Institutional announcements

A global force in scholarly publishing, the Public Knowledge Project announced as SFU core facility

January 10, 2023
SFU core facility the Public Knowledge Project community at their Bogotá Software Sprint in summer 2022. Photo: Universidad Nacional de Colombia team

Simon Fraser University has designated the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) the university’s newest core facility, with Kevin Stranack serving as its Operations Director as well as SFU Professor Juan Pablo Alperin and professor John Willinsky as its Co-Scientific Directors.

PKP is a multi-university initiative developing free open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing. Inclusion in SFU’s Core Facilities Program represents a recognition of PKP’s ongoing development as a vital open research infrastructure for digital-era scholarly publishing. Like the other core facilities, PKP is making its resources available to the university, as well as to the larger academic community outside of SFU, with its platforms being widely used by researchers and students across the campus and around the world.

History of the Public Knowledge Project

PKP began in 1998, when—in collaborating with a local newspaper—Willinsky, then at the University of British Columbia, was surprised to learn that he was not allowed to share research publications with the newspaper’s readers due to publisher contracts with the library. This lack of public access to knowledge seemed like a missed educational opportunity for the Age of the Internet. It sparked in Willinksy an interest in making research and scholarship “free to read”, now commonly referred to as open access.

Willinsky was able to direct his Pacific Press Professorship endowment toward PKP, creating an organization devoted to making knowledge public through such strategies as developing open source (free) software for scholarly publishing, which led to Open Journal Systems in 2002, Open Monograph Press in 2013 and Open Preprint Systems in 2020.

Under the technical leadership of Alec Smecher, PKP has seen its software grow into the most widely used scholarly publishing platform in the world. As of 2021, more than 30,000 journals are employing Open Journal Systems in 136 countries to publish research in 60 languages[1], supporting far greater bibliodiversity, as well as open access, than ever before. At the same time—as PKP researchers—Alperin and Willinsky have been winning awards for ground-breaking studies in scholarly communication, as PKP has remained, since the outset, a research and development initiative.   

The future of PKP

Joining SFU’s Core Facilities Program enables PKP to further advance its mission of improving the scholarly and public quality of research at SFU and worldwide. As a core facility, PKP will draw on the institutional support of the Office of the Vice President, Research and International, in addition to its ongoing close working relationships with the SFU Publishing Studies program and the SFU Library and its Digital Publishing division, which offers free hosting and support of PKP software to the SFU community.

In making this move, PKP will be strengthening its governance structures, as well as increasing its equity, diversity and inclusion, and its decolonization efforts. It will be expanding its hosting and other services to publishers, under the management of Associate Director of Publishing Services, Amanda Stevens. In addition, a number of PKP team members will be joining the SFU Administrative and Professional Staff Association.

“With this coming year marking the 25th anniversary of PKP’s founding, becoming a core facility is undoubtedly PKP’s most significant institutional advance to date, growing out of a productive partnership with SFU Library and the SFU Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing that began in 2005,” says Willinsky.

To help the larger community gain a sense of all the important changes afoot, PKP has also renewed its web presence with a revamped website where users can find information about the software, research, hosting and other services that distinguish PKP’s contributions to the Core Facilities Program. The site also describes how people can get involved with PKP in creating a future in which research and scholarship are far greater public resources on a global scale.

Learn more about PKP, its services, people and community on the website.

[1] Khanna, S., Raoni, J., Smecher, A., Alperin, J. P., Ball, J., & Willinsky, J. (2022). Details of publications using software by the Public Knowledge Project [Data set]. Harvard Dataverse.