PKP highlights

In early August in Montréal, I attended PKP 2017: “Reclaiming Scholarship: Voice, Rights, Ownership,” my first PKP gathering for reasons that may become clear, but hopefully not my last. It was a truly useful learning and sharing opportunity, included plenty of ways to actively contribute, and I’m glad I opted to attend both the development sprint and the more formal program.

In registering for the event I hesitated over the sprint, both because I don’t code and because we don’t currently have any PKP platform deployed at MPOW. As it turned out, a substantial part of the sprint activity was focused on updating and expanding documentation not only about PKP tools, but also to do with scholarly communication context and workflows. It was rewarding to contribute to documentation that will be informative for editorial staff regardless of platform, and also a helpful resource for those who support or advise on scholarly communications.

Following the sprint, the program offered thought-provoking speakers and panels, together with an intriguingly varied array of lightning talks. Drawing from local cases, data from broader surveys, and everything in between, lightning talks offered a rapid series of glimpses into existing and potential uses of OJS and related PKP tools. Unfortunately, the #PKP2017 tag seems to be enduringly popular for a range of purposes unrelated to ours, but this twitter moment offers a sense of the proceedings.

Lightning talk

title slide so you want to launch a journal

For my own lightning talk, months ago I proposed to address a topic that scholarly communications librarians frequently find themselves approached about: You want to launch a journal?


My ambition was to organize the outcomes and matters raised through many past conversations into “a living model for consulting on local scholarship dissemination in a small, teaching-focused university” and to discuss progress toward what I optimistically hoped would be a tidy and concise tool to help ensure consistency in what are typically branching conversations with unique elements, but that inevitably meander past the same markers in the same landscape. Perhaps a flow chart?



I began with a list of questions and considerations, compiled through successive conversations about what it takes to start a journal. In brief, I attempted both on paper and using various online tools to represent those questions and considerations as visual elements in a chart, then in a network, and finally as a spaghetti-like mind map. Finally, I concluded that while someone may yet create a useful visual tool for this purpose, it likely will not be me. Instead, maintaining the evolving list of questions and considerations, referring to these as a resource to conversations, and taking the time to refine them based on new learning seems to be a more productive pursuit.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to my PKP-specific punchline within the four minutes, but happily other presenters did. I’ll reinforce it here. In our local journal publishing conversations and projects to date, OJS has been considered numerous times, including a couple of attempts to implement, yet there are currently no surviving projects. In my experience the reasons for this might be distilled to these factors:

  • Workflow. For an infrequent publication, or for one that recruits content from within the organization, the workflow side of OJS may be extraneous and onerous. In one such example, our Library took over maintenance of an annual publication of graduate student work and migrated it from OJS to the institutional repository.
  • Business practices. Journals operate within the business environment of the sponsoring organization or membership. We failed to bring one journal to OJS because proponents could not see way to make it open, did not have the resources to manage subscriptions manually, and university policy did not support payment through mechanisms available on the OJS platform at that time.
  • Aesthetics and functionality. For some journal proponents, workflow aspects of OJS have been appealing, but visual appeal and ability to integrate other media have been more compelling, and they have opted to use WordPress .

Some of these factors are easier to address than others. I’ve found it surprisingly hard to move people toward something that they don’t like the look of. However, with new, more attractive themes offered by OJS 3.0 and with flexibility to integrate non-text formats, I’m hopeful that OJS may be better received in future, with attendant benefits not only for managing journal workflow, but also for discovery and digital preservation. Rosarie Coughlan’s lightning talk Beyond the Journal: OJS as a Platform for Non-Traditional Scholarly Outputs – A Use-Case about OJS 3.0 implementation at Queen’s University Library offers an affirming example and lends confidence to the hope.

So you want to launch a journal?: PKP 2017 highlights, with notes from my lightning talk plus a few remarks that didn’t fit into four minutes by Dana McFarland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.