JournalTOCs Blog

News and Opinions about current awareness on new research

Archive for the ‘rapidInnovation’ tag

JournalTOCs reaches 3,020 subscribed MyTOCs users

with 4 comments

As of early this morning, JournalTOCs has 3,020 subscribed users worldwide and since last week we’re growing that figure at roughly five new members per day.

Why our users would want to subscribe to JournalTOCs? The main reason is to be able to save their preferred journals in their own MyTOCs folder. From there they can read their favourite new Tables of Contents (TOCs) at their convenience, or export them as an OPML file into any popular RSS feed reader. Their lists of preferred journals are thus permanently saved.

If you are one of our subscribed users, you are probably aware that saving journals in your MyTOCs folder is easy. From the homepage of JournalTOCs you only need to click the “Save to export your MyTOCs folder” link to export the list of your journals to any RSS reader that supports the OPML file format, such as the popular Google Reader. The complete process involves two steps:

A) First you need to save the content of your MyTOCs folder in an OPML file:

– Click on “Save to export your MyTOCs folder” link

– Save your file in your local disk (by default the file will be called mytocs.opml)

B) Secondly, follow the instructions of your favourite RSS reader to import OPML files. For example, these are the instructions for Google Reader:

1.  Login to Google Reader
2.  Click Settings
3.  Select Reader Settings
4.  Click the Import/Export tab
5.  Browse for your mytocs.opml file
6.  Click Open
7.  Click Upload
8. You will see the following displayed until it is done: Your subscriptions are being imported…

Google Reader Export OPML Setup

Fig. 1 Exporting OPML feeds into Google Reader

While 3,020 is an important milestone, we’re more interested about how we could enable our subscribed users to make even more of their MyTOCs content. Thus, to mark this milestone we have added two new features that are exclusively available for our MyTOCs users:

1.    A new search option that allows subscribed users to search for articles in their favourite journal TOCs (MyTOCs folder) only, and
2.    An alerting service that our users can activate to get email alerts when new issues are published in one of their favourite journals.

We’re proud to have reached this latest milestone, and we very much appreciate our MyTOCs users.  We continue developing JournalTOCs to make it even more productive, convenient and useful.

Written by Santiago Chumbe

September 20th, 2010 at 6:33 pm

WattJournals User Survey Results

with 3 comments

Between 1st and 11th June 2010, the JournalTOCs Project team conducted an online user survey for students and academic staff from the Heriot-Watt University. The purpose of the survey was to help to determine the usefulness of the new service WattJournals and to receive feedback from users to correct or improve WattJournals. As expected there were few responses to the survey due that in this period of the year almost no student is on campus and staff and students are busy preparing for exams. We would like to express our gratitude to all who participated in the survey, the results of which are summarised below. Any further comments and suggestions are welcome at

Q1 Please Enter your position and school.


Q2 Do you think this service which searches the latest articles from journals that Heriot-Watt University subscribes to, and therefore guarantees you access to the full text, would be useful?
Do you think this service is useful

It offers significant internet search efficiencies.

It could be useful, but it is going to take a while to work out what words to enter into the search so that the stuff I want will not be swamped.

It’s useful. However, this should not be a slippery slope to phasing out WoS or Science Direct.

This could be very useful as it saves having to search across different databases etc and guarantees that the full text is available.

Definately. I’ve found it useful already.

It’s very useful to be able to search only articles to which I can gain access, so that I don’t have to scour through pages of articles which I can’t read.

It is wonderful, especially for Postgraduate students who need to research lots of articles. (more convenient)

Q3 Please rate each feature of the Watt Journals service.
Search current issues of journals Heriot-Watt subscribes to:
Current Issue
Search past issues of journals Heriot-Watt subscribes to:
Past issues
Full Text Link:
Full Text Link
Direct link to article (by clicking on article titles):
Direct Link
Save searches:
Save Searches
Export citations to EndNote/EndNote Web:
Export Citations
Help Page:

Q3 Are there any features you would like to see added to WattJournals?

List of journals searched available.

An all issue search option and an advanced search function; returns are too large otherwise

How do we access journals not covered by HW’s subscription?

Q4 Are there any features you would like to see removed from WattJournals?

Q5 Do you have any other comments about the features of WattJournals?

I appreciate the hard-work that’s gone into this. Keep it up.

The Help feature needs to be more clearly displayed (maybe at the top of the page?) as it wasn’t until I was completing this questionnaire that I realised there was a help feature and then that answered some of my queries. It would also be a ‘nice to have’ to have more options than just current / prior for searches – maybe previous year, previous 5 years etc

Q6 This question is about the user interface. Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements about the WattJournals service.
The service is easy to use:
easy to use
I like the design of the WattJournals home page:
Help is easy to find:
find help
The presentation of results is clear:
The service is user friendly:
user friendly
Q7 Do you have any other comments about the user interface of WattJournals?
Q8 How important is it that the following pieces of information about each article is shown in WattJournals?
Page Numbers:
Q9 Were there any articles that you were not able to access the full text of?

* One respondent answered yes to this question and although the full text wasn’t accessible through the full text link, access was available through the direct link.

Q10 If you have any more comments about the WattJournals service please enter them here.

Current issue search is OK, but when I return the search will presumably include some articles I have already seen (because it is still the current issue). Therefore the search should be by date, e.g. published in last week, published in last month, published since XXX (date).

If possible, I’d prefer the search to include ALL Web of Science journals, whether there is a full paper link or not. Then I don’t have to repeat the search in two databases.

It would be great if you can add a function to filter search results by article/book review/etc.

Up to now I have managed reasonably well using the Web of Science. This service will be useful if it is better than the Web of Science, e.g. if it is easier to get hold of the abstracts and article texts than it is with Web of Science.

I think this has the potential to be a very useful service and may help divert students away from Google and other general search engines.

The “full text” link does not actually link directly to the full text (contrary to expectations raised by similar search engines such as Google Scholar), and so it is in fact quicker and easier to click on the text title to find a direct link for the full text. It’s a rather misleading button.

It’d be useful rather than having to choose to search current issues or past issues, to be able to search both collections at once.

Should make more convinience for off campus students. couldn’t access to the database off campus most time. (tried the VPN, but it never allowed!)

From the results of the survey we have concluded we need better integration with Heriot-Watt’s OpenURL resolver as the Full Text link did not always take the user to the full text of the article and many users preferred the direct link to the article.

Aside from the survey we have been getting some comments by email requesting access to Journals that Heriot-Watt subscribes to but do not provide RSS Feeds, therefore it might be possible to use APIs of external databases to complement the existing feeds.

Some users did not like having to perform separate searches on current and past issues, it may be preferable to search all articles archived by the JournalTOCs project. The survey has brought to our attention some issues which may need further investigation including access through the VPN and displaying the help page more prominently.

Written by lisa

June 17th, 2010 at 11:21 am

Search for Recent Articles By DOI

with 2 comments

The “articles” call of the JournalTOCs API has been updated to allow searching for recently published articles by DOI. Use the base URL followed by the DOI. For example for DOI 10.1504/IJLT.2009.028804 use the URL

Here is a screencast of the API in action.

(Best Viewed Full screen)
Updated Technical Documentation for Articles call.

The above example uses Dublin Core, PRISM and Content modules to return additional metadata such as publication name, publisher, page numbers etc. The metadata returned is dependent on the original publisher, though many are including this additional metadata and are following the Recommendations on RSS Feeds for Scholarly Publishers.

Written by lisa

February 22nd, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Final Progress Post

with one comment

Title of Primary Project Output: JournalToCsAPI: An API to search current issues of journals for up-to-date content.

Screenshots or diagram of prototype:

Diagram of prototype

Use Cases:

Project Use cases

Description of Prototype:
JournalTOCs is a prototype of a web API(*) that uses the REST software architecture style to search the directory of journals and articles obtained directly from the publishers’ websites by aggregating their TOC RSS feeds (TOC: Table of Contents). The API produce search results in RSS 1.0 web feed format.

The API has four “calls”: journals, articles, user and institution. A “call” is a URL consisting of a base URL, the name of the call and the search query.

JournalTOCs API base URL is ““. To use the API you need to combine the base URL and the name of one call. Most calls require a search query or otherwise they won’t work. Guidelines for using each of the calls is found here.

(*) API is an abbreviation of Application Programming Interface. An API is a software programme that enable interaction between two software applications.

End User of Prototype:
The end-user for this API is a developer wanting to combine journal TOC RSS feeds with multiple services into new applications known as mashups. The API is written in PHP and uses MySQL as its back-end database system. You do not need an account to use the API which is free to use for anyone.

When your application points to the API base URL the API returns a brief description on how to use the API. The description is found in the <description> element of the unique item encoded in the RSS response. The following screen shows how the response is presented on a browser.

API base URL

Below there is an example showing how to use the API from a PHP script so that you can get an idea on how to use the API calls.

PHP example

If you print the content of $xmlRSS1, you will see that it is an XML file where each article of the search results is included in an <item> element as shown in the following screenshot.

API output showing the item content

Link to working prototype:

Link to end user documentation:

Link to code repository:

Link to technical documentation:

Date prototype was launched:
– Beta Version Released 28th November 2009
– Alpha Version Released 23rd September 2009

Project Team Names, Emails and Organisations:
Roger Rist – Project Director
Santy Chumbe – Project Manager
Lisa Rogers – Project Officer
ICBL, Heriot-Watt University

Project Blog:

PIMS entry:

Table of Content for Project Posts:

  1. Welcome to the journalTOCsAPI Project blog
  2. JournalTOCsAPI Project
  3. OAI-PMH instead of RSS feeds for Use Case 2?
  4. Community engagement: A special invitation
  5. Do we need a “best practice” for generating RSS’s URLs for IR search results?
  6. Community Engagement: Response to Invitation
  7. Methods of Engaging with JournalTOCsAPI Project
  8. Preparing the framework for our RESTful API
  9. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis
  10. Clarification of Use Cases
  11. Use Cases and Prerequisite Data
  12. Alpha Release of JournalTOCs API
  13. How do you want to be alerted?
  14. User Feedback (1-2 Development Cycle) – I
  15. User Feedback (1-2 Development Cycle) – II
  16. Author Affiliation
  17. The ticTOCs Best Practice Recommendation has been released
  18. Presentation at EUROCRIS
  19. journalTOCs API Project Workshop
  20. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 1 – Introduction and Feedback
  21. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 2 – Repositories and Alert Services
  22. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 3 – Testing the First Use Case
  23. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 4 – Bibliosight Project
  24. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 5 – The Other Side of The Interface
  25. JOURNAL TOCS API Beta 1 Released
  26. JournalsTOCS API Technical Documentation
  27. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 6 – TechXtra and TechJournalContents
  28. JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 7 – JournalTOCs in a CRIS
  29. Measuring the usefulness and effectiveness of the API: A retrospective view of prototyping the use cases
  30. Demonstrations of Using the JournalTOCs API

Written by lisa

December 11th, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Measuring the usefulness and effectiveness of the API: A retrospective view of prototyping the use cases

with one comment

The project identified two use cases in the context of helping Institutional Repository (IR) managers to ensure that their content is complete and up-to-date.  The first Use Case tried to find an answer to the need for IR managers to gather articles for the IR as they are published. The second Use Case looked into the need for IR managers to be alerted when deposited “submitted” articles have been published in scholarly journals. The project developed and prototyped a lightweight RESTful API to solve or alleviate both cases, by making use of content that is already completely freely available, namely journal TOC RSS feeds.

The first Use Case was tested using information provided by the British Geological Survey repository NORA (NERC Open Research Archive) and by the University of Warwick repository WRAP (Warwick Research Archives Project). In the case of the WRAP repository only data from the Department of History was used. The methodology used for testing this use case was presented in the project workshop and made available in the JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 3 – Testing the First Use Case blog post.  Basically the methodology involves using two kinds of searches. One “batch” search and one set of “search by keywords” (the keywords are terms extracted from the institution name). The batch process, which combines searches by author, institution and subject, needs to be configured in advance and run offline. The search by keywords is done online and doesn’t require any previous configuration. The analysis of the results show that only 28% of the articles were positive results (articles that were really authored by researches from the institution). On the other hand 52% of the results produced by the best combinations of terms used by the search by keyword approach were positive results (Interestingly, for the NORA case, it was noticed that the extra effort of running a batch process had only identified two more authors than the quick search by keyword).

From the results obtained for the first Use Case, we can consider that searching by keywords is the most suitable option, despite only producing 50% positive results on average. The “batch” search does not justify the invested cost needed to be done by the IR manager and the API developer. It requires doing a setup for each repository. This setup is time consuming for the IR manager because she needs to identify the authors and the subjects that are relevant to her IR. Some IR managers have manifested that they may not be even able to get a list of authors for their own institutions. However, the main reason why the “batch” approach and in general any search by author fails is that the API is unable to unambiguously identify authors and their affiliation from the TOC RSS feeds. This is a problem beyond JournalTOCs capabilities. Our project has only confirmed the emerging need for having a means for uniquely and reliably identifying authors. We believe that the correct identification of authors will enhance the effectiveness of our API and in general enable proper discovery and reusability of research output. It is encouraging to know that the extremely difficult task of correctly associating research output with their legitimate authors is being carried out by the Names Project at the national level.  Based on these evidences it is not worth running a “batch” search based on authors’ names. (The problem could also be alleviated if the publishers would implement the ticTOCs recommendations and authors’ affiliations in their journal TOC RSS feeds.) The outputs obtained from this Use Case suggest that integrating the API results directly into the repository workflow will be not possible until the unambiguous identification of authors is happening. What the IR manager can do is to use the API to setup an RSS feed tailored for his institution and based on searching by keywords taken from his institution name. In this way the API would alert the IR manager when new articles including the name or similar names to his institution name are published online.

Identification of researchers

In the Second Use Case we aimed to alert IR managers when submitted articles had been published. (In this context a “submitted” article is an article that has been submitted to a scholarly journal and in some cases accepted by the peer-review process but not yet published). Using sources from Sherpa/RoMEO we created a local directory of 108 repositories, most of them from the UK, including details for their OAI servers and RSS feeds. Our first approach then was to setup a process to periodically collect and analyse the RSS feeds produced by the repositories. It quickly became evident for us that those RSS feeds were not suitable sources for our work. The problems found in these RSS feeds are discussed in detail in the ‘Do we need a “best practice” for generating RSS’s URLs for IR search results?’ blog post.

Our second approach to tackle the second Use Case was to use OAI-PMH to harvest the IR OAI servers and thus identify recently deposited articles from the repositories. The first harvesting uncovered interesting findings. First of all, the OAI repositories were not using a standard way to identify or categorise “submitted” articles, even among repositories using the same software platform. Therefore, there was no way to tell for sure whether an article was in fact a “submitted” one. Secondly, we ran a quick survey among 20 IR managers from a sample of harvested IRs. None of them were letting authors to deposit submitted articles directly to their repositories. Most of these managers were only taking published articles, making the distinction between submitted and published articles almost null. Having not succeeded with identifying “submitted” articles we decided to apply the look-up tool against each article found in the repository (this approach was only tested with two repositories and there is no evidence to suggest that it is an scalable solution, even when, at the present time, repositories have only a few thousands records). Two new obstacles were identified when doing the matching against the complete content of repositories that we harvested using OAI-PMH. The first one was the low number of positive results obtained by this method and the second one was the inability to identify for sure new records from the OAI servers. The two IR managers informed us that using only the title of the article to match harvested articles with the metadata collected from the RSS feeds were not giving enough positive results. Adding the keywords and the abstract and authors (if available) in the search query only increased the number of false positives. On the other hand, automatically identifying new records in an OAI repository was a challenge task due the inconsistencies made by the repositories when cataloguing the fields that were supposed to be used to identify new records and the dates when the updates have been done. In conclusion, the second Use Case produced relevant results only when the API was used by the IR manager to manually send search queries to the API and if these queries included specific keywords taken from the title of the article and the results were filtered by the journal title. In these cases there are high chances to obtain either positive results or null results (the number of negative results is always much smaller than the number of positive results). However, again the second Use Case has also highlighted the need for having access to rich metadata to uniquely and unambiguously identify authors.

In general the most pressing concerns of repository managers were to get content for their repositories in the first place and then to have high quality metadata. Even with the limitations mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the API has demonstrated to still be able to assist in both those aims, as expressed in the feedback sent to the project by the majority of IR managers that have tested the prototype. The users have also appreciated the ability of the API to process heterogeneous and incomplete metadata to produce reusable consistent and “clean” metadata on current publications.

Interestingly new use cases for the API were identified by the own users. In the following paragraphs, we will mention briefly some of these use cases or potential spin-offs.

1. Providing relevant metadata to Research Information (RI) systems. Representatives from ATIRA, a Danish software company that commercialise the PURE RI system, approached the project to request us to adjust some of the API’s calls to support two functionalities of PURE: (1) to automatically complete journal’s metadata when the user is cataloguing a new article with PURE and (2) to provide cataloguers with an additional or alternative source of bibliographic references, alongside other data sources such as Web Of Science, Scopus and Biomed Central.

2. Sherpa/RoMEO has interest in using the API to link journal titles and ISSNs to their publishers. Peter Millington, the SHERPA Technical Development Officer found that the data returned by the API was very useful and easy to use. However, he identified the following functionality issues (1) The API doesn’t return all the types of journal title query that RoMEO offers and needs (e.g. “contains”, “starts”, “exact phrase” queries) (2) There are some keywords that are ignored by the API to support queries made by IR managers but that are needed for RoMEO queries. The exclusion of some stop words such as “journal” is particularly unhelpful in this respect. (3) RoMEO has also requested us to implement a new call to support queries on publisher names and get back a list of their journals.

3. Expanding the “users” call to get back a list of articles per user. The API is able to perform searches by email address of a registered user and to return a list of journals that user has added to his MyTOCs folder. The call is being used by a large number of different types of users (e.g. librarians, students, researchers, etc.) Some of these users have requested us to expand the functionality of this call to provide users with the option to request for a list of articles in addition to the default option of returning a list of journals.

4. Using the API to provide library users with the capability of searching for the latest articles published in most of the journals for which the University has current subscriptions. That means that the user will always be able to access the full-text of the articles returned in the search results. This application was requested by the Institution leading the project, Heriot-Watt University. The API should be able to inter-operate with A-Z journal lists, link resolvers and off-campus access control mechanisms such as EZYproxy. In addition, users will be given the option to obtain their search results in RSS format. The library is keen to use the free service offered by the API because the library will not need to transfer its holding to any database external to the library or to modify their current database systems in order to use the API. Any UK University would benefit from the development of this API application. The only requirement is that the API is provided with restricted by enough HTTP access to the library database holding its current journal subscriptions.

5. Embedding search results in Current Awareness Subject based services. The “institution” call has also highlighted a new use case or area of application for the API. This application has already attracted a lot of attention from the community of students and academics in Engineering, Computing and Mathematics since TechXtra launched its new service TechJournalContents, which is fully based on the API. TechXtra is a free service providing access to research, learning and teaching resources in engineering, mathematics and computing. The brand new service TechJournalContents was well received by TechXtra users and has already been mentioned in more than 50 relevant blogs. We would like to enhance the API subject classification database to support other different subject-based services.

A final thought from the project is that each of the above use cases and in general any service based on reusing the journal TOC RSS feeds will greatly benefit from any effort that publishers could make to implement the ticTOCs Metadata Recommendations and the project recommendation outlined in the Author Affiliation blog post. Publishers need to realise that the required effort is very small compared to the benefits brought by reusable TOC RSS feeds, in particular for their own business and for the research community in general. The question on “convincing” publishers to produce valid, consistent and rich journal TOC RSS feeds is still unsolved.

convincing publishers

Written by Santiago Chumbe

December 11th, 2009 at 5:25 pm