OASiX: An Open Source Tool for Showcasing Open Access Research

This post is a little different than most of my posts on AOA. Rather than a review of someone else’s work, it’s here to announce the release of a piece of OS software I’ve been working on titled OASiX (Open Access Showcase in XML).

What is OASiX?

OASiX is a lightweight software tool which allows users to create and update a research (or other) showcase by editing and uploading XML files. OASiX runs on JQuery, AJAX, and XML, and its HTML files are responsive.

You can access source code and download the tool at https://github.com/scbaker/OASiX, and see a live demo at http://www.wou.edu/~bakersc/OASiX/index.html

screenshot of a showcase created using OASiX software
Sample OASiX showcase

Why Does This Matter?

In the past few decades, libraries have moved beyond their traditional roles of collecting and storing purely physical items such as books, now providing access to electronic materials through databases and other web-based resources. In the academic realm, many libraries also host Open Access (OA) journals or repositories of scholarly data and publications produced by their institution’s faculty members.

Unfortunately, promoting and disseminating OA work produced by faculty generally requires an institution to have a certain level of fiscal or financial support. Commercial showcase products are expensive, and often require an annual subscription, as they are hosted on the vendor’s servers. Open Source (OS) alternatives, while technically free, carry “hidden costs” like work-hours, and require the institution to have on staff someone who can make any required customizations or upgrades.

OASiX (Open Access Showcase in XML) aims to fill the needs of institutions which would like to showcase faculty work, but have neither the budget nor the advanced technical knowledge required by commercial or other OS products. All you need in order to use OASiX is a web site which allows you to upload files, and the ability to edit and create XML files.

Using OASiX

OASiX is intended to be a low-tech, high-efficiency alternative to expensive commercial repositories and more complicated OA repositories. Because it does not manage file uploading by default, it is best thought of as a way to showcase faculty work. However, if you have server space to host your own files and do not need to restrict access to them, OASiX can also be used as a repository.

Getting started

To use OASiX, you’ll need the files and directory structure located in the OASiX GitHub repository.

You’ll also need access to a web server, or some other web-accessible place to put your showcase.

Once you have both these things, simply copy the files to your server and you’re done. Anyone pointing their browser to your URL will now see the default OASiX Showcase, identical to the one on the demo page.

Adding and modifying content in XML files

Unless you live in a strange parallel universe where departments are labeled things like “Department of Functional Organization” and people have titles like “Alphabetizer,” you’ll probably want to modify the content of the default showcase.

OASiX is built to make this as easy as updating a few XML files. Each showcase includes the following XML files in a folder helpfully labeled “XML”:

  • creators.xml – A list of the creators whose works you are showcasing. Includes contact information, a biographical statement, a place to link to a photo, and name, position, and relevant department names. The file contains an example creator, Creator AB, who can be deleted.
  • works-ABC.xml – This example file lists the works by the showcase’s example creator, Creator AB.
  • works-TEMPLATE.xml – A template file for adding new creators to the showcase.
  • admin/settings.xml – Allows you to update settings for your showcase, including contact information, a list of departments, and basic showcase information like the title and about and footer text.

Updating Repository Information

The first step to readying your OASiX showcase for the world is to update the admin/settings.xml file to accurately reflect your institution.

In this file, you’ll enter the name for your showcase and an “about” statement, the institution you’re associated with and their URL, and footer text and an icon.  All of these fields are optional, but the more information you can give about your situation the more useful (and findable!) your showcase will be.

Other important information on this page include Administrator contact information for when things go wrong and a list of departments.

The list of departments is essential to OASiX’s operation, so be sure to fill out this section with the departments at your institution.

Adding a Creator

To add a creator to the showcase, you will need to modify both the creators.xml file, add their basic information into the creators.xml file as follows:
<creator>
<identifier>A unique identifier for this creator (used to connect the creator with their works-###.xml file</identifier>
<display_name>First Middle Lastname</display_name>
<title>Job Title</title>
<department>Department Name (must be in the Departments list of admin/settings.xml</department>
<email>Email Address</email>
<url>a URL associated with the creator</url>
<image>An image of the creator. If left blank, a dummy image will display.</image>
<profile><![CDATA[A biographical statement about the creator. HTML is okay if you leave the CDATA stuff intact.]]></profile>
<date-added>Date added to the showcase</date-added>
<date-modified>Date last modified to the showcase</date-modified>
</creator>

Each time you add a new creator to the showcase by entering their information in this XML file, you will also need to create a new XML file for them by copying the works-template.xml file and replacing the “template” in the filename with the identifier you’ve chosen for them in the creators.xml file.

Associating Works with a Creator

Each creator has their own XML file for their works.

<work>
<identifier>The identifier of the creator + a number (e.g. ABC001)</identifier>
<title>The title of the work. Use CDATA if the title has an ampersand or requires HTML.</title>
<creator>Creator(s) for the work. Can be repeated to list co-authors.</creator>
<type>Type of the work, using DCMI terms (Optional)</type>
<description>A description of the work. It's best to use CDATA if the description is detailed. (Optional)  </description>
<sources>
<source> (Repeatable)
<title>Title of the journal, website or other source of the work</title>
<date>Date when the work appeared in this source</date>
<format>Format of the source, e.g. print or electronic (Optional)</format>
<paywall>If the source requires a subscription or some other associated cost, mark this with a y. If the work is freely available at the source, mark this with a n. (Optional)</paywall>
<url>A URL to access the work (Optional)</url>
</source>
</sources>
</work>

OASiX in Action

Once you’ve added the information to your XML files and uploaded them to your server, you should see your content appear immediately.

OASiX will automatically generate the following pages for you:

A list of creators, complete with job titles and department relationships

Screenshot of OASIX showing automatically generated list of authors
List of Authors

A list of departments, complete with associated creator names

Screenshot of OASIX showing automatically generated list of departments
List of Departments

A list of published works for each creator, along with a profile page for them

Screenshot showing OASIX page with automatically generated biographical information and list of published works
OASiX Creator Page

All information you added to the settings will also appear in the relevant places, including on the “contact” page, the home page, and the headers and footers.

The Future of OASiX

Although OASiX is functional, it doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles users have come to expect of software in 2017. In the future, I’d like to do more work on an optional administrative interface that allows users to update their repositories through a secured web interface. Other possible upgrades include adding the ability to sort by recency and adding more settings to the Settings.xml file.

I’d also like to enhance the design of the tool, both visually and by increasing its accessibility. (The tool passes WCAG 2.0 at the AA level, but I haven’t tested it thoroughly beyond that.)

Other: QuESo – A Quality Model for Open Source Software Ecosystems

Citation: Franco-Bedoya, O., Ameller, D., Costal, D., & French, X. (2016). QuESo – A quality model for open source software ecosystems. (UPC, Report No. ESSI-TR-16-1). Barcelona: Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya. (link)

This resource is a little far afield from either Accessibility or Open Access, but it’s close enough to the latter to be included here.

This is a technical report by researchers from the University Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, and it describes in some detail a model called QuESo, which can be used to measure the health of Open Source Software Ecosystems (which the authors abbreviate as OSSECO).

The QuESo model examines factors in a number of areas to arrive at a view of the overall health of a given Open Source Ecosystem, as shown in the figure below:
The QuESo model measures the quality of a software ecosystems community and network

QuESo measures not just a specific piece of software, but its community and network health.

For community quality, areas measured are:
Maintenance capacity (size and activeness)
Process maturity
Sustainability (heterogeneity, regeneration ability, effort balance, expertise balance, visibility, and community cohesion)

For network quality, areas measured are:
Resources health (trustworthiness, vitality, OSSECO knowledge, and niche creation)
Network health (Interrelatedness ability, synergetic evolution, information consistency, and ecosystem cohesion)

QuESo claims to measure the entire ecosystem (e.g. of all Open Source journal management systems), but there is a little bit of confusion on this point, as many of their measures seem to refer specifically to a single product’s community. Presumably this confusion comes about because they are interested in measuring large products which may have multiple iterations of software coming out of a single original product.

In effect, this confusion means that QuESo can do double duty by examining not only ecosystems, but users of a specific OS project. The model, although some of its measures are overkill for most OA advocates’ purposes, is a useful tool to have when looking at Open Source software for creating OA repositories, journals, and other things.

Tool: oaDOI

oaDOI is a recently-launched tool which works similarly to a DOI, by directing users to a perma-link for a given article. The key difference is that oaDOI is OA-friendly: it will direct end-users to OA versions of the article if one is available. [link]

The tool has two parts, a link-generating service similar to bit.ly and other link shorterners, and an API that can be used to implement this behavior in other environments.

Generate an oaDOI link

The link-generating service is simple to use. Just get the DOI link for an article and paste it into the textbox at https://oadoi.org/.

The system will process the request and provide you with an oaDOI link you can distribute to direct users to an OA version of the article, if possible:

oaDOI.org presents a link to OA versions of an article

As seen above, the results page also describes whether the system was able to find an OA version or not, and if so where and how open that version is. The system will also provide a link that contains API information.

API

The API is for more advanced users who wish to take advantage of the system’s ability to find OA articles in other contexts (e.g. in an OpenURL resolver).

The oaDOI API page provides a run-down of functionality and example code, as well as a few use cases of other code libraries and projects which are using the API.

Web site: Web Accessibility for Online Course Content / Web Accessibility Handbook

Web Accessibility for Online Course Content is a web site and accompanying PDF handbook put together by Karen Sorensen for faculty members at Portland Community College.

The site is aimed at teaching faculty who use online resources as part of their instruction how to ensure they are accessible to those with disabilities. It is structured as a series of instructional pages targeted at specific accessibility-related tasks:

In addition to these tutorials, the site includes some studies done on accessibility in specific disciplines and a page discussing automated accessibility checkers.

The accompanying Web Accessibility Handbook is a short document which replicates each of the web site links on its own page, for easy printing and offline access.

Although it’s worth noting that those of us who are not PCC faculty will probably be unable to take advantage of the “Get Help with Your Content” section, the rest of the site (and the handbook) are great resources for instructors and others who want to ensure that their content is accessible but aren’t sure how to get started.

Tool: How to Meet WCAG 2.0 from WAI website

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is the organization that manages—among other things—the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines designed to make websites more accessible.

As you might expect from the name, “How to Meet WCAG 2.0” is a free online tool put together by WAI which aims to help web developers ensure that their web sites meet the guidelines.

The tool is essentially a version of the full guidelines which also contains methods developers allows the user to filter by compliance level, technologies used (e.g. HTML strategies vs CSS strategies), and by type of design (developing; interaction design; content design; visual design). By selecting or deselecting one of these filters, the user is able to limit what shows on the list of guidelines and see specific strategies they might use to ensure that their site meets the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Screenshot of the "How to Meet WCAG 2.0" tool, showing filters and criteria
Some of the filter options available in the tool

Given that the guidelines have a reputation of being hard to understand, this tool should make designing accessible web sites—or updating inaccessible ones—easier for non-expert web developers.

How to Meet WCAG 2.0” is available for free on the WAI website, and knowledgeable users are also invited to contribute by reporting bugs, contributing to the tool on GitHub, or adding new WCAG techniques.

Tool: CynthiaSays – web tool for checking WCAG/508 compliance

CynthiaSays is a web-based compliance checker which checks a given URL for accessibility.

After the user enters the URL of a publicly-viewable website and selects Section 508 or WCAG 2.0, the software will return a report of accessibility issues at that URL, showing either a green check mark for items that are handled in an accessible manner, a red x for those that are not, a grey minus for items which do not apply (e.g. if a page has no HTML tables, the tool will not be able to tell if your tables are accessible), and a blue eye for items that require manual attention. Users checking against WCAG 2.0 can select from the three different levels of compliance defined by the WCAG guidelines.

Screenshot of CynthiaSays web accessibility tool showing results of a scan.
CynthiaSays marks items with a green check or red x.

Although CynthiaSays offers limited guidance to users, one useful touch is that each item in the results is a link to the relevant section of the WCAG guidelines or to relevant resources on Section 508, so users can find more information on why this item is a problem and how to resolve it.

The tool is a joint project of Cryptzone, ICDRI, and the Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter. You can test it out or learn more about it here: http://www.cynthiasays.com/

Note that CynthiaSays should not be the sole method of determining accessibility, and is intended for personal, non-commercial use only. However, it can still be an excellent way to find some common accessibility issues and learn about possible solutions.