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 https://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:
<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>

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.

<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>
<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>

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.)