PKP Quick Study: Isfahan University of Medical Sciences
About once a month PKP will send a list of general questions to a user of our software who is doing interesting things, such as publishing in interesting ways; special customizations; plugin or development work; extended institutional integration work; and so on. The resulting questionnaire will be published on this page, and publicized on our blog. Prospective candidates for these interviews can send an email to pkp-support [AT] pkp.sfu.ca.
This month, Dr. Mahmoud Saghaei, from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, writes about what he and his team have been doing with Open Journal Systems, and about the larger use of OJS in Iran.
Who we are:
A group of volunteers working for different university journals at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences to enhance the quality, distribution and timeliness of publications.
I'm Mahmoud Saghaei, professor of anesthesiology at the Department of Anesthesia, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences and also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, which is an ISI indexed journal publishing original works related to clinical medicine. Although my primary base is medicine, I am interested in different fields of computer sciences, such as programming and computation especially as related to medical research and publication.
Our path to this software was:
We used OJS for the last five years as our main on-line publishing and management system for at least 12 university journals. During these years we passed through different stages of modification and adaptation to the main code base. By this I mean the more we adapted to the main logic of OJS work-flow processing the less we need customization and modification to OJS to make the local user feel happy. We witnessed major improvements in the users' ability to work with OJS as different roles. The reasons behind these improvements may be summarized as follows:
- Overall awareness in the Internet usage technology
- Improvements and extensions in the OJS functionalities
- Emergence of more native and third party plugins
- Increase in the rate of submissions to native journals
- Two nation-wide and several local workshops for Iranian OJS users
- Some documentation in local languages
- Emergence of several local business models (NGO and GO) giving OJS support and services
Currently there are multiple installations of OJS in different Iranian universities. Our installation at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences hosts 12 journals. The URL is:
... and the URL to our journal is:
The features that help us in particular include:
Most users encounter a steep learning curve when first using OJS. This is due to its flexibility combined with simplicity in the usage. Journal managers for example not only can manipulate different aspects of the journal, but also they learn the basics and HowTos of on-line publishing and management. In addition, most of them become interested in the on-line publication technologies and like to work on such for most of their time, irrespective of their primary base. With its extensive customizable publishing steps, OJS makes the editorial staff feel more confident with the work they publish. Although to a lesser extent, the ability of journal manager to customize the appearance, look and feel of the journal web site also helped us to attract the attention of readers and authors and to encourage them to use the on-line service. Prior to OJS usage most local journals did not care for some essential steps toward final on-line publication of articles such as multi-staged proof reading, and mostly published with minimal proofs. Now it is a common practice for most of our journals to adhere to these necessary steps.
Features we would love to see in this software include:
- More localization: currently OJS do not support multi-locale user identities (i.e names)
- Native themes although are numerous but they have the same design architecture. More dynamic usage of css or web technologies may be beneficial
- Documentation seems to lag behind the development.
We have been doing some interesting things with this software. For example:
- More customization of masthead (e.g. loading a customized page or file)
- More customization of main installation portal (supports for non-ojs journals within the institute)
- Making Pubmed abstract xml available to readers alongside the pdf and abstract links
- Possibility of browsing public folder and uploading directly into it
- Adding review certification function in the reviewer role
- Adding reviewer index functionality
- Some modification in the log-in as function.
- Assigning icons to galley links
Any further thoughts:
- We are working on developing a national certification program on OJS. I wonder if it is necessary and possible to have an international certification program for OJS, something like LPIC which is for Linux
- There are lots of similarities between OJS model and the models for other scholarly and art works. I wonder if it is possible to write an application to transform a Open Journal Systems packages to other similar things (e.g Open Book Systems, Open Movie Systems). This needs a mapping of different terms relevant to journal publishing to others. In the case of book some mappings may be as follow:
- Journal: Book
- Article: Chapter
- Editorial Board: Editors
- Issue: Edition
- and of course ISSN: ISBN
[Note: We're happy to say that Mahmoud's desire for an online book system will see fruition with Open Monograph Press, which is currently in very active development towards a beta in the near future. It is also the long-term goal of our developers to make a fully modular system that would allow for the quick development of other types of online publication systems. -J.M.]
Thanks to Mahmoud Saghaei and his team for contributing so much to OJS, and for taking the time to let us know what they are doing! Again, prospective candidates for these interviews can send an email to pkp-support [AT] pkp.sfu.ca.