Publishing in the Distill Research Journal

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, we expect this to mean 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.

We are 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.

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 we have to reject many articles, including good articles that may be publishable elsewhere.

Writing a Distill Article

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. You can keep it private during the review process if you would like — just share it with @colah and @shancarter. 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

Initial Review Detailed Review & Editing 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. Distill’s editors and reviewers give detailed feedback, editing, and design advice to help articles meet Distill’s high standards. Distill does an initial assesment of whether a draft article looks like a fit. This saves both Distill and the authors energy if it doesn’t make sense. Publication Submission TentativeAcceptance Approximately 1-2 months Ongoing Approximately 1-2 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. Distill provides expert editing to help authors improve their writing and diagrams. While our review process does take time and energy, we strive to ensure it is well worth your effort.

Before editing
Before editing
After editing
After editing

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. Articles published prior to March 20, 2017 were informally reviewed without an official policy on how to do so.

Distill’s review policy is still developing and we expect to learn a great deal as we review papers. We will publish a more detailed, revised version of this policy by March 2018.

Conflicts of Interest

Distill editors can not be involved in the review process for a paper on which they are an author or where they are unable to be objective. If no editors are available to review an article, a member of the steering committee may lead the review process or have someone independent do so.

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.

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 we’ll consult with the community and give consideration to the policies of journals we respect (eg. PLOS), the recommendations of the Committee on Publication Ethics, community norms, and the philosophy of the Open Science movement.

is dedicated to clear explanations of machine learning