Jisc Publications Router enters a new phase

Demand for a service to help institutions capture their research outputs remains unabated, and any drive to help automate it will need to break challenging new ground. Jisc Publications Router is now set for a new phase of development as it seeks to do just that. It aims to become a permanent service in 2016, expanding at an accelerated pace the range of content it can deliver.

The project so far

It’s difficult for institutions to identify accepted research articles by their academics, according to a recent report to Jisc, as they seek to make progress in implementing the open access policy for the next REF.

Jisc Publications Router is a system that gathers information about journal articles from content providers such as publishers. By looking at the affiliations of the co-authors, it then sends a notification to the relevant institution(s). This could be at or near the point of acceptance, for example, or final publication. It could consist of metadata only, or it could include full-text files as well, depending on what the content provider can send.

The institutions can then capture this information onto their systems, including their open repositories. In some cases, the metadata will include details of an embargo period the repository should respect before it makes the full text freely available.

The initial Router project, funded by Jisc and operated by EDINA (University of Edinburgh) aimed to demonstrate a prototype system. That has been a success: the system has delivered real articles to real institutions in ways that they have used and found helpful, saving them time and effort.

A new phase begins

The project at EDINA reaches its completion on 31 July 2015.

It will now be succeeded by a new version of Jisc Publications Router, with the aim of delivering a pilot for service. This is currently being developed on Jisc infrastructure by Cottage Labs. It will be an entirely new system, but will retain the current name – Jisc Publications Router.

For institutions and providers that already participate, the new Router will aim to have replicated the working functionality of the current prototype during the period from August to September 2015, aiming as far as possible to achieve continuity of service.

We then hope to add a few further new publishers onto the system by the end of 2015. Its further development and maintenance will then be handed over to Jisc staff in the early part of 2016. This, together with the fact that it will run on Jisc infrastructure from the outset, will enable us to ensure its close integration and interoperability with Jisc’s suite of OA services for institutions.

Although the new Router will do the same job, taking the same kinds of feeds from content providers and delivering to institutions in much the same way, its internal workings will be somewhat different from the present system.

For example, it will enable each institution to specify and adjust which articles it wishes to capture to its systems. It will no longer store historical content that can be claimed afterwards, focusing instead on delivering current, newly published or accepted content.

It will no longer require institutions to install an importer on their repositories before they can ingest content from it, making it easier for institutions to get started in using it. And it should be more flexible from an early stage about which systems it can interoperate with, such as CRISs as well as repositories.

Charting new territory

The new version of Jisc Publications Router will aim to expand its coverage of new publishers at an accelerated pace. We’ve had promising and positive discussions with many publishers, but the challenge has been to move from discussions of the principles to their detailed technical realisation.

And that’s perhaps not surprising. We’re trying to achieve something entirely new – systematically capturing notifications at or near the acceptance stage. Crucially, these need to include details of the authors’ affiliations (or else their ORCIDs!) – otherwise there is no way to match them to the institutional systems that might be interested in them.

Publishers will find it hard to present us with feeds that can do that at that stage of the process. They may also find it even harder to do so in a uniform format – but taking in a variety of different ones would be resource-hungry for the Router. We’ll be breaking new ground in finding solutions to these challenges. (We will, of course, translate the feeds into a common form that institutional systems can ingest.)

Meanwhile, our exploratory conversations with publishers continue, with a view to getting them on board. This will begin in earnest in the early part of 2016, and should prove more and more attractive to a growing range of institutions.

Next steps

Institutions can have the confidence to take the step of receiving feeds from the new Jisc Publications Router, now that there is a clear stated intention to move the Router to permanent service status, a decision we hope to confirm next year. It will be ready to start providing for new institutions from early 2016.

If you would like to get involved, do get in touch with me (steve.byford@jisc.ac.uk).

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