The Microsoft eJournal Service is a good example of a growing trend towards delivering functionality through the Software as a Service approach.
This web based service enables scientists and researchers to more easily engage in the collaborative process that is the foundation of Scholarly Publishing. The service aims at lowering the technical and financial barriers involved in getting a publication up and running, by removing the need for purchasing and maintaining servers, as well as installing and updating software packages. While some aspects of publishing remain the same, such as producing good research, capturing the results in an article, finding experts to review the article, and polishing the article for publishing, the goal is that the service will make the publishing process more accessible and available to a larger number of scientists.
Roles and Workflows
The service is based on three key roles: Editors, Reviewers, and Authors. Through the service, Editors can gather and review submissions from Authors, and coordinate the review process with the Reviewers. At the end of the review process, approved articles can be posted to the journal site and/or submitted to repositories, or even passed to other services.
Underlying the service is a set of workflows, which guide the different participants through the process and help manage the tasks and deadlines. These workflows support the core interactions which underlie the review process, with some options available to configure the workflow.
Format Independence and Browser Neutrality
The service does not impose the use of a particular file format, the Editor can restrict submissions to only certain file types if desired, and should be accessible through any web browser. In selecting a file format, I would advise migrating to XML based formats, such as OpenXML, which can more easily capture semantics, metadata, and relationship between content and data, and are more conducive to computer processing for search and semantic analysis.
At the end of the process, the Editor can configure the service to deposit the articles to different repositories. One of those repositories is ArXiv, which is very popular for Physics and Math content, and can now be accessed using the SWORD protocol.
The service can also be used to deposit to other SWORD based archives. This functionality would also be useful for depositing into institutional repositories, and as such, the service could be used to manage the review process for publications such as thesis.
In order to deposit to a repository, you will need a login name and password on the system. The repository may have requirements as to the file formats supported, and their packaging, which you will need to match before submitting.
For folks in BioMed, you can also select to deposit into PubMed Central, and, as noted before, you need to be approved for deposit ahead of time, and have access to the system.
As with the Authoring Add-in, we welcome your participation and feedback. We would love to hear from you in relation to what we can offer to make you more productive and, hopefully, make the technology disappear in the background, freeing you to focus on the task at hand and simplifying the process. Give the service the service a try at http://journal.mssandbox.net/.
Other Interesting Services
Two very interesting recently introduced services are Office Live Workspaces and Office Live Small Business. Office Live Small Business is a great example of making online presence and collaboration more accessible through a subscription model, along the lines of what we are trying to achieve with the eJournal Service. For those that are interested in the technical details, underlying Office Live Small Business is Microsoft SharePoint.
Squarely on the business front are two new software-as-a-service offerings, hosted SharePoint and hosted Exchange. Besides being useful to small, medium, and even large business, both of these services should be of useful to universities, colleges, and research institutions.