Scholarly events: Untapped treasure trove of insights & data

6 minute read

Imagine a researcher. What thought springs to mind?

Someone mid-experiment? An author writing up their findings? Perhaps images of Editors, keynote speakers or society members jumped to mind. 

It’s commonly understood that the vast majority of researchers wear many different hats throughout the scholarly lifecycle. However these varied roles give rise to data silos and a fragmented view of who the researcher is. 

What do we mean by the scholarly lifecycle? The scholarly lifecycle is the journey a researcher takes to shepherd their ideas from inception to experiment, through publication and discovery to assessment and beyond to real world impact. 

Scholarly lifecycle

The diagram above shows the research lifecycle with researchers, research communities and organisations that reflect them like scholarly societies at the centre. 

There has been a concerted effort in recent years towards building a fuller picture of researchers, their activities and touchpoints with organisations across this lifecycle, from various efforts to consolidate researcher identity via profile-driven products to calls for a more holistic assessment of research impact. One crucial, yet underutilised source of insights here is events data. 

What’s so special about events data? There are some universal elements to scholarly events which make event data very powerful. 

  • Events at their core are about community and engagement; 
  • They’re interaction heavy; 
  • They facilitate discussion, collaboration and innovation

At Ex Ordo we believe that data that reflects these crucial elements of a community has huge potential to enhance our understanding of that community. 

Let’s take a look at events data through the lens of the different stages in the research lifecycle

Prepare & conduct

How do researchers ideate? How do they take a research question from an idea to a study ready to be conducted, to collected results? 

A lot of this process is borne from discussion with colleagues, reading the literature and observing new ideas from relevant research communities. 

Much of this can be done in the research office with colleagues, in the library or via a content discovery service, on social media or with collaborators. But reading this you might be seeing some similarities to some of the core elements of events listed above: discussion, network and collaboration. Many of the elements needed for innovation are built into scholarly events by default. Yet there are real practical limits to the number and breadth of events any given researcher can attend (in person or virtually). 

Imagine if the corpus of insights from all conferences were easily and centrally accessible to enhance research preparation efforts in a manner similar to that of published research. From browsing presentation recordings to posters and analysis of trending hot topics and attendee networking. Growth of vendors in this space has led to some interesting use cases, from browsable AIP/AAAI conference content to discoverable research seminars via a Dimensions/Cassyni partnership.

Publish & share

Of all the ways to harness the potential of events, connecting the conference to journal workflow is possibly the lowest-hanging fruit. The first port of call would likely be a direct workflow linkage to encourage submissions, but it’s worth building from there. Of the research presented at a scholarly meeting, how much would be immediately ready for journal submission? It’s estimated about 40% of conference content ends up in a journal within 2 years (of presentation at a meeting). Anecdotally I’ll assume only a subset of that 40% would be close to submission ready shortly after the event. 

So, how do you ensure those 40% of potential submissions are captured in your journal portfolio within the 2 year window? This is a particularly pertinent question for societies/organisations who have both an events and journal portfolio. 

Author marketing is one option. Conference participants are likely to significantly overlap with the target authorship of relevant subject area journals. Within the scholarly events data set lie insights into conference authors, presenters, chairs and participants, their subject area expertise and more. The potential for future author engagement is clear. 

(Worth noting that proceeding with care and an eye to proper data governance is key here. Unsettling/creepy marketing practices won’t serve any publications portfolio well.)

Extending the thought above, imagine the valuable insights from a content commissioning perspective arising from events data. Just like a publications data set, the events data set will have names associated with specific submissions and topic areas, with the added advantage of offering an insight upstream of publication i.e. a more up-to-date view of a given researcher’s interests. 

Discover & Read

Elements of the traditional research lifecycle can be skewed towards a publication-first view, traditionally focussing on a unit (or units) of publication to assess a piece of research. 

Imagine if discovery of new work, new ideas, new findings weren’t so limited to article-level units. 

Conference Proceedings have traditionally been the remedy to surfacing the discussion and innovation from events in a discoverable way, though they of course bear close resemblance to journal articles in format and discovery. 

In the last few years Preprint servers, academic social media, digitisation of seminars/event content, expansion of content discovery indices and more have advanced discovery efforts for a variety of sources. But we’re still a way to go before a researcher can easily and centrally browse and use all event-related output (from proceedings to panel discussion content and key notes) in an non siloed, systematic, citable way. 

Assess & Fund

Let’s turn our thinking to funding. Scholarly events are an audience with researchers at various stages of the research life cycle. For funders this is a huge opportunity to connect event-driven insights with funding workflows. This could cover everything from surfacing trending hot topics to identifying cohorts of potential grant applicants or grant reviewers

It’s also an opportunity to broaden the assessment of research. The move towards more responsible research assessment (RRA) has rightly gained traction over the last decade through initiatives and organisations such as DORA, Responsible Metrics, The Metric tide report, CoARA and more. All share a common call for broadening the metrics used to assess the impact of research to account for robustness, qualitative as well as quantitative measures, diversity and to move away from a journal-reliant approach to assess work. 

This begs the question, where could events data add value to the assessment of research? 

Could the impact of a piece of research on live discussions at events, on event programmes or levels of attendee engagement add value and diversity to the research assessment process?


One of the best examples of harnessing the potential of events has been driven out of necessity in recent years by the very community organising the bulk of scholarly events: scholarly & professional societies. 

Events saw a rapid digital transformation in 2020. One of the impacts being increased interest in extending the life and value of their event content. Access to content as a membership benefit is one popular approach. Taking that idea further and enhancing event content, transforming it into educational content, e.g. through the addition of transcripts, CME, quizzes is something many scholarly societies are exploring. Bone & Joint provide a great example of this via their partnership with Cadmore on OrthoMedia

While exciting, this new future is far from evenly distributed with many not-for-profit scholarly orgs are battling challenges on multiple fronts. It’s also worth noting that advances here tend to be at society-level, typically entrenching subject-level silos. Imagine a centralised, syndicated learning resource driven from event content. 

Real world impact

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, real world impact. Ultimately research and its outputs do not and should not sit in a vacuum. 

Many of the event-driven ideas above – like surfacing hot topics and potential collaborators – would be as useful to researchers working in industry R&D as they would to researchers at an academic institution. This is a key aspect of translating research into real world impact. 

Public engagement with research is another. Recent high profile emergencies from Covid to the climate crisis along with their associated web of disinformation have highlighted public engagement with evidence as more important than ever.  

Can scholarly event content enhance existing efforts towards public engagement? 

Many organisations in the research ecosystem already invest in public engagement efforts like lay summaries, awareness campaigns, social media presence and citizen science initiatives. AAAS and The Royal Society provide two great examples for the scholarly society space. Additionally, scholarly events in the medical sector have been used for some time to reach specific audiences for public engagement e.g. patients and caregivers attending medical conferences to participate in policy discussions and keep informed. 

At events we have researchers presenting on their work, ideas and issues affecting their community, in their own words. While it’s true that much of this content is intended for consumption by fellow researchers, the power of the spoken word and visuals should not be under-estimated. Could we harness an effective public engagement tool from event content we’re already producing?

A measure of a community, engagement and interest

All event data at its core is a measure of a community, of engagement and interest. Connecting that data with the wider research life cycle has the potential to enhance our understanding of the research community at the centre of that lifecycle.

But how to make those connections? Using existing infrastructure is likely the quickest path to unlocking value. Interoperability is crucial here, specifically from events workflow providers through whom this data flows. At Ex Ordo interoperability is a key pillar of the value we’re working to bring to our customers and their communities through our product and roadmap. 

Do you work in the scholarly events or the research ecosystem? How you would like to see events & event data better connected with the research lifecycle?

We’d love to hear your thoughts & suggestions, get in touch with us at