CONFIOUS: Conference Management System with Intelligence, Power and Style

by Manos Papagelis and Dimitris Plexousakis

Confious is a state-of-the-art conference management system that combines modern design, sophisticated algorithms and a powerful engine to efficiently support the submission and reviewing process of an academic conference or workshop and to help Program Committee Chairs and members to effortlessly carry out complicated tasks.

Most scientific communities have recently established policies and mechanisms to put into practice electronic conference management, mainly by exploiting the Internet as the communication and cooperation infrastructure. Their foremost objective is to minimize the organizational effort and reduce communication costs, while maintaining high quality reviewing and ensuring the fairness of the evaluation. With the intention of supporting scientific committees in this process (see figure), we have designed and implemented Confious, a state-of-the-art conference management system. Confious provides mechanisms for the efficient management of scientific data, intelligent identification and analysis of constraints during the reviewing process, enhanced monitoring and reporting of critical actions and better communication among users.

Submission and reviewing process of an academic conference or workshop.
Submission and reviewing process of an academic conference or workshop.

Main Features
Instant Conference Setup: Confious is provided as a Web service, which means that it is able to support multiple conferences in parallel, transparent between each other. Moreover, there is no need for installations on the conference organizer side. Quite the opposite, a conference is hosted on the server side, and it can accept submissions immediately after customization.

100% Online, Role-Based Collaboration: Confious distinguishes between four types of users: Program Committee Chair, Meta-Reviewer, Reviewer and Contact Person.

Intelligent Management of Conflicts of Interest: A conflict of interest is defined when a reviewer does not feel comfortable reviewing a paper because of some kind of relationship with one or more of the paper's authors. Confious provides an easy way to effectively identify and handle all conflicts of interest and thereby avert certain assignments.

Automatic Assignment of Papers to Reviewers: Program Committee Chair has the option of assigning papers either automatically or manually. The most advantageous process includes an automatic assignment by the system followed by manual adjustment of assignments by the chair. The automatic assignment algorithm takes into consideration the following constraints:

Dynamic Construction of the Review Form: The online review form is completed by reviewers during the reviewing process. Instead of using static review forms that have the same format, Confious provides the Chair with the option of constructing or customizing a review form. This is one of the most advantageous features of Confious since it enables high-quality reviewing and yet is not supported by most other conference management systems.

Hierarchical Reviewing Support: The distinction between reviewers and meta-reviewers enables a hierarchical reviewing process. This process ensures high-quality reviewing by providing a better means of control over the submitted reviews.

Decision-Making Based on Paper Classification: One of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks that the Chair is in charge of is to decide on the sets of papers that are going to be accepted or rejected. Actually, it is hard to reduce the results of several reviews into a single meaningful score. Confious classifies the papers into five meaningful classes and then orders the papers in each class separately.
Workflow Management through Phases: The reviewing and submission process is divided into several phases that enable more efficient management and monitoring of the tasks that are being performed at any given moment.

Enhanced Monitoring, Reporting and Communication Service: Confious provides a monitoring and reporting service that spans the most essential tasks of the system. Furthermore, straightforward customization of e-mails enables better communication between the Chairs, the reviewers and the authors.
Transaction-Based Operations: Data inconsistencies are very common to Web information systems. They can arise due to network instabilities, power cut-offs or other reasons and may result in serious conflicts during the reviewing process. Database operations in Confious are based on transactions to ensure that data always remains consistent.

Task-Oriented Design: Confious is based on a goal-oriented design that facilitates the management and administration of a conference, enhances productivity and advances creativity. Special attention has been paid to effortlessly bringing tasks to an end, providing quick responses to user requests and permitting access even from low-speed connections.

Commentary: We are confident that the rational and algorithmic ground on which we have designed and developed Confious will catch the attention of conference organizers, and will exert a pull on scientific committees to consider it for their future conferences. The interested reader is encouraged to visit Confious online, in order to obtain a better understanding of the system's features through a demonstration conference or through an up-to-the-minute trial conference.


Please contact:
Manos Papagelis, ICS-FORTH, Greece