Meeting Report: PKP 2017 International Scholarly Publishing Conference

Youngim Jung (0000-0001-7924-6967)
Dept. Information Infrastructure, S&T Information Center, Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI)

The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is a research and development initiative of Simon Fraser University and Stanford University, with a focus on understanding and building enhanced modes of scholarly communication that facilitate open access, high quality publishing, and local capacity building and participation(Alperin et al, 2016). PKP has developed a series of its free, open source software such as Open Journal Systems (OJS), Open Monograph Press (OMP), Open Conference Systems (OCS) and Open Harvester Systems (OHS). The Public Knowledge Project has held biennial conferences since 2007 as to provide open forum to the PKP community members and anyone interested in scholarly publishing.

The sixth PKP International Scholarly Publishing Conference was hosted at Université de Montréal (UdeM), Quebec on August 2, 3, and 4, 2017. This year’s theme of the conference was “Reclaiming Scholarship: Voice, Rights, Ownership”. The conference program consisted of three parts; technical sessions including PKP Sprint PKP Workshop, a two-day symposia including invited Speakers, lightning talks and panel presentations and social meet-ups for building networks.

The first day of the conference commenced with PKP Sprints. PKP’s sprints are short-term and ad-hoc events where a group of programmers, editors, librarians, users and others gather together once or twice a year to identify tasks, make priorities and to find solutions. A two-day development sprint took place in conjunction with PKP conference this year. Various tasks were discussed including “New User Mediation”, “Open Typesetting Stack”, “Documentation Update and Architecture”, “Upgrading OJS XML Import/Export”, “Internal Statistics”, “Book Sprint”, “REST API”, “Making Metadata Fields Required”. Most suggestions and issues were recorded by the group leader and on- and off-line communication was parallelized by utilizing Slack1 during the brainstorming.

I joined “Open Typesetting Stack” to enhance my understanding and improve the user experience in other language rather than in English. The group was led by Alex Garnett, a Digital Preservation and Data Curation specialist at Simon Frazer University (SFU) and one of the PKP staffs. Open Typesetting Stack (OTS) refers to a standalone service for converting Microsoft Word and PDF documents to structured National Library of Medicine JATS XML and creating HTML, PDF and ePub article views from the XML. We installed a “beta” version of the service and reviewed the design, the functions and the workflow of the OTS plugin for OJS 3. The OTS Sprint leader assessed the discussion very useful and valuable because there were attendees who hadn’t had much of an opportunity to experience OJS3 prior to now so that he was able to figure out where their current assumptions around the plugin design didn’t make sense for novice users, and which aspects they liked. However, OTS does not work for non-Latin languages such as Korean, Chinese and Japanese very well at the moment. For considering OTS as one of the tools for Korean scholarly publishing and JATS XML creation, language issues in OTS and even in OJS should be solved first.

The second day of the conference featured a double track of the continued Sprints and PKP Workshop. The workshop was designed to (1) provide an overview of the current and upcoming characteristics of OJS 3; (2) discuss what work well and what might be missing in new release and (3) review the major considerations related to the migration decision from OJS 2 to OJS 3 and the necessary steps to complete the migration. Other questions and comments on working with OJS were freely discussed during the workshop.

In the afternoon a single track of invited speakers, lightning talks and a panel presentation followed to the official welcome from UdeM and SFU. Opening address was made by John Willinsky, a professor at Stanford University and the founder and director of the Public Knowledge Project. He addressed the license and copyright issues thrown into sharp focus. He traced the history how the publishers were successful in legitimating and protecting their commercial interest against the academic freedom. From the beginning of the PKP in 1997 the PKP team discussed the freedom to read and to write when the term Open Access had not appeared yet. He mentioned three tipping points from subscription model to Open Access and exhorted to follow facts about where we were on the Open Access quest. Firstly, half of the recent literature is available online to researchers. Second point is that Elsevier has announced that they are the second largest Open Access publisher. Third, five publishers are now in possession of close to 50% of the published literature. He criticized the pervasiveness of commercial publishing models (including APCs to fund open access) and the closed third-party systems and software, corporate concentration of scholarly publishing services. The power of community-based approaches should be emphasized and quested in scholarly communication. He also drew an attention to students, novel players in scholarly publishing as a conclusion of his address. His assertion that sharing research ideas and outputs through publication should not be limited to specific level of academia but to open to anyone who is willing to seemed challenging first when considering the scholarly publishing only led by academic societies and several research centers in South Korea. Throughout Speaker series for the last two days of the conference, more than seven talks featured on publishing student journals or undergraduate journals supported by OJS and university libraries. OJS as a platform for non-traditional scholarly outputs and Open Access publishing, various use cases and experiences of it were shared. More on the technical issues and features of OJS and results of PKP Sprints were presented and discussed. In addition, view points from Global South including South Africa, Latin America and cross-continent project, SciELO were addressed. Issues on sustainability and collaboration of non-commercial OA in Latin America are critical as are in South Korea. Ina Smith from Academy of Science of South Africa introduced a rise of scholarly publishing in South Africa. The conference provided attendees with valuable opportunities for social network building. Sprints were group based activities. The group members gathered together according to their own research interest and mingled with each other even after the group activity for sharing in-depth discussions. Library Publishing Coalition Meetup on 3 August provided opportunity for attendees to learn about the Library Publishing Coalition2 , a community of academic libraries supporting a range of scholarly publishing practices. During the conference reception and Montreal Dinner attendees appreciated the French culture in Montreal and socialized before heading home.

By attending the PKP 2017 International Scholarly Publishing Conference, I had opportunity to meet the global Open Access leader, John Willinsky face-to-face. His speech on the copyright of the academic publications and the ownership of intellectual property with the historical view gave me much insight on scholarly publishing. Thoughtful opinions and comments were shared throughout the symposia and even during the breaks and the casual social meet-ups. The government, societies, researcher and publishers in South Korea should meet together and form a consensus in scholarly publishing on our Open Access quest. As a system developer and a community service manager, I was more informed about the workflow and the functions of the publishing platform used internationally through the technical session. The way of interacting with conference attendees using open web-tools such as Slack and Google Drive in real-time was quite impressive as well. This communication method seems efficient for bringing hidden questions and opinions out from all attendees because off-line meetings easily tend to be led by just a few people.

Next conference will be held two years after in Canada, again. I hope more researchers, editors, publishers and librarians in South Korea attend the next PKP conference and enjoy the communications with attendees having common interests.

1 Slack is a real-time communicating and file exchanging app where team-work is needed.
2 Library Publishing Coalition:


Alperin, Juan Pablo, Stranack, Kevin, Garnett, Alex (2016) On the Peripheries of Scholarly Infrastructure: A Look at the Journals Using Open Journal Systems,. Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators | València (Spain) | September 14-16