Conference Publishing Service Speeds Up the Heavy Lifting

New services help conference organizers and authors create electronic proceedings quickly and easily

6 October 2008

Not too many years ago, publishing the proceedings of an IEEE conference in digital format could take weeks, if not months, and the final product was not always up to par. Formulas and graphs could look fuzzy, and not all articles were full-text searchable.

But that’s no longer the case, thanks to the IEEE eXpress Conference Publishing department, which offers several new services to help conference organizers and their authors who use their services create electronic proceedings quickly and easily. The department, in existence since 1984, has recently embraced digital publishing techniques that produce pages that are never fuzzy and always readable.

“Our mission is to rapidly and accurately deliver content from conferences to the IEEE Xplore digital library,” says Gordon MacPherson, who manages the group, which changed its name from IEEE Conference and Custom Publishing earlier this year to emphasize its speedy intent.

“It’s more of an online mission now,” he notes. Only a short time ago the department was focused on producing printed versions of conference proceedings. Back in those old days, conference organizers gathered the papers from each event, and typeset and printed them as books. Bound copies were then shipped to the IEEE offices in Piscataway, N.J., where pages were individually scanned and turned into PDF documents, which eventually made their way into the IEEE Xplore digital library.

Today that process takes too long. Conference papers are increasingly being valued for their immediacy, according to Kenneth Moore, director for IEEE Book and Information Services, who oversees the eXpress group.

“Generally, conference content tends to be published sooner than journal papers, which go through a longer peer-review cycle,” he says. “Technical people need to get fresh information as quickly as possible, which makes it all the more important to publish the online proceedings quickly and with higher quality than ever before."

PERFECT PDFs The name eXpress suggests speed and calls attention to the group’s two main services: PDF eXpress and Conference eXpress, MacPherson notes.

IEEE PDF eXpress is a free online tool for the authors of participating conferences. They can use it either to convert their papers to a PDF format that complies with the IEEE Xplore’s PDF standards or to check whether PDFs they may have already made comply. The tool makes sure that diagrams and formulas are readable and that text is crisp and legible. For conference organizers, the main benefit is that articles will appear in IEEE Xplore quickly and exactly the way the authors intended them to appear, MacPherson says.

Problems may arise when authors don’t use the tool. For example, different fonts may appear within the same sentence, or formatting errors can turn up where body text overlaps with information in the page footer. What’s more, articles that don’t go through the service may be rejected when IEEE’s database production team tries to load them into IEEE Xplore, further delaying their release.

SOUP TO NUTS Publishing proceedings can be daunting for the volunteers who run most of the IEEE conferences. For a fee, Conference eXpress lets them put the publishing process in someone else’s experienced hands.

“We take the burden of publishing from the conference organizers by providing them an end-to-end publishing service,” Moore says. “It’s a soup-to-nuts approach.”

In addition to submitting the final proceedings for publication in IEEE Xplore, Conference eXpress services include helping manage the collection of article manuscripts, arranging for peer review of the articles, and overseeing the production of printed proceedings or CD-ROMs, as well as designing their covers.

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