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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Qu. Why should I contribute to ECTOC?
    A. We believe that ECTOC offers a significant advance in how science and chemistry can be communicated. Molecular coordinates and structure diagrams can be delivered in "rotatable" and "user customisable" form, which means that all aspects of structure and stereochemistry can be far better understood. The reader can discover for themselves subtle features often entirely lost in the more conventional medium of paper or 35mm slides. This new medium depends on its success in attracting high quality chemistry, and that depends on you. ECTOC is not a "JACS" (yet) but it could be, and by contributing you can help convince people that better science can be achieved with the help of tools like this.
  2. Qu. Why should I send my best work to ECTOC, where no-one will read it, when I could send it to "JACS" where they will.
    A. You might be surprised by how many people can visit a site in one week. Typically, between 5 - 20 thousand individual document accesses per week can occur on an average chemistry WWW server. Of course, much of that is "novelty", but as the quality improves so will "repeat" visits. Unlike papers, you can also get precise "counts" for any individual item, and a "top ten" is available. That does not necessarily indicate quality, but for a conference with "Trends" in its title, it is useful to see what people are finding interesting (or controversial). Who knows, citing say "1239" electronic visits to your paper might actually help in the next grant application or application for tenure! The first person to do so might wish to claim some sort of record!
  3. Qu. Will the paper "count" for tenure, funding, etc?
    A. Chemical Abstracts have agreed to consider papers and posters for abstracting, provided "new science" is reported. This means that in due course, any conference contribution that is regarded by CA as fulfilling their criteria will be searchable via CAS Online and other sources of abstract information. This means that your contribution will count as a "refereed scholarly paper", and can be so cited.
  4. Qu. What is the difference between a paper and a poster?
    A. A paper would be expected to contain a review of previous work by the authors and others, new results, and some measure of detail such as preparations, spectral and structural data. A Poster is regarded as a "preliminary communication", with the essential features of the new results reported. Additional details such as preparation, spectral details etc can be included if wished as hyperlinks to the main "poster" page. A full paper reporting all details of the research would be expected to follow up the preliminary poster.
  5. Qu. Is preparing documents in "hypermedia" difficult?
    A. In the opinion of some, less so than preparing "camera ready" copy for some journals. Preparing a document in Microsoft Word or other high quality word word processor is probably about 70% of the task accomplished. Converting the document to "HTML" is largely an automated task. Adding hyperlinks, either manually or using a text editor with "extensions" is quite straightforward, as many examples of how to do it are available. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is handling any graphical images. They will have to be converted to "GIF" or "JPEG" form. Making "navigable" images is the most complex task you are likely to confront, and here again suitable quite simple programs exist to help. To give you a specific idea, one "keynote" paper was received by the conference editors as a standard Microsoft Word document and mounted for the conference in approximately 30 minutes, which included one active crystal structure.
  6. Qu. The most important aspect of any conference is meeting people. Can I do this with ECTOC?
    A. Experience from the previous chemistry electronic conference (ECCC) suggests that participating actually results in new and even unexpected invitations for real meetings. Thus ECTOC does not replace the need for "conventional" conferences, rather it acts as an enabling mechanism to allow new collaborations to start and flourish. The event is deliberately timed to occur in the dead period of real conferences, when travelling is difficult.
  7. Qu. With a conference or a journal, I can browse laterally. Surely, serendipity is lost with a forum such as ECTOC?
    A. ECTOC is indexed using a "fuzzy" method, which enhances accidental discoveries. It also has "one-stop shopping" with other on-line services available via its pages. If you have an idea, you can follow it up immediately rather than "when you get back to the office". Or, by posting a query to the e-mail forum, you might get rapid response from others, often in the form of precise citations rather than half remembered names or sources. Assuming other ECTOC-like events spring up, then cross-hyperlinking can only enhance the opportunity for serendipity.
  8. Qu. I need a computer to view ECTOC. Printed conference proceedings or journals I can read anywhere.
    A. You can print any page(s) from ECTOC at your leisure, or save onto a floppy disk for perusal later. You can also copy/paste citations, numerical data, diagrams, coordinates into your own documents rather than having to type them by hand and risk introducing errors. Of course, this might facilitate plagiarism! The science community will no doubt have to develop methods to detect this (hopefully not the method adopted in logarithmic tables!).
  9. Qu. The discussion period of ECTOC lasts two weeks. Where will I find the time to attend when I have examinations to mark etc?
    A. ECTOC is not a "real-time" conference. You can browse papers and posters, read the e-mail, and compose your replies at your leisure. Most participants at ECCC found no difficulty in setting aside 30 minutes each day for these activities. To use the jargon, ECTOC will interlace with your normal activities with little problem!
  10. Qu. Will there be conference Proceedings?
    A. We expect to collect all the contributions at the end of the discussion period, allow their authors to revise them if they want, have them refereed and then pressed onto a CD-ROM. Sponsorship willing, each accepted contributor will receive a FREE (!) copy of this CD-ROM. We already have one offer from a major publisher to market the CD-ROM to libraries and other organisations. Thus the conference is not "ephemeral" but will be available in archival form. If the CD-ROM is inserted into an "Internet Ready" computer, all the hyperlinks to other sites in the world should continue to work!
  11. Qu. I only have a PC/Macintosh/SGI etc. Which is best?
    A. The enormous advantage of using the World-Wide Web as a conference mechanism is that Windows, Macintosh or Unix workstations all work very well in browsing. There are more differences when it comes preparing papers, since the various platforms handle graphics differently. The Macintosh is perhaps the best developed currently (February 1995), but the recent announcement that Microsoft will launch a product called "Internet assistant" should make preparing papers in a Windows-95 environment particularly easy. SGI have also announced a software pack called "WEBForce" which promises to offer some very sophisticated tools to authors.
  12. Qu. What is the Copyright Situation?
    A. By submitting a paper or poster to the conference, authors are agreeing to transfer copyright to the conference organisers. Administatively, this facilitates interaction with Chemical Abstracts, and will enable production and distribution of the conference CD-ROM. Anyone using a World-Wide Web browser to view the conference can freely print any page locally, much as they can photocopy many documents.
  13. Qu. I am interested in the E-mail discussions but am hesitant about joining in.
    A. You can either e-mail the conference list ( or the individual authors. A message sent to the conference can be subequently cited by any author who wishes to revise their contribution, and the message could then be referenced in the Science Citation Index. Personal e-mails are less likely to make such a contribution. E-mails can be quite formal, but often are much less so, and can lead to unexpected new collaborations and liaisons. Any personal abuse is certainly "below the belt" and will be removed by the conference editors. Other than such situations, we do not expect any editing of submitted e-mail messages, so take care over them.
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