Many people will be familiar with Tim Berners-Lee’s five stars of linked data, categorising the publication of data on the web in levels of increasing usefulness. To complement these, I wish to propose the Five Stars of Online Journal Articles, in particular to characterize the potential for improvement to the primary medium of scholarly communication made possible by web technologies, including the semantic publishing approaches I have recommended and exemplified in recent presentations, blog posts and papers [1-5].
While Tim’s five stars of linked data are hierarchical, all relating to the same thing and each building on the preceding one, the five stars of online journal articles shown in the diagram below are complementary, forming a constellation arranged along five independent axes within a multi-dimensional publishing universe.
★ Peer review Ensure your your article is peer reviewed, to provide assurance of its scholarly value, quality and integrity.
★ Open Access Ensure others have cost-free open access to your published article, to ensure its greatest possible usefulness and readership.
★ Enriched content Use the full potential of web technologies and web standards to provide interactivity and semantic enrichment to the content of your online article.
★ Available datasets Ensure that all the data supporting the results you report are fully published under an open license, with sufficient metadata to enable their re-interpretation and reuse.
★ Machine-readable metadata Publish machine-readable metadata describing both your article and your cited references, so that these can be discovered automatically.
At present, many publishers primarily use the web simply as a cheap and convenient distribution medium for PDF documents that are essentially electronic facimiles of the printed page, ignoring the Web’s greater potential. The Five Stars of Online Journal Articles proposed here encapsulate a richer vision. Each star is highly desirable in its own right, but it is only by achieving them all in combination that we will really advance scholarly communication. Of course, the degree of achievement along each of these publishing axes can vary, analogous to the different stars within the constellation shining with varying luminosities.
So I want you to ask yourself:
“How do my online journal articles rate against these five stars?”
As an exercise in ‘drinking my own champagne’, I have evaluated references  to  against the five stars, and present those results, together with a full explanation of the five-point evaluation scale for each star, in an article  for which this blog post is summary. Here, to give you a flavour of that, I show the evaluations for Reis et al. (2008) (Reference ) before and after our semantic enhancements to that article that are separately described in Reference .
Original version of Reis et al. (2008) (http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000228). Publisher: Public Library of Science.
Peer review (P) 3 Conventional peer review with author feedback.
Open Access (O) 4 Published in an open access journal with a Creative Commons attribution license.
Enriched content (E) 0 Article lacks useful web links in the text and lacks direct links to referenced papers.
Available datasets (A) 1 Figures and table within the article have their own DOIs, but are only downloadable as images, so that the data in the graphs and table are not available as actionable spreadsheets.
Machine-readable metadata (M) 1 Structural markup available in the XHTML version of the article.
Overall rating 9
Semantically enhanced version of Reis et al. (2008) (http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000228.x001). Publisher: David Shotton, Oxford University.
Peer review (P) 3 Conventional peer review of the original article, with author feedback.
Open Access (O) 4 Enhanced version republished with a Creative Commons attribution license.
Enriched content (E) 4 Of many types, as fully described in Reference .
Available datasets (A) 2 Data for table and some figures kindly provided by the authors, and made available as downloadable actionable spreadsheets with their own DOIs.
Machine-readable metadata (M) 3 Structural and semantic markup within the text available as XHTML; embedded RDFa provides basic bibliographic information; two downloadable RDF files with their own DOIs accompany the enhanced article, one giving full bibliographic metadata about the article and the second providing bibliographic details, citation typing information and citation frequencies for all the cited references. Article summary available as a separate document, but not in machine-readable format.
Overall rating 16
I am most grateful to Bob DuCharme who, inspired by Berners-Lee’s five stars of linked data, challenged me to come up with five stars of online journal articles, following a talk I gave on semantic publishing. I also thank Tanya Gray and Katherine Fletcher for wise comments after reading preliminary drafts of the full paper , and wish particularly to acknowledge the specific input made by Silvio Peroni , who insisted that I specify evaluation scales for all five stars, and whose wise proposals concerning peer review and open access I have incorporated into the full paper.
 Shotton D (2009) Semantic Publishing: The coming revolution in scientific journal publishing. Learned Publishing 22: 85-94. doi:10.1087/2009202.
 Shotton D, Portwin K, Klyne G, Miles A (2009) Adventures in semantic publishing: exemplar semantic enhancement of a research article. PLoS Computational Biology 5: e1000361. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000361.
 Reis RB, Ribeiro GS, Felzemburgh RDM, Santana FS, Mohr S, et al. (2008) Impact of environment and social gradient on Leptospira infection in urban slums PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2: e228.
 Shotton D (2010) CiTO, the Citation Typing Ontology. J. Biomedical Semantics 1 (Suppl. 1): S6. doi:10.1186/2041-1480-1-S1-S6.
 Silvio Peroni S and Shotton D (2011). FaBiO and CiTO: ontologies for describing bibliographic resources and citations. (Submitted for publication). Preprint available at http://imageweb.zoo.ox.ac.uk/pub/2011/publications/fabiocito_ontology_paper_PREPRINT.pdf.
 Shotton D (2011). The Five Stars of Online Journal Articles – an article evaluation framework. (Submitted for publication). Preprint available at http://precedings.nature.com/documents/6542/version/1/files/npre20116542-1.pdf and at http://imageweb.zoo.ox.ac.uk/pub/2011/publications/Shotton_TheFiveStarsOfOnlineJournalArticles.pdf.
Hi David–This is a great idea. I have one graphical suggestion–use different color stars for your five categories. Best, AG
Interesting approach, though the weakest, least interesting axis is “peer review”. Surely there are transparent ways to review journals based on this criterion, or is it merely “got it” or “don’t got it”?
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