Quality e-Publishing Support for the ICT Profession

Open Access Publishing with The Open Journal System


  1. Introduction
  2. An IT Problem
  3. Publishing Business Models
  4. Governance of Scholarly Publishing
  5. Web Advertising

    See Also

  6. E-publishing for Editors
  7. ACS Publishing
  8. Other Information Technology
  9. Home


For the ACS Software Quality Assurance Sig, Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA), IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS) and SCSC, 6 pm, Wednesday 18 October 2006, N101, Australian National University, Canberra

Tom Worthington discusses work by the Australian Computer Society to provide better software tools for publishing ICT research. He argues that the ICT discipline, which fostered the web revolution, is failing to use the technology to communicate its own research results. Tom will demonstrate developments with the ACS's journals and conference proceedings using free open sources software and digital repositories.

The Internet and the web created a revolution in the way information is communicated. Only part of that revolution was the technology, the rest was the business and social presses to complement it. A new revolution is taking place in scholarly communication. This is "Open Access" (OA): the provision of quality research papers free online. One example of a software package for OA is discussed, the Open Journal System. While OJS provides the infrastructure to support scholarly publishing, it does not provide the funding to support it. It is proposed that web advertising can provide funding for publishing.

About the speaker

Tom Worthington is Chair of Scholarly Publishing for the Australian Computer Society and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. He is an independent IT consultant and occasional travel author. He teaches electronic publishing technology at the Australian National University. In 1999 Tom was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy in Australia. His book Net Traveller is available free on-line (and makes money).

ACS Publishing

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has been publishing for thirty years in support of its mission. Recently the ACS has been considering expanding its scholarly publishing operations to:

  1. Create a Digital Library, similar to those from IEEE and ACM,
  2. Streamline the creation of the existing Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT) and Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology CRPIT) publications, using online support,
  3. Be able to add new specialist journals easily and quickly, such as one for the Information Systems discipline,
  4. Include hypertext links to cited works in the publications,
  5. Use audio and video ("podcasting"), as well as text and still images in the publications,
  6. Receive revenue from advertising on web based publications,
  7. Produce books, both in paper and electronic format and sell them via services such as Amazon.com.

Publishing as an IT Problem

An exploded view of a modern personal computer

How computers work, Wikipedia, 2006

To an IT professional a publication is just some data to be processed. Following good practice in IT, you should make sure the data is of good quality when it is entered into the system. The data should be stored in a stable format suitable for long term retention, which can be converted to whatever format is required for display.

However, publishing has to be for a purpose and has to be paid for in some way. Scholarly publishing is, ultimately, not done for profit, but for the communication of ideas.

The World Wide Web was invented for scholarly communication. However, it has been relatively slow to be adopted for formal scholarly publishing, in place of printed books and journals. The way to accomplish this has been to mimic the format of print publications, by creating web documents which look like journal articles and to the to be accepted, a web document has to have the same quality control process applied as for print journals.

This may sound a naive view of the complexities of publishing, but model is built into many computer based tools available today, such as the World Wide Web. But in many cases the benefits of the approach for publishing are not being utilized. Also free and powerful tools built by computer scientists for their own publishing are not well known outside the discipline.

One point difficult for non-computer people to grasp is that all data is treated essentially the same in the computer. The latest XML web based tools can be used for handling digital audio and video as well as text and images. As a result publishing can be blended with broadcasting using the same tools.

Publishing Business Models

Publishing costs money. Academic authors, editors and reviewers are traditionally not paid for their work, being supported by their academic institution and promoted based on their publishing record. The cost of publishing was met by their institution indirectly, by their library subscribing to the journal. This system has been breaking down in recent years with institutional libraries being reluctant to pay the subscription rates changed by publishers. In response the Open Access movement has promoted free online access:

Open access (OA) is the free online availability of digital content. It is best-known and most feasible for peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journal articles, which scholars publish without expectation of payment.

One of the major international statements on open access, which includes a definition, background information, and a list of signatories, is the Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2002. A second major international initiative, dating from 2003, is the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.

From: Open access, Wikipedia, 2006

Open access derived in part from the Open Source software movement. Like Open Source, there are variations in OA.

One option is that preferential access is given to paying subscribers, through a print edition or earlier access. Another option is to have advertising to support the cost of the publication.

Publishing and Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance is familiar to IT professionals from the development of software for their clients. But it can also be applied to the production of ICT research publications. Improved infrastructure with better on-line publishing systems enhances the creation of quality publications.

The use of an IT based production system allows better control of the process and record keeping. As an example all the drafts of papers submitted can be kept, along with all correspondence between the author, editor and reviewers. Competence of those involved is assessed using such mechanism as the traditional peer review process, but also assessment of the reviewer by the editor and feed back from readers. Confidence in the publications is built up by a consistent and repeatable process being used

Quality Assurance (or QA) covers all activities from design..., development, production, installation, servicing and documentation. ...

The company-wide quality approach places an emphasis on four aspects :-

  1. Infrastructure (as it enhances or limits functionality)
  2. Elements such as controls, job management, adequate processes, performance and integrity criteria and identification of records
  3. Competence such as knowledge, skills, experience, qualifications
  4. Soft elements, such as personnel integrity, confidence, organizational culture, motivation, team spirit and quality relationships.

From: Quality Assurance, Wikipedia, 2006

Communicating Research in Australia

The ACS publishes a scholarly papers to communicate the results of research on ICT. This is both for researchers to communicate with each other and with practitioners who can then use the results of that research in real systems for community benefit. The way this communication is done has been under intense research in Australia, funded by the Department of Education, Science and Training. This research is now showing some useful results which should improve the system for scholars and provide commercial spin offs, as did the development of the web.

Estimating the benefits of a one-off increase in accessibility and efficiency we find that:

Research Communication Costs in Australia: Emerging Opportunities and Benefits, John Houghton, Colin Steele & Peter Sheehan, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies Victoria University, Melbourne, September 2006

Publications are just one product of research and there is complementary work on making the data from research also more easily accessed.

The Australian e-Research Sustainability Survey (AERES) project was undertaken by the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) and the ustralian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) to survey the sustainability issues for data-intensive research projects, including the capabilities and demands of research groups and institutions for the storage, access, and long-term management of research data.

The immediate and critical issue for the stewardship of research data in Australia is the lack of administrative responsibility for the task.

Sustainability Issues for Australian Research Data: the Report of the Australian e-Research Sustainability Survey Project, Marcus Buchhorn, Paul McNamara, Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing, 2006

Creative Commons License

Researchers want others to read their work, but want to retain a measure of control over it. As part of the re-launch of the 23 year old "Australian Computer Journal" as the Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology in 2000, the ACS put the full text of new papers on-line. The ACS also decided to continue its practice of making the papers free for non-profit use. However, it can be difficult for the reader to understand exactly what they can and can't do with a paper. So it is intended to use the Australian Creative Commons licence to clarify this.

Creative commons provides an internationally standardized way to give open access rights to publications. Search systems, such as Google index publications based on their Usage Rights. It is therefore possible to search for open access material which you can use in a particular way.

... You are free:

Under the following conditions:

Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
Non-Commercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. ...

From: Creative Commons Australian Licence, 2006

Directory of Open Access Journals

Lund University Libraries provides a Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which lists scientific and scholarly periodicals that do not charge readers or their institutions for access. The ACS's Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology is listed by DOAJ.

Welcome to the Directory of Open Access Journals. This service covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. We aim to cover all subjects and languages. There are now 2420 journals in the directory. Currently 709 journals are searchable at article level. As of today 118172 articles are included in the DOAJ service.

From: Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Lund University Libraries, 2006

Open Journal Systems

General web publishing tools are not set up for traditional publishing. However, some tools, such as the Open Journal Systems (OJS) support a traditional publication workflow.

OJS assists with every stage of the refereed publishing process, from submissions through to online publication and indexing. Through its management systems, its finely grained indexing of research, and the context it provides for research, OJS seeks to improve both the scholarly and public quality of referred research.

OJS is open source software made freely available to journals worldwide for the purpose of making open access publishing a viable option for more journals, as open access can increase a journal's readership as well as its contribution to the public good on a global scale (see PKP Publications).

From: Open Journal Systems

OJS is specifically designed for publishing academic journals, but could be adapted to other publishing processes. OJS allows audio and video files to be uploaded, as well as text, so that it can be used for multimedia publishing. As an example the formal text of a scientific paper can be accompanied by the slides and video of the presentation and data files.

electronic Journal of Health Informatics

An Australian example of the use of OJS is the new electronic Journal of Health Informatics:

The electronic Journal of Health Informatics is an international journal committed to scholarly excellence and dedicated to the advancement of Health Informatics and information technology in healthcare. It is a journal for all health professions and informaticians of all levels.

eJHI is a truly open access journal - it provides open access both for authors (i.e. no publication fee or page charges) and for readers (i.e. free access to all papers). ...

From: electronic Journal of Health Informatics, 2006

Governance of Scholarly Publishing

OJS implements the traditional management structure for a scholarly journal. In practice many of the editorial roles may be undertaken by the one person. But the important process of peer review remains.

Editorial Roles (Assigned in Journal Administration) Diagram of OJS editorial and publication process

From "Introduction to OJS", OJS 2006

Traditionally each publication is managed as an entity. This is reflected in the OJS software which allows several journals to be created with one installation of the software but each is run by a separate editor. At the ACS the scholarly Publication committee oversees all journals, but in practice the role is limited to appointing the editors and setting the budget. A commercial publication might reuse content between different publications, but this would be disastrous for a peer reviewed publication, which would loose its status if it reused already published content.

Digital Object Identifiers

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) are the equivalent of book numbers, which can be issued to individual scholarly papers, to make them easier to reference.

The DOI System is for identifying content objects in the digital environment. DOI(R)names are assigned to any entity for use on digital networks. They are used to provide current information, including where they (or information about them) can be found on the Internet. Information about a digital object may change over time, including where to find it, but its DOI name will not change.

The DOI System provides a framework for persistent identification, managing intellectual content, managing metadata, linking customers with content suppliers, facilitating electronic commerce, and enabling automated management of media. DOI names can be used for any form of management of any data, whether commercial or non-commercial.

From Welcome to the DOI (R) System, International DOI Foundation, 2006

DOIs for scholarly and professional research are run by the non profit organization CrossRef. The JOS software includes provision for automatically issuing a DOI to each paper published. However, DOIs still cost money (about $US2 per paper for a small publisher like the ACS).

Web Advertising

One business model is to give content away online in order to help print sales. But it is now possible to make a modest income from web advertising:

It might be thought that scholarly works would have little interest to advertisers, being designed for a very limited audience. However, due to their careful editing and peer reviewing, scholarly journals are likely to earn more revenue than the average web page.

Readers value quality web content. This is reflected in the measures web search companies use to rate web sites. Journal web sites will linked from respected web sites, such as universities and government agencies. As a result the journals will have a high ranking with search engines and will be returned more often in searches. As a result they are more likely to be seen by web readers and so have potential for web advertising revinue.

The problem is to add the advertising without jeopardizing the perceived quality of the journal for its academic authors and readers. One way to do this is to filter out objectionable advertisements. Google provides a method for excluding advertisements from competitors for the web site. This can be used to remove legal, but objectionable advertisements. An example is those advertisers selling mail order PHDs and term papers.

Another technique is to reverse the usual advertising priority for advertisement placement. Web site designers typically place the advertisements to appear on the web page first and in the more prominent places. The page content comes second. This is designed to maximize advertising revinue, but can detract from the reader's experience. An extreme example is on a slow link, where the advertisements appear for several seconds before the content or on a small screen where the ads may pus the content off the bottom of the screen.

A scholarly journal can be designed so that the content appears first and the advertisements later, in less prominent places. One a slow link the content will appear first and the advertisements several seconds later. If using a small screen the advertisements will be pushed off the bottom of the screen.

OJS's template based web page layout makes it possible to modify the pages to include low impact web advertising. The page template can be modified to include the code for an advertisement on every web page. The default Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) file for the journal can be modified to position the advertisement relative to the content. Careful use of CSS and placement of the advertisement ensures that the content has priority. The advertisement is downloaded and displayed only after the content and is pushed off the screen if there is not sufficient room.

Some readers may have no pushed at all, for example paying subscribers or members of the organisation sponsoring the publication. This can be implemented with the OJS system.


  1. Some books:
  2. Electronic Publishing at the ACS

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