an international
peer-reviewed journal
ISSN 2041-3254

WordPress as Academic Journal Software?

by Sanjay Sharma
6 Dec 2009 • Comments (2) • Print
darkmatter development Blog

I’ve previously written about using Wordpress (WP) as a CMS; the post was really about exploring WP as a software platform for operating an online academic Journal.

In this post, I’m going to examine WP in a little more depth. For those of you researching open source software for  online academic journal publication, you will soon come across the mighty OJS, which has been successfully adopted by many open access journals. Moreover, OJS has a comprehensive back-end peer review submission system, which compared to the costly propriety systems, is impressive. While not criticizing the utility and features of OJS, I nonetheless have some reservations:

  • it has a relatively small user base, limited plugin development and is not easy to customize, in comparison to say WP
  • its back-end peer review submission process is rather cumbersome, and even editors and reviewers find it difficult to use
  • it hasn’t yet utilized ‘web 2.0′ functionality, and many OJS journals tend to look and work in the same manner

None of these issues should prevent the successful adoption of OJS for journal publication. OJS appears to be the only open source ‘out-of-the-box’ solution for an online journal because it’s built for that purpose.  Though for darkmatter, I’ve always been interested in utilizing current web technologies and the net’s social networking, communications aspects, rather than mimicking a print-based journal which arguably OJS does best.

After doing a fair bit of research testing out other possible solutions for running a journal (e.g. Joomla, Drupal), WP appeared to the most exciting because of its:

  • large user-base and plugins
  • flexibility and relative ease of customization
  • innovations

Though, as I mentioned in my earlier post, WP is far from a ready-made solution, and it requires some work and maintenance to be adopted for an online journal. By and large, apart from the first step of theme modification, the next step is to identify necessary plugins, and ensuring they play nicely together. Below are some key plugins currently used for the darkmatter site to enhance the functionality of WP as a journal:

  • Co-Authors Plus – enables more than one author to be added for an article; but there’s been a problem with this plugin listing authors properly; check the post by Māris Švirksts (darkmatter developer) for a fix (which still may be necessary)
  • YAFootnotes – enables footnoting for posts
  • Adminimize – limits what a regular contributor can access and see when logged in to the admin/backend area
  • WP-Print – controlling the formatting of articles when printed
  • Advanced Excerpt – styles the homepage excerpts nicely

However, the problem is that some important features are still lacking for WP:

Editorial Workflow - this is a critical issue. The original single author-centric functionality of WP is limited for collective editorial workflow required to operate an academic journal (and it’s here OJS excels in comparison, even though clunky to use). Nevertheless for WP, there have been some recent developments, and the edit-flow plugin looks promising, coupled with the members plugin for controlling different user roles in WP.

PDF output: currently pdfs are manually created and uploaded on darkmatter; the wp-mpdf plugin appears to be a good solution, but doesn’t play well with YAFootnotes or Co-Authors Plus (plugin output is not parsed properly in pdf generation).

Indexing - it’s essential that journal articles are indexed, and currently the plugin DOAJ Export utilizing the OAI schema doesn’t appear to work. However, darkmatter’s developer has been working on an adapted plugin solution which will be implemented soon on the site. (Though there’s an issue with how this plugin works alongside zotero citation manager).

Archiving: similarly, the archiving of articles is important for online journals and there doesn’t appear to be a WP plugin which can work with LOCKSS; it’s a plugin that the darkmatter developer is working on.  (Note: OJS has built in OAI and LOCKSS features).

On a related matter (that certainly deserves another post), the customizability of WP also lends itself to developing alternative peer review processes. And here I’m inspired by the intervention of Toni Prug – Open-process academic publishing for interrogating the conservative, closed nature of academic peer review, and thinking through software innovation for editorial workflow. The politics of peer/editorial review is an increasing concern for darkmatter, particularly in relation to the journal’s own publishing practices.

Update: read the wiki for how the journal continues to be developed.


Sanjay Sharma is a Co-Editor of darkmatter and responsible for the site admin. Currently teaches in the School of Social Sciences, Brunel University, UK. Twitter: @sanjay_digital
All posts by: Sanjay Sharma | Email | Website

Share Post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • MySpace
  • FriendFeed
  • blogmarks
  • Tumblr
  • Netvibes
  • SphereIt
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • Live
  • RSS

2 Responses »

  1. I am not convinced that WP is necessarily the best option here – PLoS ONE ( ), for instance, runs on Drupal.

  2. PLoS ONE certainly is impressive. Though from my understanding, it uses a TOPAZ framework

    I haven’t looked into it much, but it appears far more complex to deploy than Wordpress or Drupal. From the perspective of limited/non-funded journals, a PHP based platform is appealing as server hosting is relatively cheap.

Comments are now closed.