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Big Steps Forward for Sciforum—The Open Scientific and Scholarly Forum

MDPI is home to more than a hundred open access journals, including our flagship journals Molecules, Sensors and the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. But did you know that MDPI is one of the pioneers in online conferences for scientists and scholars?

We have been running the International Electronic Conference on Synthetic Organic Chemistry (ECSOC) annually since 1997. Completely free of charge. The first six editions ran every September. Since 2002, the conference has been held every November, organized and chaired by Dr. Julio Seijas Vázquez from the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. During the month of the conference, organic chemists can present their latest findings, access the latest presentations from peers, and discuss progress in the field online. Over the years the technology has changed. While we originally used static pages and a mailing list to host the online discussions, since 2009 we have been using and developing a separate platform at sciforum.net.

Sciforum is a platform for open collaboration and exchange for scientists and scholars. While we have primarily used it to hold our series of electronic conferences and to host the conference archives and proceedings for a few other parties, 2014 has seen the introduction of new tools that scientists and scholars can use for free. Scholars now have the possibility to register their own discussion and collaboration groups on Sciforum. Groups can be either private (access restricted to invited members) or public (anyone can access the group), and optionally moderated (new comments released only after editorial review by the group moderators). The groups come with features to share files online, to collaboratively create bibliographies within the group, and to notify group members by e-mail about new discussions. Additionally, authors of scholarly papers can upload the PDF version for their papers and easily grant access to interested users of the platform requesting to download the paper (that’s our version of the “Request a Copy” open access button).

Creating and maintaining collaboration groups on Sciforum is free and will always stay free. It is our contribution to an open scholarly infrastructure. In the comings months and years, we will further invest into the Sciforum infrastructure to offer an open alternative to similar commercial services. We plan to release part of the code of Sciforum under an open source license within the next two years, and would then invite members of the research community to join our development efforts for creating a truly open research infrastructure—open source, open access, open minded—with the features that you need.

The coming weeks to months will see new features released. For example, it will soon be possible to export entire bibliographies in various formats, create one’s own bibliographies, and use plug-ins for MS Office and Open Office to manage citations and references, create public profiles, follow the activity of other users on the platform.

Other features that are available to scholars on request include: the handling of the registration processes including billing for traditional (“physical”) conferences, abstract & manuscript submission and editorial handling processes for conferences, hosting online archives of past conferences (including hosting of posters, proceedings papers, and videos of talks), registering DOI numbers for the permanent linking of proceedings papers, improved sharing of metadata with Google Scholar (and other services that can access such metadata from the source pages of Sciforum), creating mailing lists for discussions, and hosting pages or a blog for scholarly societies.

To conclude, we want to highlight three conferences that are running this November on Sciforum:

Enjoy this open forum, enjoy the conferences!

For support with using the Sciforum platform, please e-mail us at conferences@mdpi.com.

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