Abstract management is the process organizations use to choose topics and speakers for a conference.
Typically, a prospective speaker submits an abstract—or summary of a presentation topic, scientific or academic paper, or poster—through an online form for consideration. That abstract is reviewed and evaluated to determine whether it meets the criteria of the conference. If it does, the submitter may be invited to present at the conference.
An abstract management system is specialized software that is used to manage the process of submitting, reviewing, and publishing research and presentations for a conference. It provides a centralized place to collect all presentation proposals and track the status of these proposals.
The software consists of a series of forms that are used to collect all necessary data from submitters and reviewers. Submission forms are designed to gather information on identity, credentials and affiliations, and presentation or research topic. Review forms are used to provide an objective evaluation of each submission
While there is a general structure most organizations follow, exactly how you manage your call for abstracts will depend upon the size and complexity of your event and your specific objectives and requirements.
Here is an outline of the basic steps, as well as questions and considerations you and your team should address:
- Determine how your conference is going to be structured
- Set your content goals
- Create your timeline
- Build your list of submission questions
- Determine your review process
- Build and test your abstract submission forms
- Launch and promote your call for abstracts
An abstract management system can be used to collect and manage several different types of content for a conference or other program, including:
- Technical papers
- Session presentations
- Applications or nominations for awards and grants
- Applications or nominations for board positions
Additionally, you can use your abstract management system to collect all information needed from your speakers and presenters prior to the conference, including:
- A/V requirements
- Session handouts and other supplemental materials
Most organizations use an abstract management system that falls in one of the following categories:
- Custom-built: a system or platform that is specifically built for the specialized requirements of that organization. This type of system may be developed and sold by a third party, or may be developed by the organization itself using internal resources. Ongoing development and maintenance is usually the responsibility of the organization who owns the system, using their own internal resources.
Pros: Built specifically to a customer’s own specifications and needs.
Cons: Can be very expensive to develop; requires ongoing investment and resources for development and maintenance, which can be difficult for some organizations to sustain.
- Configurable: a system or platform that is built on a pre-defined framework by a third-party provider, with key areas that can be customized to match a customer’s desired call for abstracts process and flow. Some of the areas that can typically be customized include: the number of steps a submitter or reviewer must follow; the submission and review questions; the types of fields that are used for each question; field requirements and limitations/restrictions; etc. A configurable system also makes it easy to build and run custom reports and emails. The provider is responsible for ongoing development and maintenance. And, these types of systems are usually delivered as a full-service solution, meaning the provider handles setup and support for the customer.
Pros: Cost-effective; dedicated project contact for setup and support; built to support best practices in abstract management
Cons: May require workarounds if a customer has very unique, customized requirements
- Out of the box/SaaS: a self-serve system. Once purchased, the customer is responsible for all set-up and configuration. These systems are less flexible, with pre-defined options available for forms and fields. Some online technical support may be provided to customers and end-users.
Pros: Tend to be lower in cost
Cons: Need to use internal resources for setup; less flexible for more customized processes and flows; customer does not have a dedicated point of contact for technical support and assistance.
The pricing structure for abstract management systems can vary greatly depending upon what type you’re using.
Just like any, a custom-built system is going to be the most expensive, and costs will depend upon the complexity of the platform and your development timeline.
Some third-party platforms charge based on the number of submissions and other factors such as integration with other internal systems. Others may use tiered pricing based on usage, product features/modules needed, or other factors.
Depending upon the size and complexity of your call for abstracts process, a system can range anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars annually.