Members logging onto the online Bulletin of the American Physical Society (BAPS) for the upcoming “April” and March meetings will notice several major updates to the website. The new version of the site, which organizes presentation abstracts for all of the society meetings, was launched on December 2nd. The updates added new features, including a word and affiliation search as well as improvements to the scheduler and the overall layout.
The changes were prompted after surveys were taken at last year’s March Meeting asking participants about the website. The responses indicated that many members wanted to see numerous improvements to the scheduler and search functions. As a result, APS webmasters initiated the first major update to the website since it was launched in 2005.
Two of major additions to the site are the new word and affiliation searches. Using these tools, meeting attendees can quickly sift through the hundreds of online abstracts for any that pertain to their field of interest.
“The scheduler has been revamped and improved,” said Jim Egan of the APS IT department, who was in charge of the updates, “We’ve made some improvements on the back end to speed that up.”
Egan and his team reworked the scheduler’s code to make it easier for members to assemble a personalized agenda when attending meetings. It’s now faster and better at catching potential scheduling conflicts. In addition the program can send a PDF of a member’s complete agenda to their email inbox. The scheduler also now features more links back to the main APS webpage.
“What this does mean is easy navigation between the main meeting site to the bulletin and back,” said Donna Baudrau, the Director of Meetings and Conventions, “It’s like a bridge between the two sites.”
In addition to improving the functionality of the site, its overall feel has gotten a facelift as well. Outdated information on the site will automatically be taken down, and the layout will be consistent for all of the meetings. Even its look has been updated and modernized.
“We were attempting to make the scientific program consistent with the look and feel of the rest of the APS website,” said Sara Conners, APS’s web manager.
APS is continuing to look for ways to improve the website’s abilities. Over the next few months, all of the current servers are going to be replaced and upgraded. These new servers will continue to speed up members’ updates to their schedules, one of the biggest criticisms of the website found in last year’s survey. The updated equipment should be completely in place and operational in time for the March Meeting.
One other major update can’t actually be seen from the main BAPS webpage. Abstracts from the meetings are now accessible through searches on Google Scholar. Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, first contacted APS in July about including abstracts in the databases of scholarly literature that the search giant accesses. Special tabs were added to the meeting archives and included with the new abstracts to make it possible for Google to search through the database.
In addition, Egan said that they are developing an iPhone app to download abstracts onto the handheld devices. The team developing the app said they’re aiming for it to be ready in time for the March Meeting.
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