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Roger Clarke's 'PLPR as an Open Journal'

Requirements and Options for PLPR as an Open Journal

Roger Clarke **

Discussion Document of 10 December 2006

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2006

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This document is at http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/PLPRasOJ-0612.html


1. Introduction

The Privacy Law & Policy Reporter is a well-established professional journal, having published 100 Issues during the decade July 1994 to June 2004.

During that time, the journal was published in 10 hard-copy issues per annum, with papers becoming available on the Internet with a time-lag of about 1 year. The business model was conventional - publishing expenses funded by revenue from subscriptions, with any surplus accruing to the publisher. The publisher was originally an independent house, but it was taken over by a large multinational during the course of the decade.

The copyright and trademark rights have remained at all times with the editor. The editor is also a leader in the open content movement, both in a very large-scale practical sense, through AustLII and WorldLII, and in a research sense, through the Unlocking IP project.

The intention is accordingly to adopt a new business model - open content, with the costs much-reduced by publishing soft-copy only, and funded by sponsorship. An indication of the cost-reductions that are feasible is provided in 'The Cost-Profiles of Alternative Approaches to Journal-Publishing'. A brief consideration of relevant business models is in 'Revenue Models for Journal-Publishing in the Open Access Era'.

This discussion paper considers the requirements of software to enable PLPR to be operated inexpensively and efficiently, as an open content journal, by a team of contributors who are largely or entirely unpaid volunteers, or perform their functions as part of a broader role.


2. Outline of Requirements

The basic needs are as follows:

If PLPR is to ever include refereed articles recognised by DEST, then the submissions management facility needs to also support distribution of submissions to reviewers, receipt of reviews, and the administration of reviews and reviewers. The c. 700 DEST-approved journals is at http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/research_sector/online_forms_services/documents/RgisterOfRefereedJournals_pdf.htm. DEST's criteria appear not to be publicly available, but guidance to ANU academics is at http://www.anu.edu.au/ro/publications/departments.php.

The following sections expand on the above outline of the needs.


3. The Submissions Management Facility

Capabilities are needed in relation to the creation, receipt, management and finalisation of submissions from authors.

The sub-sections below include reference to reviews and Reviewers. This may be redundant to the extent that the journal does not support DEST-recognised refereed articles.

3.1 Submissions

Instructions need to be available to Authors.

One or more templates need to be provided to Authors in order to ensure convenience to the Editorial Team.

3.2 Submissions Receipt

The facility should enable any person to make a submission. Each Submission should be given a unique identifier for tracking purposes. New Submissions should be brought to the Submissions Manager's attention, at their option immediately or periodically.

The Submissions Manager should be able to allocate each Submission to a member of the Editorial Team, or to dispose of it directly.

3.3 Submissions Management

The allocation of new Submissions should be brought to the relevant Editor's attention, at their option immediately or periodically.

Each Editor should be able to access the database of reviewers, to assign Reviewers, and to despatch requests for review.

The system should automatically notify Reviewers and Editors of missed deadlines, but in a manner that avoids flooding mailboxes and de-motivating the volunteers.

The arrival of Reviews should be brought to the relevant Editor's attention, at their option immediately or periodically.

Each Editor should be able to edit the Submission, and send recommendations to the Managing Editor, or dispose of the Submission directly.

Provision of access by Authors to progress reports on the management of their Submissions is desirable.

3.4 Submissions Finalisation

The arrival of Recommendations should be brought to the Managing Editor's attention, at their option immediately or periodically.

The Managing Editor should be able to edit the Submission, pass it for publication, dispose of it, or repeat or continue the review process.

3.5 General Requirements

The identities Author, Submissions Manager, Editor, Reviewer and Managing Editor are used in this document in the sense of roles or identities associated with usernames that have particular privileges; and Editorial Team is a generic term for all usernames. In all cases, multiple usernames may be issued within a category. To enable a single person to be able to perform all functions, an Administrator or Super-user needs to have access to all privileges.

A database of Reviewers and their contact-points and areas of expertise should be able to be maintained by members of the Editorial Team. Automated maintenance of each Reviewer's track-record is desirable.

Templates should be able to be established and managed for each category of communication. A basic library of pre-written templates is desirable, which can be over-ridden by amended or replacement templates.

All communications should be indexed and archived.


4. The Publishing Facility

Capabilities are needed in relation to journal structure, the publishing process, and the storage and publishing form(s).

4.1 Journal Structure

The facility needs to support publishing under any and all of several regimes:

It would appear that the digital era will see Progressive Issues become most common, perhaps within year-based Volumes.

PLPR is somewhat constrained by its use of July-to-June Volumes for its first 10 Volumes, followed by an 11th Volume that does not appear to be aligned to the calendar year.

4.2 The Publishing Process

The Managing Editor needs to be able to either:

The Managing Editor needs to be able to release material. This comprises:

Suitable arrangements are needed to enable notification to interested parties that new item(s) is/are available. Depending in particular on the journal structure, this may be triggered by each new item, or each new Issue, and be:

Subscription may be to the journal as a whole, or based on selection parameters, especially keywords.

4.3 Storage and Publishing Form(s)

Flexibility is needed in the form or forms in which the material is published. Not all forms may be applicable to all items or all Issues, and forms will change over time.

Candidate forms include:

The storage form may not be the same as the publishing form(s). Strategic thinking about cross-media publishing strongly suggests that the master copy should be in XML, with XSLT used to generate (in the first instance) XHMTL and PDF formats for publication purposes.


5. The Service

A specialist service may offer advantages in terms of longevity, reliability and the minimisation of efforts by the Editorial Team. On the other hand, the Team may have less control over the choice of tools, and the choice of parameter-settings, and less direct access to technical and administrative support.

A self-installed and self-run service requires far more effort by the Editorial Team, both in the first instance and subsequently. On the other hand, it may enable the service to fit well to PLPR's particular needs, and sustain control in the hands of the Editorial Team.


6. Possible Services

A variety of possibilities exist, which will require time to find and evaluate. This section provides preliminary comments on several.

6.1 Universities and Their 'Institutional Repositories'

DEST is providing a vast amount of funding to 'institutional repositories'. The leaders appear to be ANU's ePrints and ePress and QUT's ePrints. UNSW's ARROW is lagging.

It may be that one or more Australian universities will offer, and sustain, a journal-editing service, e.g. as a result of the current APSR project being run by ANU and UTS.

6.2 Disciplinary or Subject Repositories Generally

On the other hand, much more progress is currently being achieved by 'disciplinary repositories', and 'subject repositories' than by individual universities.

One that may be relevant is Social Science Research Network, in particular the Law Service Network. However this appears to have retained the strategy of being a portal for multiple commercial publishers, rather than a journal-publishing service.

6.3 The Australian Computer Society in Particular

Of more immediate relevance may be the ACS Digital Library. This has been the work of Tom Worthington, an ANU Visiting Fellow, sometime ACS President and ongoing ACS Director.

The ACS has been e-publishing its Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT) for some years. It applied the experience and infrastructure to establish a service for Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT), which has published 1,200 papers in the proceedings of 73 conferences since 2001.

In late 2006, the ACS established a journal-publishing service based on the open-source software from UBC called the Open Journal System. It assisted the Australian Journal of Information Systems to apply that software, in the process converting it from a print-based to an e-journal. The OJS software is discussed further below.

The ACS is in the process of consolidating the three sets of publications into a service called the ACS Digital Library. Tom described the philosophy underlying the initiative in 'Quality e-Publishing Support for the ICT Profession: Open Access Publishing with The Open Journal System' (September 2006).

The editor of PLPR is a Fellow of the ACS, as is the author of this Discussion Paper. Declaration: The author played a (fairly minor) role in the negotiations between the editor of AJIS and the ACS that resulted in the adoption of the OJS software and the consequent formation of the ACS Digital Library.

6.4 AustLII

PLPR's archives are currently hosted within the AustLII domain, at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/PLPR/. It is therefore natural to consider the option of AustLII adding journal-publishing to its list of services.

The least-effort way for AustLII to do so would very likely be to install OJS. This would still require some amount of effort. Consideration would be needed as to whether it is an appropriate application of scarce resources, unless it was a strategic measure designed to enable support for additional journals beyond PLPR.

Currently, some 42 journals are indexed by AustLII ( listed at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/). Some of these may have access to satisfactory services already (e.g. one of them is already hosted using OJS - see below), but it seems likely that most are inadequately supported (and the URLs of at least three are no longer functional).

From PLPR's viewpoint, using AustLII as the service-provider would increase its dependency on AustLII's continued good health and its capacity to provide both the facility and sufficient time from staff who sustain expertise in the journal-publishing system.

Further, a strategic decision is needed as to the URL(s) at which PLPR will be discoverable. The name plpr.org is already taken, but not delegated. (The owner is a corporation in Tucson AZ - ISOC has failed to limit use of .org to associations). But plpr.org.au is available. URLs can be readily organised to re-direct from one to another.


7. Possible Tools

A variety of possibilities exist, which will require time to find and evaluate. A great many conference-management packages are available; but the effort has been dissipated, many are clumsy and manneristic, and few are reliably maintained. There are far fewer journal-management packages.

One journal-management package that has been successful is the Open Journal System (OJS). It was developed, and is supported by, the Public Knowledge Project at the University of British Columbia.

PKP claims that it is used by over 800 journals. This includes precisely 1 of the 42 AustLII-indexed journals - the Australian and New Zealand Maritime Law Journal, hosted at Murdoch.

The key player in OJS is John Willinsky (who I've corresponded with, and tried unsuccessfully to meet up with in Vancouver earlier this year). He offers an outline in 'OJS in an Hour'. See p. 12 for a diagrammatic overview.


8. Conclusions

At this stage, this is a Discussion Document, and firm conclusions are inappropriate.

The author's leanings are towards either an AustLII installation of OJS or discussions with ACS about utilising its new Digital Library facility.


Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.



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