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The importance of cc:license tagging

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In the past, hybrid journals (where some articles are Open Access (OA) and others are not) were often dismissed as a temporary entity, something which would fall to the wayside in favour of purely open access (gold OA) or subscription journals. However, no matter how OA is being adopted, the number of hybrid journals is growing fast. This is a result of the increased demand for open access content in reputable subscription-based journals. More and more, high-profile publications are becoming hybrid journals to accommodate authors who choose (or are required by funding mandates) to make their work open while still being able to publish in top non-OA journals.

Consequently, hybrid journals are very important journals. According JournalTOCs statistics, they account for at least 30% of the total number of journals and it is likely that they will continue being an essential part of the scholarly publishing industry for years to come. This is particularly relevant if we consider that almost every hybrid journal is being indexed in at least one of the popular citation indexing services such as Scopus, Clarivate Analytics and CiteScore. While the number journals selected by JournalTOCs is not an exact representation of the whole scholarly journal landscape, its stats illustrated in the following image can give us a good idea of how the number of hybrid journals has steadily been increasing in the last five years.

 Figure 1: Last five years trend of the proportion of journals by publishing model.
(Source: JournalTOCs Aggregator Database. Values calculated each end of April of each year.)

This increased popularity has made it essential for services like JournalTOCs, which provide users with alerts for new issues from their favourite journals, to consider the need to identify OA articles within these hybrid journals. Not only will this make users aware of OA articles published together with subscription-based articles, but it also acknowledges how important OA articles are in the world of academic publishing.

To be able to programmatically pull OA articles from hybrid journals, it is necessary to find one identifying feature of OA articles that can be used across the board. Luckily for us, members of our JournalTOCs team led the search for this holy grail feature by the means of the Open JEMO project. The project identified that practically every hybrid journal was already using CC licenses in 2015. Currently, the Creative Commons (CC) license has become the de facto standard to identify the type of copyright license of OA articles. The conclusion of this project determined that the ‘cc:license tag’ could be used to set apart OA articles.

The cc:license tag is the main way to identify articles with a creative commons license which enables the free distribution of otherwise copyrighted work. In other words, this article is open access. At JournalTOCs, we already have the ability to indicate OA articles from hybrid journals right on the website if the cc:license tag is present in the RSS feeds of the current issue.

Figure 2: An example of how A&I Databases, Discovery Services and Aggregators can identify
OA articles in hybrid journals using the cc:license provided by the journal RSS feed.
(Source: JournalTOCs webpage for the ‘Acta Crystallographica Section D :
Biological Crystallography’ journal. Visited on 13 June 2018.)

Atypon steps in

One of a growing number of online publishing platforms that uses the cc:license tag to identify OA articles is Literatum, the online publishing platform of Atypon.

Atypon is following the lead of a handful of small but important publishers that were first to adopt the cc:license tag when identifying OA articles five years ago. Their number has been increasing steadily but Literatum is the first commercial publishing platform that has enabled full support for the cc:license in their RSS feeds following the JEMO guidelines. It is a commendable effort that should be emulated by every scholarly publisher and publishing platform. Similarly, OJS – the open source publishing platform – has enabled the use of the cc:license tag in their RSS feeds since approximately two years ago.

Atypon hosts a wide range of popular publishers, six of whom regularly use the cc:license tag in their RSS feeds and are, therefore, extremely useful for JournalTOCs.

These publishers are:

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Apart from publishing successful journals and case reports which revolve around the study of oncology, it primarily acts as a professional organisation for physicians and oncology professionals who care for people with cancer. They are particularly involved in the realm of cancer research and the care of cancer patients. They publish three journals which represent a mixture of hybrid, open access and subscription formats. We are also lucky enough to be able to use them as a great example of cc:license tagging in action!

  • FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology). This organisation promotes research and education in biological and biomedical sciences. They are the publisher of one hybrid journal: the well-known FASEB journal which focuses on transdisciplinary research covering all field of biological science.

  • Wageningen Academic Publishers are an independent publishing house which focuses on life sciences. This includes animal and veterinary studies, nutrition and health, social and environmental studies and plant sciences. They currently publish seven journals which represent a mix of hybrid and subscription journals.

  • Taylor & Francis is a leading publisher of scholarly journals, books/ebooks, text books in a wide range of fields. This includes the humanities, social sciences, behavioural sciences, science, technology and medicine sectors. T&F is already using the cc:license tag in over 900 of their journals.

  • Physical Society of Japan. This publisher is one of the oldest academic societies for natural sciences in Japan and aim to bring the latest achievements and research in the study of physics to the forefront. They do this by regularly publishing two hybrid journals.
  • Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht is a German publisher of academic literature and is one of the oldest independent publishing houses in the world. They primarily publish journals about history, the humanities, pedagogy and psychology and are responsible for a mix of subscription and hybrid journals.

By enabling publishers to use the cc:license tag to identify OA articles, Atypon is leading the change towards providing accurate information to library knowledgebase systems. This will, therefore, solve the issues affecting OA discovery and adding value to the publishing supply chain. We hope that other publishers, hosted on Atypon or elsewhere, will begin to see the benefits of using the cc:license in their APIs and RSS feeds and will choose to make OA articles even more accessible to eager readers.

Written by Hayley Gibson

June 19th, 2018 at 9:38 am

Changes to our free service

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In order to continue providing our users with the best service possible, JournalTOCs will be implementing some changes in May 2018 which will affect the users of our free accounts.

Firstly, the maximum number of journals that free accounts can follow will now be 15 journals. This is a continuation of the blog post we made two years ago which can be viewed here. The reasons we outlined previously still apply now.

Furthermore, the maximum numbers of articles returned by the Articles-Search API (e.g. for free accounts will be 25 articles per search. For anyone without an account, they will be able to continue using the API. However, their search results will be limited to 10 articles per search.

Finally, the Articles and the Journals APIs will only return results in XML (RSS) format.

These limits will not apply to Premium account holders who continue following up to 300 journals per user account, search for articles using the APIs without any limitations and receive search results either in XML (RSS) or JSON format. If you are interested in arranging a JournalTOCs Premium subscription for your institution, please get in touch with us at:

Written by Hayley Gibson

May 8th, 2018 at 10:59 am

Major landmark reached by JournalTOCs

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Now that we’ve hit the halfway point of April and are longing for our summer holidays, the tendency of most people at this point in the year is to start running out of steam.

We are delighted to announce that we just reached over 30,000 journals in our database thanks to the newly introduced JSON feeds by Cambridge University Press which pushed us over the edge to reach our goal. This is an extremely exciting development for us and it allows us to provide you, our users, with even more content.

JSON Feeds were originally developed by Brent Simmons and Manton Reece who are prevalent figures in the Apple community. For those of you who don’t know, JSON feeds are essentially the easier-to-read, less-buggy big brother to RSS and Atom feeds. They all follow a similar format but JSON feeds provide a more efficient way to accomplish the same tasks.

They are found everywhere these days from apps to websites such as Facebook. JSON has quickly become a developer’s favourite to use when developing API, so it’s no surprise that the websites of publishers of scholarly journals have started using this format. For us, Cambridge University Press’s decision to push JSON feeds is a huge step forward in content consumption. We expect that other journals follow in their footsteps.

JSON feeds also represent the opportunity to reverse the decreasing popularity of RSS feeds. JournalTOCs is extremely reliant on RSS feeds to bring you daily content but a few journals are now deciding not to offer them. Through the increasing prevalence of JSON feeds, we have an opportunity here to bring feed content back into the mainstream. JSON could be a good alternative for those publishers who are hesitant to implement RSS feeds for their journals. After all, JSON feeds are easy to create and use and do not rely on a third party platform while allowing the users to have more freedom and access to the content they want to follow.

More than anything, JSON feeds represent an additional source of content for JournalTOCs and will allow us to crack on with our important work by providing a more efficient route for us to take.

Keep your eyes peeled for other exciting JournalTOCs news on the horizon that we’re very eager to share with you all.


Written by Hayley Gibson

April 17th, 2018 at 10:05 am