Open Science Collaborations and Conferences of the Future

Over the past two years, the way in which we work, communicate, and do business has changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This change also affects the way in which academics communicate their research. With in-person conferences and seminars unable to go ahead due to local and global restrictions, the academic community, like many others, moved to online platforms to carry on with their responsibilities. One such platform, hosted by MDPI, is Sciforum. SciForum aims to facilitate open science collaborations and conferences.

Founded in 2009, it was launched by MDPI as an event planning platform that offers the opportunity to host and participate in conferences, webinars, and other academic events, all while supporting open science collaborations. With a view to encouraging networking and collaboration between researchers, it creates an environment for the exchange of ideas and the discussion of hot topics within the scientific community.

It gives professors, researchers, and students from across the globe the opportunity to network and present research to each other from the comfort of their home office (or kitchen table). We spoke to Pablo Velázquez, Head of Conferences for MDPI, about Sciforum and its importance in a post-COVID world.

Q: What is your role within Sciforum?

P.V.: I’m the Head of the Conference Team at MDPI and, by extension, Sciforum, the platform we use to process our conferences.

Q: What is Sciforum?

P.V.: Apart from allowing scholars to attend and participate in scientific events, Sciforum is a platform that allows academics to easily build a conference website. They can build any section of a conference, such as the registration or submission process, and the entire process of organising a conference can be completed easily, without any issues. The platform also provides the organisers with a dashboard to check all the submissions, contact the authors, and . So, it basically provides a holistic approach where the platform handles all the internal processes of organising a conference.

Q: Who can use the platform?

P.V.: Anyone can use the platform. Originally, it was designed for in-person conferences, however, since then, with COVID-19 and the pandemic, we have adapted towards the operation of online conferences and webinars. The platform is for everybody; not just our own journals, other scholars can use the platform. We offer two options for external organisers. They can either use the platform to set up their conference and organise it entirely by themselves, building the website, etc. Alternatively, we also provide a service where, if they need us to, we can organise certain aspects of the conference on their behalf, carrying out tasks such as building the website, or handling their registrations. With these options, there are fees involved, but anyone can use the platform to organise an event.

Q: You mentioned COVID-19. How has the pandemic changed the virtual research landscape and what effect has it had on Sciforum?

P.V.: The platform was created mainly for our in-person events, that’s how it started. But certainly, from the MDPI side, we noticed a demand for webinars. So, we adapted the website to provide these services. We saw massive growth in webinars from 2020 to now, so we leaned into running more online events. I do really think this is here to stay, as part of the post-COVID-19 world. The demand for online webinars is fairly obvious, and it makes sense to carry it on in this format and provide this service. Over time, we will further improve our platform for use with webinars and online conferences.

Q: How does Sciforum integrate with MDPI’s other products and services?

P.V.: Apart from the possibility of setting up a conference-related Special Issue if the event is partnering with an MDPI journal, Proceedings,  where findings presented at conferences can be published; such published work is made available in open-access form in the Proceedings journal website and, optionally, on the conference website. This is something that is not only available to MDPI organised conferences; Sciforum clients can hire this service. It also connects academics and allows networking opportunities for research together in the future.

Q: What is the significance of webinars to the academic community?

P.V.: All MDPI-organised webinars are free to access, and they focus on a specific topic. So, instead of attending a whole conference for one talk, the webinars are tailored to each scientific field. Because of this, everyone attending a webinar will have similar interests, allowing for more efficient networking with people in your area of research. Anyone with knowledge of that scientific field, be they a scholar or a student, is welcome to attend if the webinar interests them.

Visit SciForum for more

SciForum aims to facilitate open science collaborations and conferences by providing an online platform for scholars to connect. Visit Sciforum to see our upcoming events and learn more about Sciforum’s services for conference organizers.

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