Whoever has recently been the chairperson of a larger scientific conference has surely made one experience: the job of producing proceedings is continuously getting harder (i.e. more work intensive and more complex). Three reasons can easily be identified: Conferences tend to grow larger, deadlines tend to become shorter. "Papers" are not just textual documents anymore. They have turned into multimedia-documents. The "Conference Proceedings" are no longer only a printout of the papers but often also come with a CD-ROM or an online presentation of the submitted materials. The diagram to the right displays a typical workflow, where the whole work is centered around the conference chair. He moves documents between authors and reviewers, sends out reminders, creates recommendations as well as statistics and finally forwards different document versions to different publishers.
Only the application of a complete electronic managing and publishing process can reduce the amount of work. This new workflow should be based on the following three aspects: electronic multimedia-documents, automation of routine work and powerful tools. It must support the input (formats, templates, data-mining), the managing (submission, review) and the output (cross-media publishing) of "papers" as well as secondary tasks (e.g. reminders, statistics). Exploiting these aspects the electronic workflow can be described by the diagram to the left which describes a possible structure with our new SRM-system. There are a number of systems supporting some or many parts of the process already available (START, WitanWeb, CyberChair...) but none of them is complete.
A first prototype (called "MCP" - Managing Conference Proceedings) based on the ideas given above has been implemented and used to support the submission and reviewing of Papers and Short Presentations for the Eurographics 2000 conference. An improved version (based on experiences from the first run) is currently being used to create the proceedings of Eurographics 2007 (see http://www.eg.org/EG2007). A Hyperwave Information Server (http://www.hyperwave.com), i.e. an OO-MM-DB & Web-Server, is used as basic component. All communication and data transfer are done through the WWW (http, ftp, email). Authors have to register and download a template (currently LaTeX2e). They receive an account to login to the HWIS, specify personal data and upload their contribution, which then becomes a DB-object with metadata attached as attributes. All reviewers can access exactly the submissions assigned to them . They give their comments - again through a Web form or by sending an XML file - resulting in another set of metadata. Finally, statistical analyses and printouts of the reviews are generated for the program committee.
For the year 2005 conference 303 Full Papers (~ 1.74 GB compressed data) and 82 Short Presentations (~ 540 MB compr.) were submitted. 47 Full Papers were accepted after review and are being published as printed proceedings (Blackwell Publishers), on DVD and in the EG Digital Library (see http://diglib.eg.org). On both occasions the SRM-system worked very satisfactory and we received a lot of positive response as well as many ideas for extensions. The necessary amount of work has been substantially reduced and Eurographics/Blackwell intend to make further (or even extended) use of the system.
Although the current version of SRM performs very well, new challenges have to be addressed. Issues like the final assembly of the proceedings (including page numbering) and the embedding of color images in different resolutions (for printed resp. online publication) have to be resolved. Also further support for the chairpersons like assisting the reviewer assignment is in development. SRM will be used for further Eurographics events as well as proceedings and possibly other publications from Blackwell Publishers. Additionally we are already in contact with other institutions and large publishing houses.