Fidus Writer and Open Journal Systems Integration

January 20th, 2014 by  | 1 Comment

For the past two months, PKP’s technical architect and lead developer Alec Smecher and Takuto Kojima from the Fidus Writer team have worked on integrating Fidus Writer and OJS, and a prototype has just been developed. In an interview on Fidus Writer’s website, Alec and Takuto tell us what this means, how far they came and where this could go. You will find some excerpts below.

In the interview, Alec explains:

“When OJS began there was no practical alternative to the desktop word processor. Web-based alternatives didn’t exist, and scholarly authors have typically been hesitant to change their working environment. Web-based and cloud-based tools are now much more familiar to users in general, and at PKP we’ve been watching their ascendancy with anticipation but also some concern over where the data lives, who owns it, and how accessible it will be in 10 or 20 years.

Academic journal publishing is a tremendously varied endeavour, and while our normal focus is the 80% mark — that is, our software attempts to provide good functionality for 80% of users — the remaining 20% is something we watch closely as the future of publishing will emerge from experiments there. At any time we have half a dozen experimental or research-oriented side projects around subjects like statistics, XML, and annotation; until now editing journal submissions has fallen into the wish list within that 20%. I’ve been periodically surveying the options for web-based content editing, looking for options that are technically viable, offer sufficient benefits to users (e.g. in facilitating XML generation), and avoid some of the major red flags around content ownership, archival options, and software licensing. Fidus Writer is the only viable option I’ve encountered thus far.”

About Fidus Writer

Fidus Writer is an open source word processor that runs on modern web browsers with special features focused on academic writing. Fidus Writer makes it much easier to create and edit academic documents written according to specific academic formats. The idea is that authors should be able to write academic documents without being IT specialists, and without knowledge of document formatting rules such as citation styles.

Fidus Writer is special not only because of its features for academic writing, but also due to its modern functionalities as a document editor. Researchers can edit a document collaboratively. They can even edit the same document at the same time. They can export the document into HTML, Epub, Latex or PDF.

How will integration work? Where will the author start when submitting a document to such a unified system?

Takuto: “Currently OJS supports Microsoft Word (or Libre Office/Open Office) for the peer review process. The author uploads his document as MS Word document and the reviewers review it in Ms Word after downloading it to their local machine. Ultimately, we would like to replace Ms Word with Fidus Writer in this process. The author can write (or paste) the document into Fidus Writer and submit it for peer review in OJS; reviewers will review it in Fidus Writer, all online, without ever having to download the document or manage files locally.

We believe that Fidus Writer brings a lot of benefits to the author with its special features for academic writing. And reviewers won’t be obliged to have Ms Word on their computers. They will be able to review the document from any computer with a modern web browser.

A Fidus Writer document will be stored in a completely semantic form and this offers further possibilities of advanced sorting and searching of documents later on the front end of the journal.”

Alec: “This vision of integration dovetails with some of PKP’s broader strategies. It’s hard for OJS to work directly with content written in a word processor because it’s very difficult to determine what part of the document is the abstract, what is the bibliography, and so on, down to a fine level of detail such as references, figures, etc. Working with a system like Fidus Writer that introduces semantic knowledge at the beginning of the process means we can ease the editor’s workload throughout their workflow, from ensuring that submissions are anonymous before they’re sent to reviewers, to quality checking citations, to indexing content in external services such as PubMed Central.

These processes are typically done manually and editors don’t have enough time to see them all through. On the flip side, authors will not need to understand the difference between symantic formats and layout formats — they will simply work with a tool that looks like an enriched word processor and the benefits will be automatic.”

You can find the whole interview, including a demonstration by Alec, here

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