Remembering David M. Shotton, Founder and Co-Director of OpenCitations

The Founder and Co-Director of OpenCitations, Prof. David M. Shotton, peacefully passed away on Saturday, 18th May, after a long battle against illness. With his death, OpenCitations lost a Director, a Mentor, and a Guide. OpenCitations wouldn’t have existed without David’s foresight, which led him to design the first prototype of OpenCitations as a one-year project founded by JISC in 2010. Since then, David has closely followed the developments of his open infrastructure, to whose growth he has dedicated his considerations and intuitions almost until his last months. In one of his last authorial posts on this blog, he traces the history of OpenCitations, and his words show the pride of having seen the “little acorns” grow into a globally validated and trusted infrastructure.  

It’s impossible to overstate the gratitude that the entire OpenCitations team feels for David. OpenCitations, a living testament to his vision and guidance, is a result of his leadership. We were privileged to accompany David on this journey, witnessing the volcanic energy of his mind and benefiting from his wisdom and integrity.   

We want to dedicate this space on the blog to the words of those who knew him as a colleague in the context of his work in OpenCitations and the Open Science ecosystem but above all as a guide and a friend:  

David was an early, earnest, and ardent supporter of open. He was also fiercely committed to sustaining what he helped to build, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that OpenCitations would be resilient and active as a long-standing, trusted model and resource for others. His work on succession planning started many years ago, and I remember well when he first contacted me and Educopia in hopes that we could help the OpenCitations team to think through specific risks and how to plan to overcome them. He was equal parts determined and creative, and the stability and resilience of OpenCitations in this moment is one testament to his care and thoughtfulness. He will be sorely missed as a leader and perhaps also as a bit of a sage in this field.  Katherine Skinner (IOI) 

David was an inspiration.  Through each discussion, I felt his passion for our work and constant interest in learning from his friends and colleagues.  He was a role model to me, a great human being, and his impact is felt across the global research infrastructure space. John Chodacki (UC3) 

David’s importance for our work of course cannot be overestimated. I think I was introduced to David’s ideas and his way of thinking when I read his 2013 piece in Nature. This piece had a profound impact on my own ideas. If David had not written his 2013 piece, and if OpenCitations had not been established, my world would have been a very different one. I will remember David as someone who was always very gentle and generous. I still remember welcoming David and Silvio at CWTS in Leiden. David and I had a private chat and I complimented him for all the important work he was doing. David seemed to feel a bit uneasy about this and he repeatedly said that it was mainly Silvio, not him, who deserved to be complimented. My last contact with David took place earlier this year, when we were exchanging some emails. I was impressed by the positive tone of David’s emails. Rather than being sad about being terminally ill, he was thankful for all the things he could still enjoy and for everything life had offered to him. Ludo Waltman (CWTS) 

Three phases characterised my path with David. First, he was a mentor. When I was a PhD student at the University of Bologna, I was lucky to visit David’s lab at the University of Oxford. This period was crucial for me – on the one hand, for my PhD thesis and, on the other hand, for my academic growth and career. Then, after my PhD graduation, David became a colleague with whom we discussed and worked on several research topics that resulted, in the end, in the creation of a new instance of OpenCitations at the University of Bologna. This seed brought us where we are today. Finally, and most importantly, he was one of the dearest friends I’ve found in my life. Always supportive, constructive, and delicate in every situation – and that, I confess, is the part I miss the most. We have lost one of the most passionate and bright minds in the Open Science community, who has left us an enormous legacy we are called to preserve for future generations. I can only thank you, David, for what you donated to me and the whole community. Silvio Peroni (University of Bologna / OpenCitations) 

I am saddened to hear the news of David’s death. I worked with David on a number of projects when I was at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. I was involved with the institutional repository for publications and data, and developing related university services. David was a huge advocate of Open Access in its many guises: for publications, data, and infrastructure. He was a tour de force with a phenomenally quick and creative mind. He saw opportunities for funding to develop innovative tools and services around research data and publications, and was able to enthuse others to participate. I used his exemplar semantic data paper from 2009 (Reis, R.B. et al, 2009) many times when discussing data repositories, open access and the possibilities for 21st century publication models. He always had his eye on the future and the direction of travel for open services and infrastructure – he was inspiring. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Sally Rumsey (Formerly: Head of Scholarly Communications and RDM, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford)

A note from myself and also on behalf of colleagues in the Oxford e-Research Centre, who remember David as a friend and colleague during his time here. We have all been saddened to hear this news.
David and his team came to OeRC in 2013 (from the Department of Zoology) and were a most welcome addition, as David was a very significant voice in open science and scholarship – and an inspiration to our growing community, through his appearances at many meetups and gatherings. I had worked with him previously, in the Semantic Web and in the authoring of the FORCE11 Manifesto – David was one of the organisers of the Dagstuhl Seminar which initiated this important movement. I was proud later on to be able to play a small part in supporting the OpenCitations work.
David was also one of the key people in Wolfson College, along with Donna Kurtz and David Robey, who championed “digital research”. The collaboration with Donna, combining image expertise across sectors, saw the launch of a pioneering Linked Open Data project: the CLAROS virtual art collection. Stemming from this, David brought his enthusiasm to support an international collaboration with Chinese data, which continues today as part of the successful OSCAR advanced research centre.
The sad news has, with very fond memories, brought the original team back in touch again – including Graham Klyne and Jun Zhao who came with David from Zoology and have also made important interdisciplinary contributions. We all owe David huge gratitude for his passion, energy and insight, for all his support, and for the very significant influence he had on his colleagues and community. David De Roure and the colleagues of the Oxford e-Research Centre

I am saddened by David’s passing, but I’m sure his spirit lives on in the many lives he has touched. I was for several years a member of his Image Bioinformatics Research Group in the Zoology department of Oxford University, where he set a path for my late-stage career change to working in academia. He supported and embraced an open style of working that complemented the then-nascent open access movement for research publication. His visionary early adoption of web data technologies was rooted in a genuine concern for preserving access to important bioinformatic data that were at risk of being lost in the transition to digitization of research; he would often refer to his collection of micrograph slides that contained original recordings from his seminal work in unravelling biochemical structures. And I recall his kind support of many researchers who intersected his orbit and went on make significant contributions of their own. I feel that OpenCitations is a fitting legacy of David’s work, reflecting his scientific and scholarly concerns, and also his enthusiasm to engage a wide range of stakeholders. Graham Klyne (formerly Research Software Engineer at University of Oxford)

This post aims to be a virtual wall where anybody who has met or known David in the context of his lifelong commitment to Open Science can leave a message. If you wish to have your thoughts on David published here, please email 


OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Chiara Di Giambattista (June 10, 2024). Remembering David M. Shotton, Founder and Co-Director of OpenCitations. OpenCitations blog. Retrieved July 14, 2024 from

One thought on “Remembering David M. Shotton, Founder and Co-Director of OpenCitations”

  1. I only met David twice. But his presence and passion was hard to ignore. I remember clearly our conversation about Open Science and other matters. When I spoke to him I had his undivided and intense attention. My impression of David was that he was selfless, generous and humble. I regret that I did not have the chance to meet him again. My best wishes to his family.

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