Kevin Stranack from the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), talked at the National Library of Australia today on open publishing. PKP are best known for their free open source Open Journal System (OJS) publishing software. But Kevin pointed out that they have produced other free software and do research on help academics communicate their work.
OJS is used around the world by universities, scientific societies and some commercial companies for producing academic journals (I used to set up the Australian Computer Society digital library). PKP have subsequently produced Open Conference Systems (OPCS) for doing the same thing for conferences and the Open Archives Harvester to collect together the indexes from such systems.
Most recently PKP have released an early beta of Lemon8-XML for converting Word Processing documents into neat XML formatted documents for publishing. This is more ambitious than systems such as the ANU Digital Scholars Workbench and USQ's Integrated Content Environment. Those systems will convert a word processing document which has been prepared using a supplied template which provides a preset structure for the document. PKP are aiming to be able to be able to work out the structure from the content of the document with no preset template. This would be very useful, if it could be done, but may prove impossible.
PKP are also planning to produce a system similar to OJS, but for the production of books. I asked Kevin about incorporating social networking for academic authors and he said there may be a small element of this in the book system. This would provide an author's workbench where the person preparing the book could keep their notes and involve collaborators.
Kevin showed some examples of OJS and OCS based publications, including some Australian ones. One which stood out is the The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning . Apart from the topic being of interest, the publishers practice what they advocate by providing the journal in audio format and a more accessible HTML, as well as the usual PDF. The audio appears to have been produced using text to speech software, but is of a much higher quality than the usual PC generated speech.
One area where it might be worth PKP applying their skills is to e-learning materials. There are some attempts to provide online directories of such materials, for example the Australian Government funded Learning Object Repository Network. However, these are isolated in their own separate repositories and mired in intellectual property issues. Using the open publishing approach to learning objects could make the much more widely used and turn e-learning from a hand crafting cottage industry into a real online innovation.
Another area for future research is to bring together the different types of publishing: journal papers, conferences, books and e-learning into one coherent whole. Ideally, the one tool should be able to be used to publish the same content, to suit these different formats.
PKP stand out by providing usable software backed by research and sustaining it over a long period. If you are thinking about doing academic publishing, or even commercial publishing, online then you should look at PKP's free tools.