Kelly McDougall (MIT Press), Mary Seligy (Canadian Science Publishing), and Stephen Laverick (Maverick) recently joined OASPA for a webinar to discuss JATS4R. Melissa Harrison (eLife) chaired the discussion. The Copyright Clearance Center hosted the webinar. Leyla Williams, Events and Communications Coordinator at OASPA, reflects on the discussion.
JATS4R (JATS for Reuse) is an inclusive group of publishers, vendors, and other interested organisations who use the NISO Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS) XML standard. On Monday 13th March, 2017, OASPA hosted a webinar on the history, goals and recent work of JATS4R, the importance of participation and outreach around JATS4R, and to provide a platform for discussions on how the initiative can be advanced in the future.
Melissa kicked off the webinar by explaining the mission of JATS4R: to advance scholarly content reuse through the development of recommendations for tagging content in JATS XML, and to provide resources to help people in all areas of interested organisations to produce better XML content. The group formed in 2014, she explained, after those working on the JATS XML standard began discussing the similar challenges they faced while mining content and negotiating licenses and decided to form a working group to implement standardisation and best practices in XML tagging practices.
Kelly, who works in digital products at MIT Press and is relatively new to the committee, introduced us to the JATS standing committee. This includes anyone with an interest in JATS or scholarly publishing and journals, publishers, librarians, and vendors. The committee has monthly meetings in which anyone can make suggestions for changes; such changes are more likely to occur when it is clear that the tags are not semantically sound. The JATS standard, she explained, is meant to be as accommodating as possible; it’s possible for those interested to propose changes themselves by going to the JATS section of the NISO website. The work done by JATS4R to enable crucial standardisation and best practices, she noted, is long overdue.
Mary, who works at Canadian Science Publishing, has been instrumental in the JATS4R group in building the community a new website. JATS, she explained, is a very loose standard, so there are many ways to tag the same content. When developing tagging practices, the group is mindful to base recommendations on what people are already doing, and looking at how they’re tagging new content. Key here, she added, is a need for more participation from a diverse range of organisations.
When JATS4R first formed, Mary continued, not many people knew about the group, and so there was a need for a marketing plan. First, the group nailed down their message: the advancement of scholarly content reuse through the development of recommendations for tagging content in JATS XML, and to raise XML literacy within the scholarly publishing community. Many of those handling this content aren’t familiar with how to make XML related decisions, and so it was agreed that it was important for everyone in the scholarly communications publishing system to be on the same page with regards to tagging practices.
JATS4R kicked off their marketing strategy with a Google mailing list, which included regular news and meeting announcements, and also introduced a special mailing list for JATS4R administrators to work with. Email addresses and business cards were created, as well as a Twitter account and redeveloped website. The new website has made navigation of the work being done on the JATS standard much easier, and even features an XML learning centre for people to contribute to. The biggest lesson Mary has learnt from JATS4R and wants to pass on, she added, is that as many people as possible need to participate in order for this to the community to grow and strengthen.
Finally, Stephen, another new member of the committee, began by commenting that if this initiative had been around 20 yrs ago, it would’ve made his life far easier. As a consultant and someone involved with publisher and author systems for years, having been able to work with JATS before it even reaches authors has been interesting. By way of illustrating the importance of JATS4R, Stephen noted that while he was working on a publishing project for four journals, all were working with the same style. However, three of the journals needed XML supplying in one way, and the other journal needed it supplied another way; a need for standardisation and best practices quickly made itself clear. JATS4R, Stephen continued, allows for JATS to become even more efficient and handle various content, and he has been able to work with the team to put together different people with different knowledge that has enabled JATS to increasingly be used outside core articles.
Following the speakers there was some time for discussion, during which the panelists responded to questions from participants in the webinar. Asked about JATS4R’s biggest achievements, Mary highlighted that the bringing together of a now tight community and robust execution of the group’s marketing plan has enabled far bigger and newer audiences to JATS. Challenges for the group, though, remain; Kelly emphasised the importance of ‘casting the net wide’, and reaching out to all those working in all sections of the scholarly communication community. The success of JATS, she reiterated, depends on the ability of diverse sections of the publishing community to engage with it. Asked where panelists saw the role of JATS4R in the future, Stephen noted that JATS enables great flexibility and is evolving all the time; as more gets pulled into the online article, there’s an obvious need for more standardisation. JATS4R will continue to evolve and give vital guidance as needed. Kelly sees JATS4R building on their excellent communications mechanisms and collaborative opportunities. JATS4R, it was reiterated, will always be there for new and returning participants, and the group hopes to hear from new interested parties as a result of this webinar.
Kelly McDougall is working as the Digital Products Coordinator at the MIT Press, assisting with developing digital product strategies, implementing new products and platforms, and supporting a growing suite of MIT Press digital products across the Books and Journals Divisions.
Mary Seligy began her career in scholarly publishing as a manuscript editor in the life sciences and quickly gravitated to the technical end of the business. She currently serves as the business analyst for Canadian Science Publishing, where she sets and maintains the XML requirements for CSP’s content, and works among business, editorial and technical folk to implement projects related to content delivery and discovery.
Stephen Laverick has been working with XML workflows in scholarly publishing for over twenty years with experience in publisher and author services. He now works in publishing consultancy focusing on digital workflows.
Melissa Harrison is Head of Production Operations at eLife and has 17 years experience in STM publishing. Her career has been focussed on journal publishing and the production process. Over this time she has embraced the electronic benefits of online publishing and the use of technology to speed up and improve the process. She is committed to open-access publishing and the benefits of mining and discoverability of content for the further enhancement of research and dissemination.