The PKP was founded in 1998 by Dr. John Willinsky in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, based on his research in education and publishing. Dr. Willinsky is a leading advocate of open access publishing, and has written extensively on the value of public research.
The PKP’s initial focus was on increasing access to scholarly research and output beyond the traditional academic environments. This soon led to a related interest in scholarly communication and publishing, and especially on ways to make it more cost effective and less reliant on commercial enterprises and their generally restricted access models. PKP has developed free, open source software for the management, publishing, and indexing of journals and conferences.
The PKP has collaborated with a wide range of partners interested in making research publicly available, including the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), the Instituto Brasileiro de Informação em Ciência e Tecnologia (IBICT) , and the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) .
Together with INASP, the PKP is working with publishers, librarians, and academics in the development of scholarly research portals in the developing world, including African Journals Online (AJOL), and similar projects in Bangladesh , Nepal, and Vietnam .
As of 2008, the PKP has joined the Synergies Canada initiative, contributing their technical expertise to integrating work being done within a five-party consortium to create a decentralized national platform for Social Sciences and Humanities research communication in Canada.
The Public Knowledge Project has seen a tremendous level of growth since 2005. In 2006, there were approximately 400 journals using OJS, 50 conferences using OCS, 4 organizations using the Harvester, and 350 members registered on the online support forum. In 2007, over 1000 journals are using OJS, more than 100 conferences are using OCS, at least 10 organizations are using the Harvester, and there over 900 members on the support forum.
Since 2005, there have also been major new releases (version 2) of all three software modules, as well as the addition of Lemon8-XML, with a growing number of downloads being recorded every month for all of the software. From August 12, 2007 to September 11, 2007, there were 880 downloads of OJS, 269 of OCS, and 75 downloads of the Harvester (Lemon8-XML was still in development and unavailable for downloading during that period).
The PKP has also witnessed increased community programming contributions, including new plugins and features, such as the subscription module, allowing OJS to support full open access, delayed open access, or full subscription-only access. A growing number of translations have been contributed by community members, with Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese versions of OJS completed, and several others in production.
The PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference was held in Vancouver, BC, Canada on July 11 - 13, 2007.
Notes on the conference presentations were recorded on a scholarly publishing blog, and selected papers from the conference were published in a special issue of the online journal First Monday .
The PKP's suite of software includes four separate, but inter-related applications to demonstrate the feasibility of open access: the Open Journal Systems, the Open Conference Systems, the PKP Open Archives Harvester, and Lemon8-XML. All of the products are open source and freely available to anyone interested in using them. They share similar technical requirements (PHP, MySQL, Apache or Microsoft IIS 6, and a Linux, BSD, Solaris, Mac OS X, or Windows operating system) and need only a minimal level of technical expertise to get up and running. In addition, the software is well supported with a free, online support forum and a growing body of publications and documentation is available on the project web site.
Increasingly, institutions are seeing the value of combining the PKP software, using OJS to publish their research results, OCS to organize their conferences and publish the proceedings, and the OAI Harvester to organize and make searchable the metadata from these publications. Together with other open source software applications such as DSpace (for creating institutional research repositories), institutions are creating their own infrastructure for sharing their research output.