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Percentage of scholarly publishers that have adopted the Recommendations on RSS Feeds

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It is now two years since the ticTOCs Best Practice Recommendation group, headed by CrossRef and consisting of members from Talis, Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press and Heriot-Watt University; published the “Recommendations on RSS Feeds for Scholarly Publishers.”

RSS feeds are designed to be aggregated and reused by other services and software applications. In general RSS feeds should always be created with this in mind. The Recommendations are in full agreement with this principle.

Back in 2009, two practices were noticed by the ticTOCs Project:

  1. there was a wide variation amongst the journal TOC RSS feeds produced by scholarly publishers, and
  2. in most of the cases the feeds’ content had very limited information on the articles, such as uniquely the title and the link to the article’s webpage.

Variations in the way publisher implement RSS feeds basically preclude the consistent and automated aggregation of feeds. At the same time, having little content to offer, limit the reusability and value of feeds for other services that want to create interesting applications by combining the feeds. The Recommendations were created to help publishers avoid the inconveniences created by those two practices, and to advocate good practice in the production and provision of TOC RSS feeds for scholarly journals.

There are signs that the Recommendations are gradually being embraced to a certain extent, but how many scholarly publishers have really implemented the Recommendations in their journal TOC RSS feeds? There’s no way to get an exact number, but we can get a good idea of the progress being made by taking a look at the number of journals that are using the four RSS 1.0 modules recommended by the group, namely Admin, Content, Dublin Core and PRISM modules.

Today we have examined the RSS feeds of the journals collected by JournalTOCs to get an approximate picture of how many publishers are making the move. Currently 17,112 journals from 917 publishers are being indexed by JournalTOCs.

Interestingly no journal uses the Admin module in their RSS feeds. Only a few hundreds of subscription journals make use of the Content module. However those two modules are not particularly relevant from the re-usability perspective (the Admin module is intended to be used by consumers of a feed to provide feedback on errors encountered in the feed and the Content module is used to include formatted HTML marked up content for browsers.) The modules that really can give us a good indication of the Recommendations’ uptake are the Dublin Core and PRISM modules.

8,025 journals are using Dublin Core, PRISM or both modules; but only 3,673 of those journals are using both modules.

If we put the figures from the number of publishers’ perspective, 425 publishers are using Dublin Core, PRISM or both modules; and 295 of them use both Dublin Core and PRISM modules.

Regarding Open Access Journals, there are 2,660 Open Access journals in JournalTOCs, and 708 of them have implemented either the Dublin Core or the PRISM module; but only 288 of Open Access journals use both Dublin Core and PRISM modules.

Publishers and journals are using Dublin Core and PRISM modules

In conclusion: There is still a long way to go. Only 31% of the publishers are using the two main modules and in some extend have adopted the Recommendations. This is equivalent to 22% of the journals. To make a real progress two things should happen: (1) Elsevier, Springer-Verlag and Taylor and Francis together publish over 6,000 journals. A significant step forward will only be made when those three large publishers adopt the Recommendations. (2) An inexplicable low number of Open Access journals have implemented the recommendations. Without proper orientation and guidance, the publishers of OA journals so far haven’t been able to grasp the benefits of adopting best practices and using standard modules for their RSS feeds.

Written by Santiago Chumbe

October 29th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot

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One might expect that journals in computer science are using the latest computer science technologies to publish their journals. Well that is not always the case. For example we found two publishers in computer sciences that do not give their own publications platforms the benefit of their “expertise”.

ACTA Press publishes eleven scientific and technical journals in the general areas of engineering and computer science. For example it publishes the International Journal of Computers and Applications (IJCA), an outstanding title, but where is the homepage of this journal? Google will give you this page (Sorry, Google seems to be a year behind). Other sources will point to here or here. Can you find a unique or persistent URL for IJCA’s homepage? We couldn’t find it. It seems that its “homepage” changes with every issue. The same happens with all ACTA Press journals. Their journal TOC RSS feeds have a sub-standard implementation too. For example IJCA’s RSS feeds point to this page or here, but all that you get from those RSS feeds are “Object moved” messages. The RSS link shown at the bottom of all IJCA pages point to an “Acta Press New Papers” feeds which in fact is a list of relatively new papers published in conference proceedings! That is confusing. Worse, if you go to the proceedings section you will see that actually those RSS feeds are out of date or one year behind.

The International Society for Computers and Their Applications (ISCA) publishes the International Journal of Computers and Their Applications (IJCA). There is no mention of an OA option for authors. However, ISCA’s instructions for authors say: “After a manuscript has been accepted for publication, the author will be invoiced a page charge of $35.00 USD per printed page to cover part of the cost of publication.” Does that mean the papers are OA? Nope. In fact this is a subscription journal. There is no need to navigate through all IJCA pages to immediately feel that you have travelled 10 years back in the past. Its web pages are pre Web 1.0! Although ISCA claims that the journal is abstracted and indexed by Scopus, INSPEC and DBLP, and we can see that the journal webpage displays an impressive list of Editorial Board members, it is not possible to gauge its value. Can I see the abstracts? Nope. Links to full-texts, citations or to something? No, there are not links to any content at all. DOIs are not used. Of course there is not a remote mention of RSS feeds in this international journal of computer sciences.

Why these two journals are not up to the web technology standards expected for journals specialising in computer sciences?

Written by admin

August 22nd, 2011 at 1:12 pm

John Wiley & Sons is the first publisher to use <dc:rights> in TOC RSS feeds

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John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has become the first publisher to use the <dc:rights> element from the Dublin Core Metadata standard to indicate copyright at the paper level.

While their values have not yet been defined, all John Wiley’s journal TOC RSS feeds include a <dc:rights> element in each of their items.

The granularity of this development would enable aggregators, discovery systems and other bibliographic services to provide accurate information about the full-text access rights for a particular paper. Thus, for example we would be able to alert end-users when an Open Access paper has been published in a hybrid (open access) journal.

A hybrid journal is a closed or subscription journal that also publishes Open Access papers.

Notably John Wiley has various hybrid journals. Hybrid journals are considered as a transitional model by some publishers and an optional publishing model by others. The publishers said (on the whole) that it is easier to start new pure Open Access journals than to transition a subscription journal.

Nevertheless, we are aware that there is a lot of Open Access (OA) papers published in hybrid journals that are not being systematically identified as OA by aggregators and discovery systems. This is an issue that would be solved by using <dc:rights> or CC-BY licensing in the RSS feeds at the item level.

In a recent message sent by Peter Murray-Rust to the Open Bibliography list when talking about “Open Science Bibliography – where can I find Open Access papers on … ?“, Peter concluded: “The attraction of this is that the results can go straight into CKAN (metadata about open access) and Open Bibliography. Obviously full open access publishers (BMC, PLoS) are straightforward. Hybrid journals (e.g. Springer, Wiley, Elsevier, ACS) are the most immediate gain. This will locate and publicize the Open Access papers, even when hidden in traditional closed journals.

Our interest at JournalTOCs is to make easier or evident the identification of OA papers published in hybrid journals. At the moment we only can identify OA at the journal level. In that sense we look forward of reusing the new John Wiley’s TOC RSS feeds to identify OA at the paper level from hybrid journals.

Written by Santiago Chumbe

August 16th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

A scenario in which OPML could have avoided “Page Not Found” errors for TOC RSS feeds

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One of the most frustrating problems in navigating websites is to be presented with a “Page Not Found” webpage.

Page Not Found

This is precisely the scenario that aggregators and discovery systems are facing with the 1,600 journal TOC RSS feeds of Taylor & Francis.

Since Monday 27th June, when Taylor & Francis moved its journals platform from Informaworld to Tandfonline, the previous URLs for all the Taylor & Francis journal TOC RSS feeds are returning the infamous “Page Not Found” webpage. Although we were informed by Taylor & Francis that they have redirects in place for those TOC RSS feeds, the fact is that as today, those TOC RSS URLs are still unable to be redirected to their new web addresses.

This “Page Not Found” problem could have been easily avoided if Taylor & Francis had had an up-to-date OPML file listing the RSS feeds for all their journals. Aggregators, service discovery and individual RSS users would have been able to automatically and immediately update the URLs for the TOC RSS feeds by just consulting the OPML file.

In general OPML allows RSS feed aggregators and indexers to more easily find the TOC RSS feeds exposed from a particular publisher website. OPML is a standard XML file that is used to describe a simple list of RSS feeds that includes the title of the feed, a link to the home page of the feed (e.g. the journal homepage), and a link to the RSS feed itself.

Annual Reviews, Biomed Central Ltd., BMJ Publishing Group, Elsevier, Inderscience Publishers, Institute of Physics (IOP), Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press (OUP) and Érudit are the pioneering publishers that are using OPML files to enable aggregators to dynamically detect any change in the list of journals they publish. When their OPML would get updated, so would the aggregators.

Publishers are therefore recommended to publish OPML documents that list all of the feeds from their websites and in particular for their current issues. Unfortunately publishers that don’t have OPML files listing their current journals are not able to prevent information on their journals from growing stale at the aggregators’ databases.

Unlike RSS feeds, there is no standard way to link to an OPML file from the publisher website. However publishers are advised to put a link to their OPML files on a suitable and freely available webpage. For example Inderscience provides a link to its OPML file here.


As today, JournalTOCs has been able to update the URLs for the TOC RSS feeds of 80% of the journals published by Taylor & Francis.

Written by Santiago Chumbe

July 19th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Interesting Key Findings found in the “Social Media and Research Workflow” Report

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Social Media and Researcg Workflow

The latest Charleston Observatory report on Social Media and Research Workflow published by the University College London (UCL) and Emerald contains interesting results such as the following key findings:

Key Findings

Researchers sent a clear message to librarians. At the top of their wish list, and by a big margin, is a desire to be able to search across the full text of all locally-held licensed e-content using a simple interface like Google. This is seen as a much greater potential benefit than libraries moving into the social media space by offering users, for example, an opportunity to socially tag the library catalogue.

Researchers are using social media tools to support every phase of the research lifecycle: from identifying research opportunities to disseminating findings at the end. They may not be the same tools, and they are certainly not the same researchers, but social media are most definitely making an impact on scholarly workflow.

Social media have found serious application at all points of the research lifecycle. The three most popular social media tools in a research setting are those for collaborative authoring, conferencing, and scheduling meetings.

The most popular tools used in a professional research context tend to be mainstream anchor technologies or ‘household brands’, like Skype, Google Docs, Twitter and YouTube. Researchers seem to be largely appropriating generic tools rather than using specialist or custom-built solutions and both publishers and librarians need to adapt to this reality. Is this a sign, perhaps, that there may be a gap in the market for simple bespoke tools?

The key driver for the take up of social media is pressure exerted by peers outside of the researcher’s own institution. Social media are helping to fulfill the demand for cheap, instant communication between researchers fuelled by the growth of collaborative and interdisciplinary research.

Users express almost identical preferences when they look for scholarly information. By far their most favoured route is to search the open web, followed by searching licensed e-content through their libraries, followed by asking a colleague. The only difference we could detect in this survey between users and non-users is that the former are more likely to put out a general call for information on a list serv or social network.

Regarding research dissemination, the traditional channels (especially journals, conference proceedings and edited books) are greatly and equally favoured … over informal channels such as blogs. Researchers continue to back dissemination routes that they know and trust. It is clear that social media users see informal tools as a complement to the existing system of scholarly publishing, not as a replacement. As a result, personal dissemination is on a steep upward curve, with implications for publishers especially.

Researchers, especially senior researchers, want above all for publishers to make content readable on all platforms. This, together with more progress in linking articles to their underlying data. They want the basics to work well, not more `bells and whistles’.


“This report is an exploratory data analysis of the preferences, perceptions and self-reported behaviour of nearly two thousand (1,923) researchers who are currently using social media tools to support their research activities. In the analysis the report uses a contrast group of 491 researchers who have yet to use social media in this way to get a little closer to understanding the factors that shape demand and take up.”

This is a large sample by any standards. The survey was distributed online through six very different channels and reached all disciplines across a very wide geographic range (with responses from 215 countries).

The report was sponsored by Emerald, ebrary and Baker & Taylor and prepared by CIBER. The questionnaire was developed by the UCL in close association with Emerald Group Publishing Ltd and was piloted using Survey Monkey Professional. Emerald, Cambridge University Press, the Charleston Library Conference, Taylor & Francis, University College London and Wolters Kluwer provided generous access to their mailing lists.

Source, quotations and all IPR and copyright attributions and credits belongs to the report owners. The report is freely available at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/infostudies/research/ciber/social-media-report.pdf

Written by Santiago Chumbe

March 2nd, 2011 at 7:44 pm