of the research community to serve as a temporary “acting editor” for an article. The acting editor should be a member of the relevant research community, and at arm’s length to the authors. The use and identity of an acting editor will be noted in the review process log, and made public if the article is published.

Machine learning is a small field and Distill’s editors will inevitably have prior relationships with some authors. Such relationships must be disclosed in the review process.

Dual Submission Policy

In order for Distill to be effective in legitimizing non-traditional publishing, it must be perceived as a primary academic publication. This means it’s important for Distill to follow typical “dual publication” norms. It’s also important for us to avoid the perception that Distill is an “accompanying blog post” for something like an arXiv paper.

The result is that Distill can only consider articles that are substantially different from those formally published elsewhere, and is cautious of articles informally published elsewhere. Below Distill provides guidance for particular cases:

Ethics Concerns (eg. Plagiarism, Misconduct, etc.)

If you have any concern, please email You can also reach out to Distill’s editors or steering committee members individually if that feels more comfortable.

Distill is still establishing policies and procedures. As issues arise, Distill will consult with the community and give consideration to the policies of journals the editorial team respects (eg. PLOS), the recommendations of the Committee on Publication Ethics, community norms, and the philosophy of the Open Science movement.

Growing Distill’s Team

Distill uses the following evaluation process for potential editors:

Being a Distill editor means taking on ownership and responsibility for the success of Distill and for publication decisions within your subject matter portfolio. Distill editors are volunteer positions with no compensation — except playing a critical role in advancing a new kind of scientific publishing.

Growing Distill’s Scope

In the long-run, the editorial team believes Distill should be open to expanding to other disciplines, with new editors taking on different topic portfolios.

In considering editors for new topics, Distill has the same expectations it has for all editors with two modifications:

  1. Although Distill does not normally review papers outside its existing topic portfolio, the editorial team will make an exception to review papers from potential editorial candidates. The existing editorial team evaluates exposition while soliciting a third party editor to help us evaluate scientific merit, following Distill’s regular review process. Because this type of review is especially difficult and expensive, Distill will only move forward if the submission plausibly appears to be a very strong article.
  2. A second editor who can share responsibility for the topics you are taking on. This can either be an existing editor expanding to another topic, or someone applying along with you. Having a second editor is important so that editors have someone to talk over difficult cases with, and so that there isn’t a single point of failure.
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