Scholarly communication in the social sciences is centered around publications, in which data also play a key role. The increasingly collaborative scientific process, from a project plan, to collecting data, to interpreting them in a paper and submitting it for peer review, to publishing an article, to, finally, its consumption by readers, is insufficiently supported by contemporary information systems. They support every individual step, but media discontinuities between steps cause inefficiency and loss of information: word processors lack direct access to data; reviewers cannot provide feedback inside the environment in which authors revising their papers; open access web publishing is constrained to document formats designed for paper printing but neglecting the Web's accessibility and interactivity potential; finally, readers, seeing a single frozen view of the underlying data in a paper, are unable to access the full extent of the data and to make observations beyond the restricted scope chosen by the author. Web technology can address these problems. Isolated solutions, such as tools for publishing data on the Web for easy retrieval and visualisation, exist in preliminary manifestations in the social sciences, but have not been integrated into tools for writing, reviewing and publishing articles. Tools that assist writers in making their documents' structure explicit for information systems, as well as document browsers that use articles as interactive interfaces to related information on the Web have been successfully deployed in the life sciences. We will transfer these ideas to the social sciences by integrating existing data and publication management services into a web-based collaborative writing environment that publishers can set up to supports all types of end users throughout the publication process: authors, reviewers and readers. With the collaborative document editor Fidus Writer and the Open Journal Systems we choose a stable technical foundation. We secure user acceptance by respecting the characteristics of the traditional processes social scientists are used to: web publications must have the same high-quality layout as print publications, and information must remain citable by stable page numbers. To ensure we meet these requirements, we will work closely with the publishers of methods, data, analyses (mda) and Historical Social Research (HSR), two international peer reviewed open accessible journals published by GESIS, and build early demonstrators for usability evaluation. Our system will initially provide readers, authors and reviewers with an alternative, thus having the potential to gain wider acceptance and gradually replace the old, incoherent publication process of our journals and of others in related fields. It will make journals more “open” (in terms of reusability) that are open access already, and it has the potential to serve as an incentive for turning “closed” journals into open access ones.
OSCOSS is funded by the DFG in the Open Access Transformation programme.
For the GESIS team with whom we are collaborating in OSCOSS, please see the OSCOSS project page at GESIS.