OpenCitations Access Tokens: how they work and why they are important

Since its inauguration in 2010, OpenCitations has always granted free access to its services to users throughout the world, with no requirement for registration or sign-up. Programmatic access to OpenCitations data can be obtained either via our SPARQL endpoints and our REST APIs. In addition, OpenCitations data – available in CSV, Scholix, and RDF formats – can be downloaded from data dumps made periodically and stored on Figshare, so as to enable large-scale analyses using the whole content of the data sets, and also be obtained via our user-friendly text-based search and browsing interfaces.

One of OpenCitations’ priorities is (and will always be) to keep its data globally open and available at zero cost and without restriction for third-party analysis and re-use. As a matter of sustainability, OpenCitations relies on financial support from the scholarly community, which includes those institutions that use OpenCitations data. However, OpenCitations has not so far had in place a proper system to monitor its users, and the main evidence of the impact of OpenCitations in different academic fields and countries has been incompletely obtained from direct contacts with our members and donors across the world, our collaborations with international projects, and the interactions on our social platforms (Twitter and LinkedIn).

We would now like to institute a system that enables us to follow the usage and assess the impact of OpenCitations more reliably. For this purpose, we are now happy to announce the launch of the OpenCitations Access Token System for access to the OpenCitations data and services.

An OpenCitations Access Token is an opaque character string that anonymously identifies a unique user of the OpenCitations APIs. OpenCitations assigns an access token only if authorized to do so by each user, who can request a token by inserting his/her email address into the access form and clicking “Get token”. Upon submission of such a request, each user will automatically receive a personal access token by email. Users can save their personal access token and reuse it every time calling the APIs of OpenCitations, by passing it as a value for the key access-token in the header of each API call. 

Obtaining and using an OpenCitations Access Token is thus easy. It only requires a simple form request, and then the insertion of your personal token into the API call header when using OpenCitations REST APIs. OpenCitations will not store users’ email addresses or any personal information, so that the users’ privacy will be totally safeguarded. The token system just provides a simple mechanism for identifying unique users, for which the use of IP addresses is insufficient.

Obtaining an OpenCitations Access Token will take the user only a few seconds and needs to happen only once. You can request your OpenCitations Access Token here 

Use of an OpenCitations Access Token is not compulsory. However, token use will help OpenCitations incredibly, by enabling us to monitor the number of the unique users accessing our data and services, providing objective anonymized evidence of the number of institutions and researchers accessing our data either occasionally or on a regular basis, which we can then employ to demonstrate the usefulness of OpenCitations in the research environment. While the token system will initially be employed just for API calls (the most used service we offer), it will subsequently be extended to our other forms of data access.

OpenCitations exists for the people that use its data for research purposes every day, and thanks to their support. This is why obtaining precise knowledge of how many researchers and institutions are accessing our services is essential to us, since it will enable us to present the uniqueness and value of OpenCitations to new communities of stakeholders, and thus to make it possible to enlarge the already enthusiastic and diverse group of people and institutions supporting and using our Open Science Infrastructure.

To summarize: Getting and using an OpenCitations Access Token is voluntary, easy, and does not cost you anything. However, it will help OpenCitations a great deal. Please get your own token now, and use it next time you access OpenCitations. Thank you very much!

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "OpenCitations Access Tokens: how they work and why they are important," in OpenCitations blog, 02/09/2022,


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