Academic journal

Cassyni aims to make webinars easier to find and cite


Seminars on Cassyni are given a digital object identifier, which makes them easy to cite.Credit: Getty

A new online tool, Cassyni, aims to help academics organize and follow research seminars around the world. Its creators say it will also make it easier for researchers to claim credit for leading them.

Peter Vincent, an engineer at Imperial College London and one of Cassyni’s co-founders, estimates that there are around a million academic seminars around the world each year. Although seminars are an important part of academic discourse, they lack technical solutions to make them more accessible, he says.

Cassyni allows researchers to run seminar series directly through the tool, allowing them to track which speakers have accepted slots and which need to be sought. It also allows speakers to upload their summaries, slides, and biographical details, and is free to anyone attending webinars.

In 2017, Vincent created Kopernio, a one-click tool that finds free and legally accessible versions of paid papers online. Andrew Preston, another of Cassyni’s co-founders, previously created Publons, a site that allows academics to claim credit for peer review activities. The American company Clarivate Analytics, owner of the popular scientific search engine Web of Science, subsequently acquired both Kopernio and Publons.

Cassyni was officially launched last month, with a name that plays on the surname of Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712). With Cassyni, seminar planners pay a flat fee of US $ 25 per month to run a series of seminars, $ 55 per month for three or $ 130 for ten. Prices vary depending on the institutions or journals that adopt the tool. Cassyni has around 2,200 registered users to date and has been in talks since March, Vincent said.

Zoom integration

Cassyni integrates with the Zoom videoconferencing service, and its interface provides information that is not otherwise available on the platform (such as a participant’s institution, biographical data, and posting history). Video is automatically captured unless the speakers turn off. Cassyni also contains editing tools to make videos look more professional before they are published.

After each seminar, the tool automatically runs a 48-hour question-and-answer session. Cassyni also has a library where users can store their favorite conferences. Users can receive notifications about the status of an event, including log prompts 30 minutes before an event starts and an alert whenever a recorded video is posted online. Alerts are sent either by email or through integration with calendar tools such as Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook or iCal.

In addition to information about the topic of the seminar, the series to which it belongs, and the speaker’s contact details, Cassyni assigns each seminar its own Digital Object Identifier (DOI), a unique tag that is typically associated with academic papers. “The idea is that they are recorded as an integral part of academic discussion and academic production,” explains Vincent. It is important that the speakers can claim credit for giving these lectures, he notes, and that the knowledge imparted and the discussion that follows is recorded as part of the permanent recording.

The tool could also help academics avoid duplication of work – such as having to rehearse lectures in different locations – and increase audience diversity by enabling virtual participation. This means that it could reduce the need for air travel and the associated environmental impacts, explains Vincent.

The Computational Physics Journal and Computing Physics Communications, both published by Amsterdam-based Elsevier, have started hosting webinars directly through Cassyni, Vincent said. Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) in New Zealand is the first institutional subscriber to start hosting seminars through Cassyni.

“What appealed to Cassyni was this connection to the world of formal publishing,” explains Katherine Edmond, director of communications at VUW. With the lack of international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, she says, Cassyni has allowed the university to explore “different ways our researchers, and especially our early-career researchers, can market their research. and connect with the research community ”.

Christian Catalini, who studies the economics of innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, tried Cassyni at the behest of Nature. He says the tool is an interesting endeavor and has the potential to make content more discoverable, allow for personalized content searches, and allow more diverse participation.

However, Catalini doesn’t think webinars, with or without Cassyni, will completely replace in-person seminars. “It’s quite fascinating that we have really good technology for scheduled interactions and structured meetings,” he says, but it can’t yet replicate “some of the serendipity and the [encounters] that take place when we co-locate ”.


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