It’s Time to Upgrade OJS
February 23, 2022
We encourage users to upgrade to the current release series OJS 3.3.x!
More than 25,000 active journals around the world use Open Journal Systems (OJS). However, the PKP Technical Committee recently learned that many of those journals are relying on considerably older versions of OJS. As we are regularly releasing upgrades of the software, given changes to the web, staying with older versions may pose problems for a journal’s stability and security. For example, more than 8,000 journals are using OJS 2.4 – a version that PKP has now retired.
Number of journals by OJS software version, filtered for journals that have published articles in 2021 (See: Khanna, Saurabh; Raoni, Jonas; Smecher, Alec; Alperin, Juan Pablo; Ball, Jon, 2021, “Details of publications using software by the Public Knowledge Project,” https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/OCZNVY, Harvard Dataverse, V1, UNF:6:LIikqmU6NzRu2UKEHiplfw== [fileUNF] )
With PKP’s new Long-term Support (LTS) policy in place, many of you may be wondering if now is a good time to upgrade. The Technical Committee thought it might be helpful to outline some of the advantages to upgrading, and to point you to some resources that may be able to help you move to a newer version of OJS.
What are some common barriers to upgrading?
The members of the Technical Committee have all had first-hand experience of some of the barriers that journals may face in upgrading to the most recent version of OJS. Many of us have challenges related to resources, and upgrades are time-consuming and require specialized technical expertise.
We know journals are often operating with little support and make use of volunteer staff with limited capacity, so finding time for administrators, journal managers, and editors to learn new interfaces, or update local documentation with new workflows, can represent a significant challenge. Journals may rely heavily on a plugin that isn’t available in a new version, or may have developed a custom theme or other functionality that can’t be upgraded and needs to be redeveloped. Sometimes, upgrades may happen too frequently to keep up, or journal managers may have concerns that newer versions may have unexpected problems or bugs that they won’t know how to solve.
Although upgrading certainly presents its challenges, there are many excellent reasons to consider upgrading sooner, rather than later:
- Security first: Running unsupported or retired versions of OJS can leave your journal open to malicious attacks. Outdated versions of the software may have known vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
- Save time and resources in the future: As versions age, they may no longer be compatible with the server environment of your hosting organization. As those systems (PHP, MYSQL, etc) are upgraded, old versions of OJS may no longer work or will have a more difficult upgrade path.
- Get better features: Newer versions are more functional and efficient, and offer dramatic improvements in usability and performance. These changes can help make life easier, and save time, for journal managers, editors and authors, and also for the technical support teams managing the software.
- Easier planning: With an LTS (Long-Term Support) policy in place, time-crunched journals and organizations which may struggle with frequent upgrades can rely on a more predictable upgrade schedule, allowing for better planning.
The Technical Committee’s favorite features in OJS 3.3 you might be missing in older versions
We asked the members of the PKP Technical to tell us about their favorite features in the current production version of OJS. Here are some of their top picks:
- Modern-looking themes: OJS 3.3 has far more attractive and responsive themes that look great “out of the box”
- A better user interface for the submission workflow, with a more flexible and intuitive design
- A visual statistics page to quickly see information about articles
- Mobile-friendly and accessible interface for readers of your journal
- ORCID support for authors
- Editors can handle all the publication data in one screen with the “Publication” tab
- BONUS: the comprehensive documentation in the Learning OJS guide will be relevant for this version
Resources to help you upgrade
We know upgrades can be challenging, but when you’re ready, PKP has some resources to help:
- Your technical staff can start with the How to Upgrade guide
- There is also a specific Upgrading from OJS 2 to OJS 3 guide, which helps with planning for this specific upgrade scenario.
- Unsure what features a new version will include? The latest major versions (3.2 and 3.3) have helpful Release Notebooks, and detailed release notes for minor versions can be found in the PKP Github release notes for OJS, OMP, and OPS.
- The PKP Docs hub has a wealth of information that may be helpful while planning or carrying out an upgrade.
- If you have a specific question or problem, try posting to the PKP Community Forum and other OJS users or PKP staff may be able to help you out.