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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

EDINA OpenURL Router

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RSS logo When developing the free JournalTOCs trial customisations for around 20 institutions, we came across the OpenURL Router of EDINA.

OpenURL is one way to redirect users to the actual website that provides the links to the full-text for the article they have an interest in. Without OpenURL or other similar tools users may end up paying to access the full-text of a paper unaware that their institution already holds a subscription for the journal in which the article has been published.

The first question to solve for services wanting to implement OpenURL is: How to know the website address of a user’s OpenURL resolver to which to send a request? The first approach used by JournalTOCs was to offer an OpenURL option to only institutions using a customised version of JournalTOCs because those institutions could provide us with details of their OpenURL resolvers.

In our aim to further OpenURL support for all our users, we came across the OpenURL Router service of EDINA. The Router is a registry of OpenURL resolvers, able to route requests to a user’s own OpenURL resolver, within UK universities and colleges.

Implementing the OpenURL Router in JournalTOCs couldn’t have been easier. It is well documented and all our questions were quickly solved by the Router Helpdesk. No wonder it works well for services such as COPAC, Zetoc, Mendeley and Cite-u-Like. Now JournalTOCs also offers OpenURL support for users from UK universities and colleges through the Router.

https://openurl.ac.uk/redirect/[explicit identifiers/]?OpenURL request

The Router uses a variety of mechanisms to identify a user. It always prioritizes the explicit identifiers provided by the requester. In JournalTOCs’ case, if the user has signed in with his UK institutional email address, an OpenURL link is provided using both the ukfed identifier and the IP address for his institution. For example, to create a link to the appropriate copy of an article for a user from Queen Margaret University of Edinburgh (QMU) we use:

https://openurl.ac.uk/redirect/ukfed:qmu.ac.uk/ip:193.62.47.80/

For example this is the link to redirect a QMU user to his own OpenURL-aware link for an article:
https://openurl.ac.uk/redirect/ukfed:qmu.ac.uk/ip:193.62.47.80/?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.atitle=Patterns of Family Meals and Food and Nutrition Intake in Limited Resource Families&rft.jtitle=Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal

For unsigned-in users, JournalTOCs provides an OpenURL link if the user’s IP address belongs to a UK HEF range, for example:

https://openurl.ac.uk/redirect/ip:193.62.47.80/

Users are made aware of the OpenURL links using the Resolver logo as shown in this screenshot:

JournalTOCs showing OpenURL Router links

The Router always prioritizes identifiers that are passed to it explicitly. If the identifiers passed are unrecognized, the Router will fall back on the end user’s IP address, and if this is unrecognized, the Router will display a page listing all known resolvers, and let the user choose.

18* of the top 22 UK institutions with the major number of signed-up users with JournalTOCs are registered with the OpenURL Router. This is a good level of coverage. University of Glamorgan, New Durham College, Swansea Metropolitan University and West of Scotland University were not found in the OpenURL Router register. Registration with the Router is simple and free for UK academic institutions; therefore it is not clear for us why some UK universities and colleges are still not taking full advantage of this service.

While restricted to only UK HE and FE institutions, the Router is an excellent service. JournalTOCs is aiming to offer OpenURL links for all its users from around the world by using freely available registers of OpenURL resolvers.

(*) Six of the 18 institutions registered with the Router didn’t have their UK Federation identifiers, and the UK Federation identifiers of two institutions didn’t coincide with their own email domains, therefore it was necessary to use institutional IP addresses to build the OpenURL links for those eight institutions (Brighton University, The Open University, Cambridge University, Queen Margaret University, Portsmouth University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Bristol University and Swansea University.)

Written by Santiago Chumbe

June 27th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

JournalTOCs Workshop: Presentation 5 – The Other Side of The Interface

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The fifth presentation of the day at the JournalTOCs workshop was given by Phil Barker, a Research Associate the Institute For Computer Based Learning at Heriot-Watt University. Phil also co-ordinates the Metadata and Digital Repository domain for JISC Cetis.

The presentation was entitled The Other Side of the Interface or The Sound of One Hand Clapping and is now available as a slide cast.

The ticTOCs Best Practice Recommendation has been released

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We are pleased to learn that the ticTOCs Best Practice Recommendation Group has released their “Recommendations on RSS Feeds for Scholarly Publishers” document (https://oxford.crossref.org/best_practice/rss) last week. The recommendations are based on early work developed by Malcolm Moffat at ICBL, Heriot-Watt University.

Undoubtedly, a wide adoption of these guidelines by publishers is very important for aggregators, projects and services that reuse the content of journal TOC RSS feeds, and more importantly, would benefit researchers and publishers.

Feedback and comments on the released Recommendations can be sent to rss_best_practice@crossref.org.

So far, the work done by the journalTOCs API Project has made apparent the need for more elements in the XML structure proposed by the Recommendations for journal TOC RSS feeds:

(A) Elements to provide information on the frequency of updates or how often the TOC RSS feed is updated. Without that information the automatic CRON jobs that are periodically crawling the RSS feeds, waste resources because they cannot synchronize their update schedules with the time when the TOC RSS feeds have been changed or updated. Including elements from standard RDF modules can alleviate this issue, although probably that will not be as efficient as the solution provided by using server extensions such as the Apache module “mod_oai”, which is used by OAI-PMH harvesters to efficiently discover updates and additions on subsequent re-harvestings.

We suggest the use of three RDF 1.0 Module Syndication elements to handle the frequency of updates. sy:updatePeriod to describe the period over which the channel format is updated. sy:updateFrequency to describe the frequency of updates in relation to the update period. sy:updateBase to calculate the publishing schedule. Further information on the Syndication module can be found at https://web.resource.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication.

(B) An element to identify the institution or the affiliation of authors. Unambiguous identification of authors of scholarly papers is already a big challenge. Nowadays, there is no service or mechanism able to resolve the identification of an author. However, if the publishers would provide the affiliation for their authors, the possibilities of identifying authors from the TOC RSS feeds’ metadata could increase dramatically. As we have mentioned in our “Author Affiliation” comments posted in Oct 12th, 09; the use of the dc:contributor element to capture authors’ affiliations should be recommended to publishers. Kindly read the above mentioned post for further details on using this Dublin Core element.

We hope that publishers pay attention and implement the best practices and recommendations produced by the ticTOCs Project, only then their TOC RSS feeds will be truly reusable.

Written by Santiago Chumbe

October 30th, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Author Affiliation

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The affiliation of an author is vital information for a successful service such as the journalTOCs API. So far, the most common query received from our users involves this request: “find the papers published by authors from my institution

Taking into account the Recommendation # 6 of the “Guidelines for Encoding Bibliographic Citation Information in Dublin Core Metadata” proposed by Ann Apps, MIMAS, the journalTOCs schema has been upgrade to include the dc:contributor element to capture authors’ affiliations.

Thus, the normalized bibliographic metadata schema that JournalTOCs is using for syndicating journal TOC metadata in RSS format includes now the elements shown in the following figure.

Bibliographic metadata schema that JournalTOCs proposes for syndicating journal TOC metadata in RSS format

Basically, the reason behind using the “contributor” Dublin-Core element is that the affiliation for a journal article pertains to the resource. In this way we also recognise the contribution made by the author’s institution to the creation of the resource. Because affiliation is a property of the resource, rather than a creator, the fact that there is no way to explicitly correlate particular authors with their affiliations shouldn’t be an issue. Similarly the fact that the affiliation will no longer corresponds to the author when he moves to a different institution shouldn’t negatively impact to the current awareness service provided by the journalTOCs API.