OJS Turns 15

December 21st, 2016 by  | Comments Off on OJS Turns 15

2016 has been an important year for the Public Knowledge Project, with the release of OJS 3.0 and OMP 1.2, receiving the SSHRC Impact Award, sprints in Montreal and Fredericton, being part of the successful application by Erudit for the CFI Cyberinfrastructure grant, the launch of the PKP Index and PKP LOCKSS Network, and OJS reaching the 10,000 journals mark.  But before we close out this year, we want to acknowledge that 2016 is also the fifteenth birthday of OJS.

Back in 2001, PKP was only three years old, having been founded by Dr. John Willinsky at the University of British Columbia in 1998. Open Journal Systems was an early software development outcome of that research project, and was free and open source from the start.

At a time when concepts of open source, open access, and online journals were still very new, OJS was a bit of a hard sell, with John travelling the world asking journal editors, managers, and publishers to try out this new system.

One early adopter of OJS version 1.0 was The Pink Voice, a peer-reviewed journal of teen-aged girls in Vancouver, Canada. Although not exactly the use that was envisioned, the high school journal represented the kind of innovative, participatory publishing for which OJS would become well known.


Other journals that followed included the Kigali Journal of Education from Rwanda and Postcolonial Text, which continues to publish today.


By 2005, OJS had grown to include over 100 journals, and was updated to version 2.0. This new version brought several enhancements, including the addition of multilingual capability, a plugin architecture, theming, subscriptions, and more detailed statistics.

By 2015, just 10 years later, OJS uptake had increased by one-hundred fold with over 10,000 currently published journals relying upon OJS. There is every indication this growth will continue unabated in the coming years, with more journals using the system, more translations being contributed, more features being added, and more countries being represented.


Some significant OJS projects include African Journals Online, with over 500 journals; Instituto Brasileiro de Informação em Ciência e Tecnologia (IBICT) in Brazil, with over 1,000 journals; and the INASP JOLs, including BanglaJOL, NepJOL, Sri LankaJOL, VietnamJOL, and Latin America JOL.

One unexpected outcome has been the growth of library-based publishing, with many academic libraries around the world offering OJS hosting and support as a new service to their faculty. OJS is one of the most commonly used publishing platforms by the members of the Library Publishing Coalition. In Canada today, 34 libraries across the country are currently providing hosting and support to over 400 Canadian journals using OJS. Getting more directly involved in the knowledge creation process is just one of the many ways libraries continue to reinvent themselves in the 21st Century.

The recent release of OJS 3.0 represents a new stage of growth for the software, reflecting many years of feedback from the community, over 2 years of usability work, and opportunities made available by newer technologies. OJS 3.0 was a complete restructuring and re-coding of the software that will position it favourably for future enhancements and ensure it continues to evolve in response to the changing requirements of scholarly publishing in a digital environment. Highlights include a responsive reader interface that works across desktop and mobile devices, a more flexible, easy to use editorial workflow, editorial discussions, simpler registration, and more.


With OJS 3, we are also planning significant new functionality, including a plugin and theme gallery, richer statistical reporting, automated XML conversion, and a document-centric workflow. User experience continues to be a key component in our software development cycle, ensuring all future developments are user-focused and easy to use.

The widespread adoption of OJS has also spurred PKP to provide a growing number of complementary services such as a LOCKSS-based preservation network that directly integrates with OJS, the PKP Index that harvests metadata and content from OJS journals around the world, and PKP School that provides a range of self-paced online courses on OJS and scholarly publishing.

The free, open source, open access, globally distributed community that has developed around OJS over the past 15 years has now established itself as a significant, participatory alternative to the traditional commercial publishing model. From what started out as a small research project on the west coast of Canada has now become a key piece of infrastructure for open scholarship around the world, with no plans of slowing down.

If you have an OJS journal you are working with, please add it to the PKP Index — a showcase of our global community.


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