New ground for research libraries: Conference Management Systems?

Heidi Drasbek Martinussen, Jette Thise Pedersen, Helle Damgaard, Kirsten Suhr Jacobsen


To investigate this, a Danish group of research libraries have received funding from Denmark’s Electronic Research Library (DEFF). DEFF's purpose is to advance the development of a network of electronic research libraries and make their electronic and other information resources available to the patrons in a coherent and simple way.

In 2008 the research libraries from Copenhagen Business School, Aalborg University and Technical University of Denmark formed a research group and defined a comparative project, with the purpose of finding an allround system that could handle all parts of the conference management process. 20 state of the art conference management systems were tested.

Open source vs. proprietary
The tested systems were both open source and proprietary. It turned out that most of the systems were meant for supporting either the registration/payment process or the review process (with abstract- and paper submission).  The greatest difference between proprietary and open source systems was of course the price, but also the possibility to host the system and to make adjustments.

Out of the 20 different systems we looked at, we chose 3 systems – two open source systems and one proprietary system. The 3 systems were:

- Indico (open source system developed in CERN, An allround system)
- Open Conference Systems – OCS (open source system developed by Public Knowledge Project. An allround system)
- Proceedings Central (proprietary system developed by Thomson Reuters. A Review system).

Payment options
Most conference management systems are linked to the international payment system Paypal. In a Danish context we prefer to work with a local electronic payment solution that can handle the Danish debit card. In relation to the project we have developed a solution to use the Danish payment system PBS for the two open source conference management systems – Indico and Open Conference Systems (OCS).  

The economic factor played a significant role, since conferences organized within the majority of Academic environment does not have much funding. Most open source systems were free of charge. Most proprietary systems were very expensive.

We came to the conclusion that OCS is the best system available for research intuitions our type. The project tested the system on several research groups and found that it is the best solution for setting up a multi conference platform. The system have a large and well maintained user support and it is written in PHP, which is used by a broad audience – this gives us the opportunity to find qualified developers and to give our users the best experience with the system.

The near future
We are in the process of forming a Danish national OCS network to organize development and to discuss experience with OCS.  Besides Copenhagen Business School a number of other Danish universities have already decided to use OCS (Aalborg University, IT University of Copenhagen, and Technical University og Denmark).

We have written an article that is not published in English, and would like to present the findings in the comparative research and the experiences with our Danish Conference Management Systems network for a broader audience.


Open Source; Conference Management Systems; OCS; Indico; Research Libraries