Last week, a team at Harvard University rolled out the latest release of a program that helps researchers create their own Web sites. The open-source software, OpenScholar, seeks to make building and customizing Web sites simple and straightforward, even for academics who aren’t tech-savvy.
There are currently two versions of the software: one for scholars to create a personal Web site and one for researchers to build a project Web site.
Though faculty members often have Web sites created for them by their department’s staff, OpenScholar was created to help academics make their own Web sites by automating most of the process, said Gary King, the director of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the project’s principal investigator.
“It’s about making the technology accessible to people,” said Ferdinand Alimadhi, a programmer and Web developer at the institute and the project lead on OpenScholar.
To use the tool, an institution’s informational-technology staff must first install OpenScholar, Mr. Alimadhi said. Then, researchers can register online to create their own Web site, selecting the features they want on their site from OpenScholar’s menu of options, which is tailored to professors.
For faculty who are building personal Web sites, the available plug-ins include pages that display their curriculum vitae, a list of courses they teach, and a list of publications that can be exported in XML or BibTex format. The software’s project version offers similar options, such as pages for publications, presentations, and a list of people who are part of the research team.
OpenScholar began as a Harvard-only project in May 2009, Mr. Alimadhi said. Because the feedback was so positive, he and his colleagues made the software open-source and available through Drupal, a free and open-source platform for building Web sites.
Since OpenScholar’s first release last fall, he and his team have continued to tweak the program, based on comments from the Drupal community and the 200-odd members at Harvard who have tried it. The project team is also planning to release a version of the software for departments in the fall, Mr. King said.
So far, Harvard is the only university to have put the software in place, but the OpenScholar team has begun to approach other universities about installing the software. About 20 institutions are considering OpenScholar, including Duke University, the University of California at Merced, and the University of Michigan’s medical school, Mr. Alimadhi said.