High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine

Editorial Board
Issue 13

 HEP Libraries Webzine
Issue 13 / October 2006

The Joint Accelerator Conferences Website, JACoW
An Open Access Website for the Publication of Conference Proceedings


Christine Petit-Jean-Genaz (*)


The Joint Accelerator Conferences Website (JACoW), at http://www.jacow.org, emerged in the mid-nineties from an idea to publish the European Particle Accelerator Conference (EPAC) proceedings on the World Wide Web. The idea developed into an international collaboration in electronic publication with twelve collaborating conference series and fifty sets of proceedings published in ten years. The proceedings are all open access and the history of making this happen, and the lessons learned along the way are described. The twelve conference series which are current members of the collaboration are: the American, Asian, and European, Particle Accelerator Conferences, COOL, CYLOTRONS, DIPAC, FEL, ICALEPCS, ICAP, the ICFA Advanced Beam Dynamics Workshops, LINAC, and RuPAC.

How electronic publication and JACoW emerged

As the era of electronic publication dawned in a world where the Web was still largely unknown, EPAC’s editors prepared to embark upon totally new production methods using Adobe Acrobat software, then in its infancy, to distil PostScript files (ps) to produce Portable Document Format files (pdf) for publication on CD-ROM and the Web.

A pilot scheme in connection with a workshop organized by CERN in 1995, and participation in the pioneering initiative undertaken by EPAC’s North American sister conference, PAC, that same year, were to pave the way for the creation of a new form of open access publication.

It was with high hopes that John Poole, Chairman of the JACoW Collaboration, and I attended PAC’95 in Dallas, and then prepared to get our hands on the electronic contributions back at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) the following week. But we were swiftly halted in our enthusiastic tracks: so many files just would not distil correctly. Although Acrobat in version 2 was very basic in those days, this was not the only reason for our frustration. One important one was that the instructions to authors using LaTeX (about 70% of more than 1000 contributors) recommended the use of Computer Modern Fonts, which did not distil well with Acrobat. Though they printed well, the documents were almost illegible on a computer screen. These files all had to be doctored by reformatting the TeX with Times and Symbol fonts. During the short time we remained at SLAC, the sample of files processed revealed a high, 80% problem rate. Apart from the LaTeX font problem, the most common ones were related to the preparation of figures and graphics, and to the large size of files due to the use of scanned images.

It was clear from this experience that we would need to invest effort in the preparation of templates, clear instructions, and guidelines for the preparation and submission of files, and to promote author, as well as editor, education.

Templates and guidelines

To avoid the difficulties experienced in connection with PAC’95, templates and guidelines for authors were prepared and tested in preparation for EPAC’96.

A serious problem was revealed during PAC’95 whereby files that were opened and saved across different platforms (for example PC versus Macintosh) or opened with different versions of Word, often developed severe formatting problems. Authors were therefore instructed to submit not only the original source files (Word, LaTeX, etc.) and figure files, but more importantly, a ps file of the complete contribution. Authors were also asked to indicate the platform on which the contribution had been prepared, and the software and versions used.

While the look of contributions, with the title across the full width and two-columns presented below, was maintained, paper-size standards became a new constraint. Prior to electronic publication, camera-ready contributions for conferences on both sides of the Atlantic were typed onto the same outsize paper, which was then shrunk or reduced in photo-reproduction to produce the hard copy volumes. For electronic publication, the necessity to be able to download files prepared in A4 or in US Letter format, and print on both paper sizes anywhere in the world, required the development of special “JACoW-size” paper.

It was the local EPAC’98 editor, Leif Liljeby of the Manne Siegbahn Laboratory (MSL), who proposed a solution to this problem which involved cropping the pdf file to the minimum dimensions of A4 and US Letter paper (i.e. A4 width and US Letter height: 210 by 279 mm). By doing this, most printer drivers will automatically set the text area in the centre of the paper. Unfortunately, templates for both paper sizes are still necessary and these are set up to minimize the work involved in re-sizing the document.

The above measures reduced the processing failure rate from 80% at PAC’95, to 20% a year later. The EPAC’96 proceedings were published electronically only four months after the conference. Over the years, new features in the Acrobat software and associated plug-ins have enormously facilitated the job for editors. The 20% problem rate now stagnates at around 10%, mainly due to authors not using the templates, not producing good ps, and often just not reading or following the instructions.

Author education

Since EPAC’96, authors have been informed during the conference of the status of processing of their contributions via a “dotting board”. The board displays a list of all the contributions by programme code, and beside each, a coloured dot is added to indicate the stage that each paper has reached during processing. Authors can see at a glance that their contributions have, or have not, sailed through processing via green dots (success) or red dots (problems requiring action either by the editor or by the author). Over the years yellow dots have been added to indicate papers requiring proof reading following minor corrections by editors, and black dotted papers to indicate those that have been withdrawn.

On-line processing of contributions as described above has now been adopted by several of the JACoW collaboration conference series. The procedure is becoming well known to authors and editors alike, and thus the publication of proceedings is speeding up perceptibly. While it took four to six months (or more) in earlier years, a pre-press version of the proceedings of EPAC’06 was published less than a week after the conference, and the final publication on JACoW was achieved one month after the conference.

Editor education

A contributory factor to the excellent results has been the introduction of processing actually during the conference by a team of editors representing several sister conferences. The advantages are twofold: editors can work together to gain and share experience of electronic publication techniques, and editors can work with authors present at the conference to identify problems and solve them on the spot, thus contributing to author education.

This model has been so successful, that since 1996, all PAC, EPAC and APAC conferences have invited several seasoned editors from sister conferences to form the core of the editing team, together with several novices from forthcoming JACoW collaboration conferences who benefit from accumulated experience and hands-on training in preparation for their own events.

The Website - proceedings

In connection with EPAC’96, the proceedings were prepared electronically to produce a CD-ROM from which hard copy volumes were printed for distribution to delegates and libraries. The files were also published on a website at CERN. Soon after this, Ilan Ben-Zvi of the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), a future PAC Programme Committee Chairman, suggested that it would be useful for sister conferences to publish on the same site. This was rapidly agreed and soon PAC’95 and ’97 proceedings were added, followed by EPAC’98, and APAC’98, and the JACoW site took root.

Since that time, nine other conference series have joined what has grown into an international collaboration in electronic publication. The number of sets of proceedings has reached fifty – including those scanned from the pre-electronic era by PAC and EPAC. Every year there are 30,000 hits on the home page, and around 250,000 papers are downloaded from the site.

Full Boolean searches are possible and once the search has been submitted it can be refined using the Inktomi Search Engine to search over particular data (authors, titles, keywords), which have been entered into hidden fields in the pdf files of the individual contributions. The fact that the search engine only searches across the JACoW site means that only papers submitted to accelerator conferences are returned, avoiding the thousands of hits to be expected when searching across the whole Web.

While mirror sites were set up early on in North America and Asia with the aim of providing full functionality at high speed around the world, it proved difficult to provide the full functionality from the North American site, but it was found that the performance from the European site was imperceptibly different, so the North American site was abandoned whilst the Asian site was maintained.

The Website – author and editor interface

Apart from the publication of conference proceedings, the JACoW site is now home to a whole library of useful information both for authors of contributions to be submitted for publication, and for editors who will be faced with proceedings production. This is the fruit of years of accumulated experience.

The JACoW collaboration

As mentioned above, nine accelerator conference series have joined the original three regional PACs to form the JACoW collaboration. ‘Terms of Reference’, which include certain boundary conditions and are published at the site, govern the adhesion of new conference series. One important requirement is that editors of JACoW conferences participate in yearly team meetings where electronic publication techniques, and new software, are discussed and explored. This is to provide continuity and transfer of the experience and knowledge accumulated over the past ten years.

While the publication of accelerator conference proceedings speedily, efficiently and professionally has been recognized as a great achievement and a service to the accelerator community [1], another extremely interesting spin-off has emerged in the development of a Scientific Programme Management System (SPMS) [2], an Oracle based tool which is now used by numerous conferences.

The tool, under General Public License (GPL) and therefore free of charge, was originally developed to assist scientific secretariats with the management of activities relating to the scientific programme, ranging from abstract submission through to proceedings production. Over the last two years, however, the tool has been greatly enhanced. Functionality has been introduced to include registration of delegates and exhibitors, as well as refereeing. The scope of scientific programme activities has also been considerably expanded to include:

• activities carried out by members of the programme committee, for example the entry of proposals for oral presentations, ratings of contributions for different types of presentation,
• session organization, including automatic generation of programme codes and poster session management during the conference,
• an editorial interface to log all activities relating to the submission of contributions to the proceedings: submission of files by authors, upload/download between a file-server and the editor’s desktop, and a processing status interface, also visible for authors via their profile/accounts,
• scripts which, once all contributions to the proceedings are ready for publication, calculate and enter page numbers and banners for each page of each individual contribution, generate keywords, enter details into the hidden pdf fields over which the Inktomi Search Engine will search, and finally produce a table of contents and author index, ready for final publication on JACoW.

Because the SPMS handles activities related to delegate registration as well as to the scientific programme management, administrators have an excellent overview of the conference as a whole. The conference income can be calculated and the statistics are invaluable for precise planning of all events.

JACoW collaboration conferences use the SPMS coupled to a central ‘Repository of Profiles’ of individuals working in the accelerator field and who have contributed to, or attended accelerator conferences. The Repository contained some 3500 profiles in 2004. It now contains more than 12000 profiles of individuals working at almost 2000 different institutes all over the world. Authors customize and maintain their own profiles, and indicate the mailing lists of the different conference series for which they wish to receive announcements. This means that individuals use the same profile to register, or to submit contributions, for all JACoW conferences using the SPMS, and again this simplifies the procedures for authors, editors, registration staff and budget holders.

The metadata pertaining to each JACoW conference managed using the SPMS is published at the JACoW site in both OAI and SPIRES compliant formats.

Matt Arena of the Fermi National Laboratory (Fermilab) is the database designer whose patience with demanding conference administrators and editors has made the tool what it is today. Matt’s management deserve special thanks for allowing him to do at least some of the development work during his very busy “normal” activities. Two other members of the collaboration also deserve special mention: Ivan Andrian of Sincrotrone Trieste, who wrote what are known as the “upload-download” scripts, allowing for the exchange of files between the authors and editors during the processing activity, and Volker Schaa of the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung mbH (GSI). Volker wrote the scripts which automate the production of publications such as the abstracts brochure and conference programme, and a particular gem of a script that ties up the whole proceedings with the insertion of metadata in the pdf files (automatic generation of keywords, calculation and insertion of page numbers and banners, etc.) ready for electronic publication on JACoW with only a few mouse clicks.

Ten years along the road, papers still do not process themselves, and authors do not always read the instructions, or follow them, so the JACoW collaboration editors will be in business for a while to come.


JACoW is a unique example of an open access publication, totally free of cost to readers. This does not mean, of course, that it costs nothing to produce: equipping a team of editors with computers, and feeding and lodging them for the duration of a conference, does of course have a cost. But the cost is a small fraction of each total conference budget. Publication on the JACoW site at CERN and maintenance of the site are services rendered by CERN to the accelerator community.

JACoW is also a wonderful example of good will since each PAC, EPAC and APAC conference welcomes editors from other conferences to learn electronic publication techniques. Each conference series furthermore undertakes to send its editors to annual JACoW team meetings, thus ensuring continuity and the dissemination of the experience and knowledge to the future advantage of the whole community.


The collaboration, and the whole accelerator community, is indebted to the laboratories which support the activities of these editors, and also to the Chairs of the APAC, EPAC and PAC Organizing Committees who from the beginning have strongly supported this initiative, be it through the purchase of software, by facilitating the participation of their own staff in JACoW activities, or by encouraging other laboratories to do likewise.

And of course, a huge debt of thanks goes to CERN’s John Poole who has guided the whole initiative from the outset.


[1] Acknowledgement of the work of the JACoW Collaboration. Accessed September 2006.

[2] JACoW Scientific Programme Management System (SPMS) [page for GPL software download]

Author Details

Christine Petit-Jean-Genaz
JACoW - http://www.jacow.org/
CERN-AB, Geneva, Switzerland
Email: christine.petit-jean-genaz@cern.ch

Christine Petit-Jean-Genaz has worked at CERN since 1973. In 1991 she left her duties as PA to the CERN Accelerator Director to work full time on the organization of the EPAC conference series. She is EPAC Conferences Coordinator, Convener of the (APAC, EPAC, PAC) Particle Accelerator Conferences Coordination Committee, and Secretary of the JACoW Collaboration.

For citation purposes:

Christine Petit-Jean-Genaz. "The Joint Accelerator Conferences Website, JACoW: An Open Access Website for the Publication of Conference Proceedings" High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine, issue 13, October 2006
URL: < http://webzine.web.cern.ch/webzine/13/papers/3/ >

Reader Response

If you have any comments on this article, please contact the  Editorial Board
Editorial Board
Issue 13

Last modified:  29 October 2006