Case Study: University of Cambridge

Saving 88% of the time on mundane tasks to focus on attendees´ experience

About the conference

Torsten Geelan is a PhD student in the Sociology Department in Cambridge University, U.K. He chaired the ‘Crisis & Social Change: Towards Alternative Horizons’ Conference in 2014. This was the first conference organised by graduates in Torsten’s department. This two-day conference peer reviewed approximately 100 submissions.

Overcoming time constraints

While this was the first conference Torsten had been involved in organising, he knew from the experiences of others that organising a research conference takes up a huge amount of time. Add in the fact that the committee members were all studying, it meant time constraints was a huge factor.

“Organising the conference was incredibly time consuming. Even though we tried to plan our time effectively, it’s not until you’re right in the middle of it that you realise how much time is needed, even for the small, mundane tasks. Like any event, co-ordination can be a problem. Collecting submissions through email gets very chaotic. First, we had to try and take the information from an email in a consistent way and store the information in a database. Then it was trying to decide how to divide up the work - who’d check the email, how often, does someone check it at night etc. Everyone on the committee had their own studies to focus on as well.”

Reducing the workload with a streamlined process

Torsten knew they needed help with the collection and peer review of abstracts.

“We decided to look and see if there was any kind of abstract management systems out there that could help us reduce the workload. This is how we found Ex Ordo. They offered a streamlined abstract submission process, meaning we didn’t have to accept one abstract through email - each author uploaded their abstract directly to the system. This saved countless hours of mundane work. It also meant that each committee member had their own unique dashboard and could track the amount of submissions received, without the hard work of having to save them!”

“We were organised and on top of everything”

It is estimated that Torsten and his committee spent 88% less time carrying out the mundane tasks compared to doing the process manually. It allowed more time to be spent on heightening the attendees experience at the conference.

“The fact that the way abstracts were collected and reviewed was streamlined was immeasurable. It gave everyone the sense that we were organised and on top of everything as we didn’t have to constantly check if there was another abstract emailed in or another reviewer has kindly offered to review for us. We could use our energy on the content of the conference and developing our theme rather than do this tedious (but necessary) work of answering emails and making sure the ball hasn’t dropped. All in all, it gave us more space and time.”

“For the peer review, being able to follow a custom marking scheme in the system was very helpful. We had a very intricate peer review process, which the system helped us with. We were able to invite reviewers directly through the communication centre within the system and with one click, we were able to allocate abstracts to these reviewers. All in all, we couldn’t put a cost on the amount of time Ex Ordo saved us.”

Organisation: University of Cambridge

Organiser: Torsten Geelan

Domain: Sociology

Type: Student conference

Submissions: 100

It’s not until you’re right in the middle of [ the conference ] that you realise how much time is needed. Like any event, co-ordination can be a problem. Collecting submissions through emails gets very chaotic.
We could use our energy on the content of the conference and developing our theme rather than do this tedious (but necessary) work of answering emails and making sure the ball hasn’t dropped.