Tracking Paper Downloads: Database

In my last post I outlined a few thoughts about tracking downloads of papers from the MISTA web site. Of course, the ideas can be used on any web site but I am particularly interested in MISTA at the moment.

I have now started to develop the database, which will be a MySQL  database which will be updated via PHP.

The database design is still very much work in progress but my initial thoughts are to hold the following fields.

The first table is the paper downloads table. This will hold the following:

id: Auto incrementing index just to track the number of downloads.

bibtex: This is the bibtex key of the paper that was requested. In the future I might use the doi (Digital Object Identifier) but bibtex is the best thing for me to uniquely identify apaper at the moment.

whenRequested: This is be a time stamp indicating when the request was received.

whenRetrieved: This is a time stamp indicating when the paper was actually downloaded.

accessCode: This will be a link between when the paper is requested and when it is retrieved. I will talk more about this in a later blog.

givenName: This is the given name of the person requesting the paper. As I said on my previous blog, I may not actually use this.

familyName: This is the family name of the person requesting the paper. As I said on my previous blog, I may not actually use this.

affiliation: This is the affiliation (university or company) of the person requesting the paper. As I said on my previous blog, I may not actually use this.

email: This is the email address of the person requesting the paper. This field will definitely be used.

retrieved: This is a boolean flag, indicating if the paper has been retrieved. I could use the retrieval date for this so I suppose I am breaking at least one the rules for defining a database, but I think a boolean flag is useful. I will outline the use of this flag in a later blog.


There will be another table (papers). This will hold three fields:

bibtex: This is a unique identifier (for this table) which links it to the downloads table (above). Again, I could use the doi but, for now, I will use the bibtex key.

title: This is the title of the paper.

timesDownloaded: This will maintain a count of the number of times that the paper has ben downloaded. I could get it from the download table but having it stoed in this paper means that it is much quicker to access.


These are my thoughts so far. As I say, very much work in progress and I have no doubts that it will change but, at lest, it’s a start.



Tracking Paper Downloads for MISTA

The fifth MISTA conference  ( has just taken place in Arizona. The web site, I think looks pretty good but there is a lot more that I would like to do with it. For example, I should have all the papers available for download and, over the next few months, I am going to put in the effort required to make them all available. I guess that there will be at least 500 of them (including abstracts) which, I believe, is a useful resource for the scheduling community.

But, when I do make them available I would like to do a few things:

  1. I would like to know how many times a paper is being downloaded. This is useful information for the authors as well as for the MISTA organisers.
  2. I would like to collect email addresses as potential conference delegates. I know that people may not like this sort of thing but as long as we are up front about it and, in any case, they are getting the paper for free.

So, for a few days now, I have been sketching out a few ideas as to how I could get this to work. I think I would have the same look/feel as my own publications (see where I list my publications but, for each one, you can go to another page and see all the details about that paper; including being able to download it.

The difference with the MISTA web site would be the fact that when you wanted to download a paper a couple of things would happen. Firstly you would be asked for your email address (and perhaps name and company/institution – but that might be a bit much). It would also say that they would be email’ed about future MISTA conferences and obtaining the paper says that they agree with this.  Once you had entered all the required information, you would be sent an email, with a link in it which would enable you (for one time only) to download the paper.

That’s the idea. Now all I need to do is design the database and write the associated PHP scripts. Oh, and get all the papers in a form that they can be downloaded, which is actually the most time consuming part.

Views welcome.


MISTA Conference: Venue for 2011 announced

MISTA 2009 finished in the time honoured fashion of a social day. On this occasion it was a cruise down the River Liffey, followed by a two hour guided tour around Dublin, ending up at Trinity College Dublin (which, strangley enough is where MISTA 2009 started as it was the first place we visited when looking for a venue for the conference (in the end, we decided against TCD for various reasons)).

But, as the 2009 conference ends, planning for the 2011 conference begins.

So far, the conference has taken place in Nottingham (2003), New York (2005), Paris (2007) and Dublin (2009). At the conference banquet we announced that the 2011 conference will take place in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference will be chaired by John Fowler, Barry McCollm and myself.

Starting to plan two years in advance might seem excessive but we have found the further out you plan, the easier it is.

MISTA Conference: Plenary Talk (Edmund Burke)

The MISTA conference had two plenary talks today (Raymond Kwan – see earlier blog) and Edmund Burke. Edmund’s talk was entitled A Comparison of Two Methods for Reducing Take-Off Delay at London Heathrow Airport and focussed on his work (and Jason Atkin and John Greenwood) that investigates scheduling aircraft at Heathrow in preparation for take off.
The picture shows Edmund Burke (foreground) and Jacek Blazewicz (session chair).

MISTA Conference: Almost There

The MISTA conference is almost upon us.

It was an early start this morning (3am) in order to get to Dublin on the 06:35 flight out of East Midlands Airport. We were actually in the hotel by 09:00 and, thankfully, they had rooms ready so it was not too bad.

We spent the day getting things ready, as far as we could. The real work will start tomorrow and it looks like being a long day. I think we’ll open the registration desk at 07:30 and we’ll return from the Guinness Storehouse at around midnight.

In between that, we have a Plenary Talk by Moshe Dror (“‘Strong’-‘Weak’ Precedence in Scheduling: Extended Order Implications“), followed by 36 papers, split into nine sessions (the full program can be downloaded from here).

For me (and this is a personal viewpoint; not talking as the conference chair) the highlight is the Sports Scheduling session as this is a particular interest of mine, as you’ll see from my previous blog postings. The papers in this session are:

  • Mathematical Modeling for Maximising Gate Receipt Problem, Abdul-Hamid N.H., Kendall G. and Sagir M.
  • A Heuristic for Minimizing Weighted Carry-Over Effects in Round Robin Tournaments, Guedes A.C.B. and Ribeiro C.C.
  • Soccer Schedules in Europe: An Overview, Goossens D.R. and Spieksma F.C.R.
  • Round-Robin Sports Scheduling from a Graph Colouring Perspective: A Case Study in Rugby Union Scheduling, Lewis R. and Thompson J.

… but there are many other excellent papers also being presented throughout the day and your preferences will depend largely on your research interests.

MISTA Conference: Proceeedings

I wonder if there is a good (and I mean simple) way to produce conference proceedings?

In a previous post, I was talking about the MISTA conference that I chair and that we were in the process of collecting all the papers and registrations. This is now done and, with the conference just a week away, we are trying to finalise the proceedings.

It could be worse. In 2003 we had hardcopy proceedings so we had to get things sorted out a lot sooner as we had to deliver the proceedings to the printers. At least, with the proceedings on CD, the timescales are not so tight and we are in charge of our own fate. On the downside you effectively have to develop another web site to enable the delegates to access the papers in a variety of ways.

But that is not the main problem (time consuming as it is). The main problem (at least for me) is three-fold

  1. Ensuring that all the papers actually make it to the proceedings and that all the authors and titles are spelt correctly in the contents pages.
  2. Making sure that the contents pages have the correct page numbers on (for reasons I won’t go into now, it’s important that we have page numbers).
  3. Putting together an accurate author index so that authors can easily find their papers.

I have put together a number of conference proceedings in my time but I have never found a quick, simple and reliable of doing it, other than just taking your time and constantly checking that you have not missed anything.

Any suggestions welcome, for the next time.

Research Assessment in the UK

Like it or not the academic world is slowly (or perhaps not that slowly) moving towards being judged by how highly cited our work is. Actually, it is not a bad measure as if you publish something and nobody ever reads it, or refers to it (i.e. cites it in their own work), then was their any point in publishing that research?

The problem is, of course, that it might takes years (perhaps decades; or even more) for somebody else to recognise the value in a particular piece of research. The other problem is that once scientists know that they are being evaluated in this way, they find ways to maximise their citations (they are typically quite clever people!).

The next research assessment that will be carried out in the UK (called the Research Excellence Framework (REF)) will using citations as a major way to measure the impact of the research that is carried out by individuals, research groups and universities.

If you are interested in the REF take a look at

At the moment, in the UK, this area is the subject of heated debate in the scientific community and this will be the case for the foreseeable future, especially when you bear in mind that the last research assessment (Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)) has only just been completed (the results were announced in December 2008 –