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Dr Alistair Brown
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Migrating to Open Journal Systems: A simple workflow for converting old journals to OJS

Open Journal Systems (OJS) offers an excellent way to increase the impact and visibility of an academic journal, because of its metadata and database connections. However, transferring back issues of a journal published using traditional paper, static HTML, or PDF formats can be difficult. This document provides a simple workflow to guide editors through the process of migrating a journal to OJS.
  1. Why Migrate to OJS?
  2. Editorial Decisions Before You Begin
    1. Formatting Back Issues
    2. Historic Article and Author Metadata
    3. Copyright Policy
    4. Prepare Authors for First OJS Publication
    5. What Happens to the Old Website
  3. Preparing the OJS Platform
    1. Create .htaccess and robots.txt Rules
    2. Install OJS
    3. Create Your Journal
    4. Visual Style
    5. Create New Users
    6. Assign Editors to Roles
    7. Create Journal Sections
    8. Create Issues
  4. Uploading Back Issues
    1. Upload Files to Issue
    2. Publish Issues
    3. Correct Article Publication Dates
  5. Finishing Touches
    1. Redirect From Your Old Website
    2. Edit .htaccess and robots.txt
    3. Increase Your Impact

1. Why Migrate to OJS?

Whilst the move towards open access has seen increasing numbers of new journals published using Open Journal Systems (OJS), there are also benefits in converting a journal previously published as a paper-based or static HTML-based system onto the OJS platform.

OJS allows for easy connections to CLOCKKS, Crossref, and other archival and citation systems. Metadata links in with scholarly databases such as Google scholar, whilst the OJS system is available for harvesting by Open Archives Initiative databases. With its system of plugins and regular patches, an OJS-published journal may be better able to survive unforeseen developments in the publication ecosphere than an old-style publication. As such, migrating to OJS can help to increase the impact even of an established journal, adds value to old articles which are now correctly catalogued, and provides better tools for its scholarly contributors and readers. However, transferring an old-style journal (whether published in the form of static webpages, PDF files, or print) to an OJS system can be a cumbersome process.

What follows is an attempt to offer one straightforward workflow for migrating, based on the writer's experience of transferring two journals onto OJS (Kaleidoscope, initially published in the form of PDF files accessible via a static website; and Postgraduate English, whose early issues were published as HTML using Netscape Composer and subsequently as a combination of HTML and PDF). There are alternative ways of converting an old journal or migrating a journal which already includes XML metadata; many of these can be accessed via the Import/Export plugins provided with OJS. However, this workflow assumes that you have a minimal programming knowledge, and want to adopt a simple, if unavoidably time-consuming, approach.

This workflow should be used in conjunction with the guide OJS In an Hour: An Introduction to Open Journal Systems ( http://pkp.sfu.ca/files/OJSinanHour.pdf).

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2. Editorial Decisions Before You Begin

The first phase of migration involves making some fundamental editorial decisions that will affect the second, practical stage of the process.

2.1 Formatting Back Issues

The editorial team need to consider how to deal with back issues. Will these be simply uploaded onto the new system in their original form? Do you want to append a new coversheet to old files, for example, identifying where the article was originally published along with its new URL or appending a new Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or ISSN? Will you need to reformat or convert from one file type to another?

If your journal was previously published as word processed documents (e.g. Microsoft Office .doc format), or in a print form using word processed documents, note that OJS will only accept HTML, PDF or PS galleys. You will need to convert your word processed documents into a static form.

If your journal was previously hosted on static HTML pages, although OJS will accept HTML format you need to check that the HTML file will make sense as a standalone entity within OJS. For example, if the HTML file includes relative links back to your old journal home page, these will likely break when you transition to OJS. To get around this if you do not have the original documents to edit directly, you can edit the HTML and then convert to PDFs using an online convertor (e.g. http://pdfbot.sfapps.de/). If you want to do more detailed editing, it might be easier to convert your HTML to PDF and then use software (e.g. Adobe Acrobat) to turn these PDFs into an editable format. You can then edit these documents, stripping out any incorrect information such as bad links, and re-save them as new PDF files.

Such editing of old files is probably acceptable when converting from HTML, which lacks page numbers. However, if your journal was previously published in a print or print-style form (such as PDF) with page numbers, then you need to consider carefully the implications of reformatting, as citations from other articles will now "break" if the pagination of your articles has been altered.

2.2 Historic Article and Author Metadata

One of the advantages OJS has over a static platform is that Dublin Core metadata is appended to articles and to authors. In order to make the most of the OJS system, you should aim to append as much metadata to old articles as possible. There are, however, ethical concerns when retrospectively adding metadata. For example, filing an article under certain keywords may, from the author's point of view, misrepresent their work. You should establish a policy on this, and decide whether you will contact authors and let them check your proposed changes, make the changes silently on the presumption that they would be accepted, or only include strictly factual metadata (e.g. whether the article is published in English or another language).

Additionally, one useful reader tool in the OJS sidebar is the option to email an author. A print journal might have included emails on the page, on the assumption that an author's email address could not be widely viewed except by genuinely interested readers. By adding that email address to OJS you are now making it more widely available over the internet, and although in practice most institutional email addresses are already visible online, you need to consider whether authors would want their emails to be shared without prior agreement.

As you start to publish future issues with OJS, these problems will resolve themselves. As part of the OJS submission process, you can require authors to submit keywords or agree to include their email addresses with their articles.

2.3 Copyright Policy

Although it supports any type of publication, a clean OJS installation is configured with the assumption that you will be running your journal as an open access publication, published under a creative commons licence; through the setup process various elements (such as copyright statements) include ready-made text, which makes the Journal Manager's Job easier.

If you are considering changing your journal's copyright policy to reflect the presumption of open-access, then you need to have a wording for the old articles that reflects any rights agreements which these were signed under. For example, it is clearly not acceptable to have a blanket wording that a journal is licenced under creative commons if previous articles were submitted under the presumption that copyright resides with the author or publishing institution. You might want to consider including a footer wording (which you can include as part of the Setup process below) that indicates that articles published before a certain date were published under one policy, and articles after a certain date under another.

2.4 Prepare Authors for First OJS Publication

You will need to notify authors coming to your old website that any submissions after a certain date or issue will be hosted under an OJS system. The Call for Papers for the first OJS-published issue needs to incorporate anything that you might want to include with the new publication system. For example, if you have not previously asked authors to supply an abstract, but will want to do so with OJS published articles, you need to request this in your submission guidelines on the old journal pages.

2.5 What Happens to the Old Website

When you transition to OJS, you will need some method of redirecting readers and search engines to the new site. This technical process is covered in 5.1 Redirect From Your Old Website below.

A broader editorial consideration, though, are the paratextual implications of maintaining or deleting your old-look journal. The look and features of your old journal might be an important archival element of the scholarly ecosphere in their own right. For example, one of the journals that the writer of this guide migrated was one of the earliest online journals for postgraduates in English in the UK; the journal was written in Netscape Composer. The fact that postgraduates were exploiting online publication back in 2000 is itself historically interesting. Thus whilst the cleanest option might be simply to delete the old journal platform, this might also prevent future scholars from seeing how the landscape of academic publishing evolved (rapidly!) in the early twenty-first century.


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3. Preparing the OJS Platform

3.1 Create .htaccess and robots.txt Rules

Before you install OJS, you need to ensure that the OJS system will remain invisible to search engines and users, until you are ready formally to transition to the new system.

Using a text or HTML editor, create a file named robots.txt and place it in the root directory of your website. This will prevent search engines from indexing your OJS. If your OJS installation is in a subdirectory of your website named "ojs", place robots.txt in the root directory of your website in the form:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /ojs/

More information and detailed instructions for creating a robots.txt file can be found at http://www.robotstxt.org/ .

You could also create a .htaccess file to password-protect or hide your OJS installation so that only named visitors can find the website until it is ready to launch. This involves more programming; a .htaccess tutorial is available here: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/howto/htaccess.html.

3.2 Install OJS

Download and install OJS on your server, following the instructions at: http://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs_download.

3.3 Create Your Journal

Login as Journal Manager using the username and password you created during the install process. Now run through Setup process, filling in as much information as possible; this will involve a lot of copying and pasting from your old journal policies, but as you do so check carefully that any links will still work and that the information is still valid.

See http://pkp.sfu.ca/files/OJSinanHour.pdf (pp.30-63) for full instructions on each of these Setup stages.

As you are completing the Setup process, make a note of any elements indicated here that you might wish to ask authors to include with their submissions in future, such as an abstract, email addresses, or a brief biography.

3.4 Visual Style

One of the most useful but easily overlooked options in the setup process is the option to change the visual style of the journal, so as to keep it comparable to your old journal.

In Step 5 (The Look) of the Setup process, note the various options under heading 5.6, including the option to change the theme. If you have familiarity with CSS, you can further edit the look of your journal either by creating and uploading a new stylesheet (a longer process) or by choosing and modifying one of the existing themes; the CSS files are located in the /plugins/themes directory or you can download and edit a basic OJS stylesheet from http://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/download/common.css.

You could also write a separate webpage (named index.htm or index.php) to appear as the front end of your journal, if a browser lands at a domain name such as www.journal.org. Note that visitors coming to the journal via another route, such as a search engine, may bypass this and land straight within the OJS system. Thus establishing a unique and consistent look for your journal within OJS is important.

3.5 Create New Users

You now need to create your editorial team. As Journal Manager, although you can edit higher-level features such as the journal's design, you cannot make editorial interventions such as publishing a new issue. Therefore, even if you are in practice the sole Manager and Editor of the journal, for the purposes of OJS you must create at least one Editor as well:

3.6 Assign Editors to Roles

Although the Editors and other roles are now on the system and these users will be able to login, the roles of these users will not yet be publically viewable under the "About" tab. If you want your readers to know who the editors or review team are, you need to assign the users you just created to visible roles:

3.7 Create Journal Sections

You now need to create the various sections within the journal, such as "Articles" or "Reviews." Each of these may have different policies (for example, Articles may be peer-reviewed whereas Reviews are not), and you can assign different sub-editors to the various section types. To access the "Sections" option:

Note that while you are creating these sections you can choose what information is listed on the journal's contents page for articles in that section. For example, you might want anything in the editorial section to appear without a named author beside it on the contents page.

Try to think now about all the possible sections you might require based on all the various content within your back issues; it is easier to create all the necessary sections at this stage than to break out of your workflow when uploading individual articles.

3.8 Create Issues

The final stage of preparation is to create the back issue numbers for your journal. Creating these now will make it easier to upload articles into the relevant issue of the journal.


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4. Uploading Back Issues

Assuming that you have reformatted your old articles into a suitable PDF, HTML or PS format, you are now ready to begin uploading them to the OJS system.

4.1 Upload Files to Issue

If you have more files to upload, click "Return to QuickSubmit plugin" and repeat the process. When you have added all your old articles, logout as Journal Manager.

Note that if many of your articles have the same metadata (e.g. all language in English or all published in the United Kingdom) it is possible to edit the QuickSubmit Plugin so that these values appear by default. Doing this requires some knowledge of PHP, with the relevant file being located in the plugins/importexport/quickSubmit directory.

4.2 Publish Issues

Once you have uploaded all your old articles onto the OJS system, you are ready to publish them.

  • Beside each issue you should see a number of items which corresponds to those you added using the QuickSubmit plugin. It is worth double-checking at this stage that you have the required number of items for each issue; if not, go back to the QuickSubmit plugin and upload the missing items.
  • Choose the issue you want to publish
  • In the Table of Contents, by default the articles are arranged alphabetically; you can rearrange the contents using the up and down arrows. Input page ranges if using continuous pagination. When you are happy with this, click "Publish Issue."

    4.3 Correct Article Publication Dates

    Unfortunately, a known bug with the OJS QuickSubmit plugin is that although the date of publication for each issue looks correct to the reader, the date of publication of individual articles in the metadata accessed by search engines and databases is incorrect. The publication date will be recorded as the date you published it on the OJS system, not the date of original publication, which is the more important citation value. To correct this for your back issues:

    OJS screenshot

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    5. Finishing Touches

    5.1 Redirect From Your Old Website

    Assuming that your old journal website is going to continue to exist in parallel with OJS, in order to minimise broken links and citations which refer back to it you need some way of redirecting readers and search engines to the new system. Google has a guide on redirection here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en#301.

    If you are going to continue to run both your old and new websites in parallel, you need to tell search engines and readers where the new, canonical version of that page can be found within OJS. For example, in the <head> section of your old article (assuming it was hosted in HTML form) place the following form of code:

    <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.journal.com/ojs/link-to-new-article">

    A more permanent solution is to write a server-side 301 redirect, using .htaccess. A guide to redirection using Apache can be found at: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/misc/rewriteguide.html.

    With OJS it is easy to assign Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to your article and journal, so that in future if you have to move from one online location to another the links will remain intact.

    5.2 Edit .htaccess and robots.txt

    At the start of the transition process you wrote a robots.txt file (and perhaps .htaccess rules) to bar access to the OJS platform. Now that the journal is ready, delete or modify these to ensure that users can access the new system.

    5.3 Increase Your Impact

    Now that your old journal is established in OJS, make use of the incorporated OJS metadata to increase its visibility, impact and value within the scholarly community. The Public Knowledge Project guide to "Getting Found, Staying Found, Increasing Impact: Enhancing Readership and Preserving Content for OJS Journals" is a good place to start ( http://pkp.sfu.ca/files/GettingFoundStayingFound.pdf).

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    This page was published on July 10, 2013 | Keywords: Open Journal Systems, OJS, journal, publishing

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