Online abstract management
With the digitalization paving a smoother road for research, it is bringing together the people of science, of academic excellence, on a global scale by using the internet. There are now services available for online abstract submission and management. These services are a part of system software used by various organizations to conduct conferences and are known as Conference management systems.
All around the world, researchers get together at various conferences and workshops to share their ideas, their work, and the progress they make in their fields. The conferences provide them with the means to present their findings on a platform where they are acknowledged and discussed. However, not everyone makes it through the screening procedures, not every research paper is published, not all research makes it to the presentation. Before the conference, the researchers are invited or they proffer to submit an “abstract” of their studies. The abstract broadly covers the aim of the study, the hypothesis, tools or methods used, the findings and conclusion or recommendation. Abstract management is one aspect that falls under the umbrella of Conference Management.
History: Need for Online Abstract Management
There are two sides to the story that led to the development of online services. Historically, for the scientific organizations, collecting and managing abstracts was a tedious manual task that included large amounts of paper and created an extensive managerial workload. Reaching out to potential contributors was in itself an onerous task. The workshop or conference organizing committees sent out “call for paper”(CFP) or “call for abstracts” either through a mailing list of eligible candidates or through major academic and research institutes and universities. For the researchers, it was difficult to bring their work forward for numerous reasons, some of them were not receiving the CFP on time, or not being able to submit the abstract before the deadline, and sometimes even being ignorant about the opportunity. These issues formed only the superficial layer of obstacles, the deeper layer is out of context.
Gradually, in the wake of global networking and digitization of data, the scientific community found the right solution for their problems- web-based abstract management and conference management systems. A growing number of academic and scientific organizations now use the software to consolidate and simplify the task. CFPs are now sent online through e-mails or posted on the websites, and the candidates are provided enough time to respond to the request. The cumbersome process of handling the abstracts is now taken care of by a system, with minimal manual labor.
Objective and Application:
Simplification of the abstract submission, reviewing and handling procedure is the objective of the Online Abstract Management. An abstract is a concise description of a research article, thesis, study or conference proceedings, and is often used to give the reader an idea about the paper’s purpose.
Software functionality is based on the classic roadmap of a conference. They may be diverse in detail, but broadly they must incorporate the given-
- A submission phase (mostly abstract submission but sometimes full papers) along with managing deadlines, size limits and format restrictions,
- Reviewing, open or “blind”, by the referees chosen as per their particular specializations or interest,
- Decision making by the program committee,
- Development of the conference program, and
- Publishing of the program and the abstracts or papers (online, in print or on a CD-ROM or other digital medium).
The entire process can be governed by the committee using the online administration system.
- The first step is to send out the Call for Paper.
- The CFPs are sent out using either the mailing list or by using the specialized web-hosted services.
- The candidates who wish to participate respond to the request by visiting the online portal being used by the conference committee. They can log in or sign up for a new account on the website.
- They submit their abstracts using the option Online Abstract Submission.
- Submitted abstracts are then reviewed by the assigned reviewers (people of academic excellence in certain fields). This is called Peer-review.
- The conference committee, headed by the conference chair, monitors the reviews and decides what papers are accepted or rejected.
- The software then drafts the abstract book of the selected papers and allocates them slots in the conference sessions.
- Once the schedule is approved, the chosen candidates are notified of their allotted session for the presentation at the meet.
The software also provides additional features like the ranking of reviews, setting an acceptance threshold, allow entering of keywords, topics, preferred session and online editing of abstracts. The best part about these services is that most software providers provide customizable services that suit their client’s needs.
A Few Examples
We have comprised a list of a few leading Abstract Management software available online, with their salient features.
- OXFORD ABSTRACTS
A UK-based firm founded in 2001, Oxford Abstracts is one of the pioneers of low-cost abstract and paper management services, with the online systems been used by more than 250 organizations in 24 countries. The key feature they provide are the online screens they set-up for authors to submit abstracts and papers, which are linked to their client’s conference website and contributors pass seamlessly from the conference website to the online submission system.
- CATALYSTTM(by Omnipress)
Omnipress is a Wisconsin (US) based company that started as book publishers and then moved to conference management solutions. CATALYSTTMis completely configurable abstract management system, that can bend to meet the requirements of the conference without the need for costly custom programming. It features an intuitive interface that is easy for submitters and reviewers to use. CATALYST™ also includes the tools needed to efficiently build the conference schedule, send notifications to candidates and provide the attendees with a digital library of the collected content.
A Chicago (US) based company that provides online solutions for abstract management, is also known for its user-friendly and customizable interface. It has also developed a mobile-enabled version. OASIS does not require any additional IT support. They work with the client to realize their requirements and then configure their system to suit their client’s workflow.
Known for its ease of use, clean interface, and outstanding support, OpenConf is a Zakon Group owned web application which was developed specifically for the purpose of Abstract management. It is today one the recommended conference organizing solutions.
In addition to the above-mentioned software, there are numerous abstract management service providers. Some are newer, upcoming ones while others are phasing out. A few more examples include Fluidreview (by SurveyMonkey.com), MiraSmart Conference, Ex-Ordo, COMS, Abstracts (by Open Water)etc.
Utility And limitations
The perks of having a facile, easily mastered system for end-to-end governance of abstract handling are obvious in plain sight. The tremendous growth of the market for these solutions speaks for itself when it comes to the benefits and utility of these products. Some pros of online abstract management are listed here:
- A relief from the inconvenient manual process of handling a large amount of paperwork for the conference organizers tops the list.
- They provide a streamlined and hassle-free means for candidates to submit their work, at their own convenience. An acknowledgment of the receipt of their article helps the candidate build faith in the organization.
- All data is stored online and can be accessed by the Conference Organizers at any place and time. There are now mobile friendly versions available for most software.
- The needs of the organizers are always prioritized by the service providers, hence, granting a unique experience to each client in their own preferred ways.
- All the reviewed articles are available for the committee to judge at one place, making it easier for them to compare and select the best ones for their conference.
- Automated notifications and communication with the chosen submitters keep them confident and well-informed about the upcoming meet.
And the list can go on and on. However, there are certain drawbacks of the technology, that stem from the fact that “technology is ever-changing”. Development of any type of software is becoming increasingly complex due to changing technologies, methods, geographical location and multicultural arrangements.
- The abstract management services have to build systems tailored to the needs of the client, which may not always be simple and cost-effective.
- Abstract management systems must provide a safe and secure way for submission and review of articles with due consideration for copyright and disclosure issues, else they may end up facing lawsuits.
- Most software only has provision for online abstract submission, but delegate registration is not a part of the service. The organizing committee must look after that themselves.
At the end of the line of all that is discussed, we can conclude that the web-based abstract management systems have simplified the whole process of organizing workshops and conferences. Throughout the scientific and research community, the popularity of such services is escalating extraordinarily. The attention of conference organizers has been captured by these software, given the creation of workflows that are straightforward and automatic and save hours of time and say goodbye to paper and spreadsheets. These unite all the data and coordinate abstracts, reviews, and payments with one centralized system, and keep everyone informed and on track. Any Conference committee would agree that this arrangement gives them the peace of mind that was impossible to achieve with previous methods of organizing a conference