[SJ Logo]SuperJournal Call for Software

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Release Date: 29 February 1996

1. Summary

SuperJournal is a major collaboration between publishers, universities, and libraries to identify the factors that make electronic journals successful and to develop successful models for network publishing. SuperJournal will develop a wide range of multimedia journals in the sciences and social sciences, make them available to participating user communities, and perform detailed research on the factors that influence success. The project invites software vendors and developers to contribute applications and tools for creating the electronic journals. This announcement describes the project, software of interest, the technical environment, and indicates how vendors should respond.

2. About the Call for Software

This call for software is intended to inform software developers and vendors about the SuperJournal project and interest them in contributing applications and tools to build network electronic journals with multimedia features. SuperJournal is a leading edge project focusing on how the traditional research journal can be developed in innovative ways to increase the impact of reported research. Because the project is innovative and experimental, we propose to take an informal approach to identifying software that may be of interest. This is not, therefore, a formal RFP with detailed specifications, evaluation criteria, and a long timescale for decisions.

3. Why Participate?

4. Project Objectives

SuperJournal will make a critical mass of electronic journals available to readers in the sciences and social sciences, based on well-established refereed printed journals in order to:

The project focuses on success factors and success models for electronic publishing, taking into consideration the needs of key stakeholders in the publication chain: publishers, libraries, authors, and readers.

5. Project Partners

SuperJournal brings a consortium of publishers together with librarians, researchers, and technical experts at leading universities in a collaborative environment. Project partners include:

6. Project Sponsorship and Timescale

The Follett Report1 made many recommendations on how information technology could be used to help libraries cope with demands on their services. A key outcome was the Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib), a programme to stimulate the effective use of IT in libraries, explore different models for intellectual property management, and encourage new methods of scholarly publishing. SuperJournal is an Electronic Journal project in the eLib Programme. The Programme is, and has been funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils through the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Information about the eLib programme and the projects it supports can be found on the World Wide Web at: http://ukoln.bath.ac.uk/elib/.

The project timescale for the SuperJournal Project is three years, from December 1995 to November 1998. The first year will involve project planning, developing the first journal applications, mounting them on the host, and setting up the framework for testing and evaluation. By the end of year one, the first group of electronic journals will be made available to the libraries, formal testing will begin, and will continue until the end of the project. Results of the project will be made widely available. Information about the SuperJournal project can be found on the World Wide Web at: http://www.superjournal.ac.uk/sj/.

7. The Journals

The electronic journals developed in the SuperJournal project will be based on well-established refereed printed journals in the sciences and social sciences. To develop a critical mass of content, SuperJournal will develop clusters of electronic journals in specific subject areas, for example:

All journals included in the project will be peer reviewed publications with established reputations as printed products. Journals will be selected for their multimedia potential and relevance to the research excellences of the user communities. Selection will be iterative over the life of the project, in order to maximise benefit to the user communities. Some 50 electronic journals are planned, and the list will expand as new functionalities are explored and user preferences emerge.

8. Evaluation Studies

Researchers at HUSAT Research Institute will plan and carry out an extensive programme of user feedback and testing. The methodology will be based on an action research paradigm, identifying factors that influence usage, and adjusting parameters during the course of the project to optimise the service and maximise usage. The main independent variable is technology delivery, a product of the electronic journal delivered and the internal technical services of the university. The dependent variables will be the extent of use and non-use, and the strategic character of the use. Tracking use of the journals over two years in many universities and disciplines will identify the success factors, and how they vary per discipline and local conditions.

9. Types of Software Required

SuperJournal seeks software in four areas:

These are described below. Developers, however, should not consider this list or these descriptions to be exhaustive. They are invited to come forward with their own suggestions for tools and applications that are innovative and that will enhance the concept of the research journal in an electronic environment.

9.1 Search Engines and Browsers

Libraries and their readers will have access to the journals in each of the 5 subject clusters, with an average of 10 journals per cluster. Readers are likely to be university researchers (faculty, graduate students, research staff) who read these or similar journals in printed form. They may or may not have any experience searching databases or using journals in electronic form. As they are used to using print, what will motivate them to use an electronic journal? What benefits must an electronic journal provide to overcome their initial resistance? What features will prove so successful that they come back for more? How will their perceptions of the journal as a medium for communicating research change as an electronic journal becomes part of their daily life?

These are some of the questions SuperJournal will answer. At the start of the project we cannot specify a list of features that is required, because an objective of the project is to determine success factors. However, we can list some activities that these researchers are likely to want to do:

SuperJournal would like to test different search engines and browsers, and find out which ones readers find most successful and why. We also want to identify the success factors that vary per subject area.

It will be an advantage if search engines and browsers have features that automatically record usage and types of use.

9.2 Presentation Interfaces and Viewers

Some viewing interfaces have been developed to allow users to “view” different types of files in their native format, whether text-based files (eg SGML, HTML) or page-based files (eg PDF). These may or may not be integrated with a search engine. Similarly, some search engines allow the use of multiple user interfaces. In including this category of application, the project acknowledges that there may be interesting opportunities for mixing and matching retrieval engines and viewing interfaces.

A key objective of SuperJournal is to develop scalable publishing models. In the “real world” publishers generate different types of electronic files. Some are producing structured documents and have adopted SGML as a standard. Some are producing structured pages, for example using Portable Document Format (PDF). Rather than ask all publishers to produce uniform files for the project, SuperJournal prefers to take a more realistic approach and allowing publishers to submit multiple formats. We hope that using different viewers, in combination with different retrieval engines, will maximise use of the files provided.

9.3 Multimedia Applications

Scholarly journals publish the latest research results, but their potential is limited by what can be communicated by print on paper. Electronic delivery, particularly in the broadband environment of SuperJANET, allows new types of content to be included with the article and for it to be manipulated by the user in different ways. For example:

Multimedia functionality has the potential to change the way academics communicate their research to the science and social science community, and to establish an interactive bond between author and user. This combined with delivery of articles to a wider audience using electronic networks, can substantially increase the impact of reported research.

Here SuperJournal seeks innovative applications relevant to the 5 subject areas included in the project. From the user's point of view, the electronic journal s/he is using should be seamless. If s/he is reading an article and wants to view a 3-D graphic or analyse a data set, s/he might click a button. This means multimedia applications, search/browse applications, and viewers should be sufficiently compatible for the user to transfer from one to the other using standard protocols.

9.4 Development Tools

The timescale for assembling a variety of journal applications together with the electronic journal files supplied by the publishers is short. This means in addition to looking for the types of applications listed above, SuperJournal will be looking for a range of tools to help us assemble them quickly and easily. For example:

10. Technical Infrastructure

SuperJournal will make the electronic journal applications available to user community sites using a host distribution model. The host model allows user sites to participate cost effectively, as it minimises the need for local storage and development. Initially SuperJournal will use a central host model, with Manchester Computing acting as the single host. Later in the project (year 3) SuperJournal will explore a distributed host model, with files and applications resident at multiple hosts, eg universities, publishers, and third-party hosts.

Manchester Computing will make the electronic journals available to user sites using their through their MIDAS service (Manchester Information Datasets and Associated Services). MIDAS already provides host services to UK universities using their Cray Superserver CS6400 linked to SuperJANET. The MIDAS National Datasets Service includes satellite and census data, and provides users with a range of support services. User access will be by individual username and password, and MC will develop the procedures for user registration and authentication following established models of their existing services, eg MIDAS, KINDS service.

Manchester Computing will build a host database to store the electronic journals, multimedia elements, and manage the applications. ICL has kindly agreed to license Fujitsu's object relational database management system ODB-II to the project. The database and all server applications will operate on the Cray Superserver running Solaris 2.3 (to be upgraded to Solaris 2.5 during the course of the project).

Technical staff at Manchester Computing will perform the necessary data conversion on the journal files, add them to the host database, and structure them for use with the various search engines and presentation interfaces.

11. Software Requirements

The applications and tools used for SuperJournal should be “off-the-shelf” and sufficiently well documented that the staff at Manchester Computing can configure them for use for the project. MC will have staff to customise applications and join applications together, eg using a developer toolkit, but will not have resources to undertake substantial development work.

It is expected that As vendor software will probablyis likely to be of the Client/Server structuretype, and the following assumptions can be made regarding the systems running the Client and the Server:

It is expected that remote Clients will communicate with the Server using WWW or X-Windows protocols. Netscape, Adobe Acrobat, or other generally available browsers may be used as the remote Client, but other solutions with vendor-provided Client software will be considered as well.

Vendors should note that the Cray SuperServer CS6400, which is fully Sparc compliant, is a multi-processor server similar in architecture to a Sun SparcCentre 2000. The sServer operating system will be upgraded from Solaris 2.3 to Solaris 2.5 during the project, and vendors should make a commitment to provide software upgrades for their software where necessary.

Software should be compatible with as many of the files formats as possiblein the following formats, and should ideally address them directly without conversion to other formats. If conversion is necessary, proprietary formats should be avoided.

A list of guidelines about complete list of standards for eLib projects is being prepared by JISC and will be available on the eLib working papers Web page (http://ukoln.bath.ac.uk/elib/wk_papers/) during the week commencing 3 March. Otherwise contact the Project Manager.

12. Licence Arrangement

Vendors will be asked to license their software to the project for the 3 year timescale, for the purposes of research and evaluation, either free or at a nominal charge. The vendor will sign a single site licence agreement with the project allowing use at the server site at University of Manchester and client sites at University of Loughborough, the user communities, and the publishers. The project will then sign individual agreements with the client sites, including appropriate terms and conditions covering access and security.

Vendors should be willing to work with the technical staff at Manchester Computing to customise the application for SuperJournal, to supply appropriate documentation, and to provide some helpdesk support by telephone, fax, or email.

13. Vendor Proposals

Interested vendors should send a brief proposal to the Project Manager by Thursday, 14 March. The proposal should cover the following:

Shortlisted vendors will be asked to submit a demonstration or prototype application which can be shown to the project partners. For journal or multimedia applications, the demonstration will be mounted on the host at Manchester Computing or the vendor's Web site, and password access can be arranged. For tools, a demonstration can be set up at Manchester Computing.

14. Vendor Selection

SuperJournal will select vendors from the short list and formally invite them to participate in the project, starting at the end of March 1996. There is no predetermined number of applications or tools to be selected. This depends greatly on the variety of submissions and their potential benefit to the project in the short and long term. It is estimated that 5 journal applications and 5 or more multimedia applications will be selected, but this number could be exceeded. Press announcements will be made as each vendor is selected, starting at the end of March and continuing into April. Manchester Computing will begin work on each application in turn, so that the first electronic journals can be delivered to the user test sites in September 1996.

Though SuperJournal plans to select most of the vendors by April, this timescale is flexible. Some vendors may be developing applications now that will not become available until later in the project timescale. Vendors can therefore indicate in their proposal that they would like to be considered later when their application is ready. This flexible approach will allow new applications to be included as they emerge, as technology advances, and we learn more about user preferences.

15. Contact Information

Software vendors should send proposals to the Project Manager:

Christine Baldwin
Project Manager, SuperJournal
Information Design & Management
Hinksey Hill
Oxford OX1 5BH

Tel: +44 (0)1865 736850
Fax: +44 (0)1865 736855
email: c.baldwin@dial.pipex.com


1 Report of the Joint Funding Councils' Libraries Review Group (Chairman: Professor Sir Brian Follett), HEFCE Bristol, 1993.