The Wikipedia entry for OpenCitations is woefully out of date, inaccurate and brief. As Directors of OpenCitations, Silvio and I are unable to improve this situation because of Wikipedia’s proper conflict-of-interest restriction on self-promotion.
OpenCitations is actively seeking greater involvement from members of the global academic community, as explained in our Mission Statement. One way in which such individuals, particularly those who are both existing Wikipedia editors and already know about OpenCitations, can help OpenCitations, while at the same time supporting Wikipedia in its quest for accurate information, is by revising and expanding the present Wikipedia entry on OpenCitations to reflect the infrastructure’s current activities and data holdings, while maintaining perspective and a neutral point of view. This will increase the availability of reliable knowledge about OpenCitations and its place in the ecosystem of Open Science infrastructures.
Background information to assist in this task is available in the cannonical paper describing OpenCitations:
Silvio Peroni and David Shotton (2020). OpenCitations, an infrastructure organization for open scholarship. Quantitative Science Studies 1: 428-444. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00023;
in previous posts in the OpenCitations Blog and in the documents to which those posts link, particularly in:
Guest blog post by Alberto Martín-Martín, Facultad de Comunicación y Documentación, Universidad de Granada, Spain <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In this post, as a contribution to Open Access Week, Alberto Martín-Martín shares his comparative analysis of COCI and other sources of open citation data with those from subscription services, and comments on their relative coverage.
Comprehensive bibliographic metadata is essential for the development of effective understanding and analysis across all phases of the research workflow. Commercial actors have historically filled the role of infrastructure providers of bibliographic and citation data, but their choice of subscription-based business models and/or restrictive user licenses has significantly limited how users and other parties can access, build upon, and redistribute the information available on those platforms. Locking bibliographic and citation metadata behind these barriers is problematic, as it hinders innovation and is an obstacle to reproducibility.
Fortunately, the process of digital transformation that scientific communication is currently undergoing is providing us with the tools to get closer to the ideal of science as a public good. One of the most successful initiatives in this area is Crossref, arguably the single most critical piece of research metadata infrastructure currently in existence. I consider the best thing about it to be its commitment to openness. Not only is Crossref responsible for minting many of the DOIs that are assigned to academic publications, but it also publishes metadata about these publications (for over 120+ million records in their latest public data file) without imposing any access or reuse limitations.
Crossref metadata has already boosted innovation in a variety of academic-oriented tools. New discovery services such as Dimensions, The Lens, and Scilit all take advantage of Crossref metadata to keep their indexes up to date with the latest publications. The open-source reference manager Zotero is able to pull metadata associated with a given DOI from Crossref’s servers, providing an easy way to populate one’s personal reference collection that is more reliable than using Google Scholar. The Unpaywall database uses Crossref metadata (among other data sources) to keep track of which documents are Open Access, and this data is in turn used by Unsub, a service that helps libraries make more informed decisions about their journal subscriptions.
Historically, citation indexing has been a functionality available only from a few subscription-based data sources (most notably Web of Science and Scopus), or from free but largely restricted sources (e.g., Google Scholar). In recent years, however, commercial exclusivity over citation data has been waning. Digital publishing workflows make it easier for publishers to deposit the list of cited references along with the rest of the metadata when they register a new document in Crossref, and many are already doing it. Crossref’s policy is to make these lists of references publicly available by default, although publishers can elect to prevent their public release. From this, it follows that if most publishers deposited their reference lists in Crossref and consented to make them open, a comprehensive open citation index, one that is free of the restrictions present in traditional platforms, could be built.
The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) is an advocacy group that has been working since 2017 to achieve this precise goal, and it has already managed to convince a large number publishers (over two thousand) to open the references they deposit in CrossRef. In the first half of 2021, Elsevier, the American Chemical Society, and Wolters Kluwer joined this group, so that today all the major scholarly publishers now support I4OC and have open references at Crossref, with the exception of IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Thanks to the efforts of I4OC and the collaboration of publishers, 88% of the publications for which publishers have deposited references in CrossRef are now open. This has allowed organizations such as OpenCitations (one of the founding members of I4OC) to create a non-proprietary citation index using these data, namely COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations. Other open citation indexes such as the NIH Open Citation Collection (NIH-OCC) and Refcat have also been recently released.
How do such open citation indexes compare to long-established indexes? In 2019, I set out with colleagues to analyze the coverage of citations contained within the most widely used academic bibliographic data sources (Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar) to a selected corpus of 2,515 highly-cited English-language documents published in 2006 from 252 subject categories, and to compare this to the coverage provided by some of the more recent data sources (Microsoft Academic, Dimensions, and COCI). At that time, COCI was the smallest of the six indexes, containing only 28% of all citations. For comparison, Web of Science contained 52%, and Scopus contained 57%.
There are a number of reasons for those differences: first, at that point some of the larger commercial publishers including Elsevier, IEEE, and ACS, which routinely deposit references in Crossref, hadnot yet opened them. Second, many smaller publishers still do not deposit their reference lists in Crossref. Third, COCI only captures citation relationships between documents that have DOIs, thus missing citations to publications that lack them. Finally, while for our study data collection from all sources was carried out during May/June of 2019, COCI at that time had not been updated since November 2018, which increased its disadvantage when compared to other data sources with more frequent updates.
Since Elsevier is the largest academic publisher in the world, its recent opening of references at Crossref resulted in a significant increase in the total number of openly available Crossref references. The most recent version of COCI (dated 3 September 2021, and based on open references to works with DOIs within the Crossref dump dated August 2021) now contains both the processed references from Elsevier, and the references in the most recently published articles by ACS (the complete backfile of ACS references will appear in future versions of COCI).
Given these significant developments, how much has the picture changed? To find this out, I updated our 2019 analysis using the version of COCI released on September 3rd 2021 and the NIH-OCC dataset released in the same month. To carry out a reasonably fair comparison while reusing the data extracted in 2019 from the other sources, I employed the same corpus of target documents, and only used citations in which the citing document was published before the end of June 2019. The intention was to learn how much the coverage of open citation data has grown as a result of the subsequent opening of reference lists in Crossref that were not public in 2019, and similar efforts. The results of this new comparison are published in .
The combination of COCI’s and NIH-OCC’s September 2021 releases contained more than 1.62 million citations to our sample corpus of documents from all areas, a 91% increase over the 0.85 million citations that we were able to recover in 2019 from COCI alone. Considering the citations available in all data sources, 53% of all citations are now available from these two open sources under CC0 waivers, up from the 28% we found in 2019. This coverage now surpasses the 52% found by Web of Science, and is much closer to the 54% found by Dimensions, and the 57% covered by Scopus. The relative overlap between COCI and the other data sources has also significantly increased: in 2019 COCI found 47% of the citations available in Web of Science, whereas now open citation data sources find 87% of the WoS citations. In the case of Scopus, in 2019 COCI found 44% of the citations available in Scopus: the percentage available from open sources has now increased to 81%. The number of citations found by COCI but not present in the other data sources has also widened slightly. These data are presented graphically in Figure 1.
Fig. 1. Percentage of citations found by each database, relative to all citations (first row), and relative to the number of citations found by the other databases (subsequent rows).
Where are these new citations coming from? Well, as we might expect, references from articles published in Elsevier journals comprise the lion’s share of the newly found citations in open data sources (close to half of all new citations), as shown in Figure 2. But there are also some IEEE citations here. This is because until recently reference lists from IEEE publications were available in the ‘limited’ Crossref category to members of Crossref Metadata Plus, a paid-for service that provides a few additional advantages over the free services Crossref provides. As a member of Crossref Metadata Plus, OpenCitations obtained these reference lists while they were available and included them in COCI. Subsequently, IEEE decided to make their references completely closed, explaining why references from more recent IEEE publications are not included in COCI.
Fig 2. The increases between 2019 and 2021 of citations indexed by open sources (COCI + NIH-OCC) from the articles of different publishers
There can be no doubt that open citation data is of benefit to the entire academic community. Thanks to COCI, NIH-OCC, and similarinitiatives, and despite some setbacks, we are already witnessing how open infrastructure can help us develop models and practices that are better aligned with the opportunities that our current digital environment offers and the challenges that our society faces.
Conclusion: The coverage of citation data available under CC0 waivers from open sources is now comparable to that from subscription sources such as Web of Science and Scopus, offering a viable alternative upon which to base open and reproducible metrics of academic performance.
 Martín-Martín, A., Thelwall, M., Orduna-Malea, E. et al. Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Scopus, Dimensions, Web of Science, and OpenCitations’ COCI: a multidisciplinary comparison of coverage via citations. Scientometrics126, 871–906 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03690-4
Authors: Ludo Waltman, Bianca Kramer, David Shotton
In this blog post, Ludo Waltman, Bianca Kramer, and David Shotton, co-founders with colleagues of the Initiative for Open Abstracts, celebrate the first anniversary of the initiative.
On September 24 last year, the Initiative for Open Abstracts (I4OA) was launched. We started the initiative as a group of colleagues working in the publishing industry, for scholarly infrastructure organizations, at university libraries, and at science studies research centers. I4OA called on scholarly publishers to make the abstracts of their published works openly available in a suitable infrastructure, preferably by submitting them to Crossref, and it continues to make this call. Openness of abstracts makes scholarly outputs easier to discover, it enables new types of research analytics, and it supports science studies research.
In this blog post, we celebrate the first anniversary of I4OA by summarizing the progress made so far and by discussing how I4OA fits into the broader landscape of many ongoing developments toward increased openness of the metadata of scholarly outputs.
How much support for open abstracts do we have?
When I4OA was launched one year ago, the initiative was supported by 40 publishers, including Hindawi, Royal Society, and SAGE, who are founding members of the initiative. Among the initial supporters of I4OA there were commercial publishers (e.g., F1000, Frontiers, Hindawi, MDPI, PeerJ, and SAGE), non-profit publishers (e.g., eLife and PLOS), society publishers (e.g., AAAS and Royal Society), and university presses (e.g., Cambridge University Press and MIT Press). Some of the initial supporters of I4OA are open access publishers, while others publish subscription-based journals.
Over the past year, the number of publishers supporting I4OA has more than doubled. The initiative is currently supported by 86 publishers. Publishers that have joined I4OA over the past year include ACM, American Society for Microbiology, Emerald, Oxford University Press, and Thieme. I4OA has also been joined by a substantial number of national and regional publishers, for instance from countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
In addition to this, I4OA is supported by a large number of stakeholders in the research system, including many scholarly infrastructure providers.
However, Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis, the four largest publishers in terms of the number of published works, have not yet joined I4OA. These publishers appear to monetize their abstracts by selling them to abstracting services, and they seem to fear that joining I4OA may cause them to lose these revenue streams. Elsevier might also perceive openness of abstracts as a competitive threat to its Scopus business. Elsevier, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis have not yet submitted any abstracts to Crossref, while Springer Nature has started to submit abstracts, but only for its open access content.
How many open abstracts do we have?
On September 1st 2021, 12.3% of the 89.4 million journal articles indexed by Crossref had an open abstract. Focusing on the so-called current content in Crossref (i.e., content from the last three years), the share of journal articles with an open abstract is substantially higher. Of the 12.1 million journal articles in the period 2019-2021, 30.1% had an open abstract.
Figure 1 shows the increase over the past few years in the percentage of journal articles in Crossref that have an open abstract. For current content, this percentage increased from 14.9% in September 2019 to 30.1% in September 2021, clearly showing the effect of I4OA. For backfiles (i.e., content that is at least three years old), the increase is more modest, from 4.8% in September 2019 to 9.5% in September 2021. This increase reflects the efforts made by several publishers (including Hindawi, Royal Society, and SAGE, three founding members of I4OA) to make abstracts openly available not only for their new content but also for all their older content.
The above statistics are specifically about journal articles. Looking at all content types in Crossref, including proceedings articles, book chapters, and books, the share of open abstracts is somewhat lower. On September 1 this year, 24.8% of the current content and 7.3% of the backfiles had an open abstract.
Figure 2 provides a breakdown by publisher of the percentage of journal articles published in the period 2019-2021 and documented in Crossref that have an open abstract (horizontal axis). The figure also shows the total number of journal articles of a publisher in the period 2019-2021 (vertical axis; logarithmic scale).
Publishers that support I4OA, colored orange in Figure 2, tend to have a high percentage of journal articles with an open abstract. They typically do not reach 100%, because some of the content they publish does not have an abstract. There are a few publishers that only recently started to open their abstracts, and so for these publishers the percentage of open abstracts is still relatively low. Publishers that have not yet expressed support for I4OA are colored blue in Figure 2. Most of them have a low percentage of open abstracts, and many do not have any open abstracts at all.
The progress made by individual publishers in opening their abstracts can be clearly seen by comparing Figure 2 with a similar figure published in this blog post last year.
What else happened over the past year?
A very positive development in the past year is the accomplishment of the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC), a sister initiative of I4OA that campaigns for publishers to make the references of their published works openly available in Crossref. In the first half of 2021, Elsevier, American Chemical Society, and Wolters Kluwer all opened their references. With the exception of IEEE, all major publishers now support I4OC. This development seems to show that most publishers recognize the importance of making the metadata of their published works openly available, suggesting that many of them may also want to join I4OA.
A less positive development was the announcement made last May that Microsoft Academic will be discontinued at the end of the year. At the moment, Microsoft Academic is the most important data source for open abstracts. As shown in a recent presentation by two of the I4OA founders, more than half of the scholarly outputs indexed both by Microsoft Academic and by Crossref have an open abstract in Microsoft Academic. Only 10% of these outputs have an open abstract in Crossref. Hence, the discontinuation of Microsoft Academic will greatly reduce the availability of open abstracts, unless publishers take up their responsibility to submit abstracts to Crossref. OurResearch, which is building a replacement for Microsoft Academic, has already announced that it will only be able to make abstracts available if publishers submit them to Crossref (or PubMed).
Another important development is the growing adoption of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure (POSI). These principles aim to ensure that scholarly infrastructures serve the interests of the scholarly community, and they reduce the risk of the scholarly community losing its key infrastructures (as is happening right now with Microsoft Academic). The POSI principles have been adopted by Crossref and OpenCitations, two founding members of I4OA. OurResearch, mentioned above, has also expressed a commitment to these principles. By adopting the POSI principles, these infrastructure organizations have made a clear commitment to serve the interests of the scholarly community and to ensure the long-term availability of scholarly metadata.
In light of the closure of Microsoft Academic at the end of the year, it is more important than ever to get broad support for I4OA. This is further reinforced by the increasing dependence of research analytics on abstracts. While research analytics based on citations continue to play an important role in research assessments and research on research (e.g., topic mapping, analyzing emerging trends and research fronts), the need to broaden the analytical toolbox is widely recognized. Many providers of research analytics are introducing new indicators and tools. In particular, analytics for assessing the contribution of research to the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) are attracting a lot of attention (e.g., in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings). These analytics typically identify SDG-related research by searching for specific terms (‘climate change’, ‘hunger’, ‘poverty’, and so on) in the titles and abstracts of scholarly outputs. Openness of abstracts is essential to develop a proper understanding of what these analytics do and do not tell us, and to make sure these analytics are used in a responsible way.
Publishers carry the primary responsibility for making abstracts openly available. We therefore call on publishers that do not yet support I4OA to join the initiative and to open their abstracts. The I4OA team is available to answer questions about the initiative and to provide help to publishers that want to join. Do not hesitate to contact us.
We also encourage other stakeholders in the research system to actively support openness of abstracts. As shown in Figure 3, in a recent Metadata 20/20 webinar, participants mentioned abstracts as the most important metadata element for which openness should be an essential requirement in negotiations with publishers. This highlights the crucial contribution that research institutions and research funders can make by mandating openness of abstracts in their agreements with publishers.
This blog post is published under a CC BY 4.0 license.
Most of the talks at this conference have focussed on open access to textual content. But open bibliographic metadata is also vitally important, not least to enable the calculation of metrics that are both open and reproducible.
OpenCitations is a not-for-profit open infrastructure that provides such free access to global scholarly citations. We hold dear the values and principles that underpin Open Science, and are early adopters of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure (POSI) and the FAIR data principles.
Our largest citation index is COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations, which currently indexes approximately 1.2 billion citations, released to the public domain under a CC0 waiver.
Our goal is for OpenCitations to provide open bibliographic citation information having scope, depth, accuracy and provenance that surpasses that of the commercial citation indexes, for access to which scholarly institutions presently pay enormous annual subscriptions.
I wish to mention just two of our planned developments:
OpenCitations Meta is a new database that will enable us to store in-house full bibliographic metadata about citing and cited publications. This will have two advantages: It will speed user queries, since we will no longer have to wait for responses to on-the-fly API calls to Crossref and ORCID to retrieve such metadata. More importantly, it will enable us to index the large number of references involving publications that do not have DOIs, something that for technical reasons is presently lacking.
Additionally, we plan to develop new citation indexes over other sources of open references, starting with DOCI, indexing references from DataCite, and NOCI, indexing the content of the NIH Open Citation Collection.
Our progress has until recently been severely manpower-limited. However, OpenCitations was fortunate to have been selected by SCOSS, the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services, as an open infrastructure providing a unique and valuable service, and worthy of crowdfunded financial support by the global stakeholder community of research institutes, academic libraries, funders and publishers.
As a result of the generous support so far provided or pledged by ~50 such institutions, we have already reached about one-third of our requested SCOSS budget, enabling us this year to appoint new staff to start our planned technical developments, to support our community outreach, and to help take our vision forward.
Such financial support is vital for our sustainability, since we generate no income from our provision of free data, services and software. We thus invite you too to contribute to OpenCitations.
However, we also seek community involvement in other ways: participation in the community-led governance of OpenCitations; help in developing our open source software and services; curatorial involvement to improve OpenCitations data; and collaborations with other like-minded infrastructures to develop federated access to open scholarly information of all types, thereby returning control over such information to the academic community that generated it in the first place.
If you would like to work with OpenCitations in any of these ways, please contact me.
No-one is quite sure of the total number of scholarly publications within the global corpus. Indeed that number will be strongly influenced by the degree to which, in addition to books and journal articles, one includes within the definition of scholarly publications ‘grey literature’ such as reports published by official bodies, patents, etc. Consequentially, the total number of scholarly references within those publications is also unknown, and this number too will vary according to the inclusion criteria chosen. Furthermore, Crossref Event Data and similar datasets recording social media mentions of journal articles in blog posts and tweets extends the concept of a reference beyond that used in ‘conventional’ citation indexes such as COCI.
We celebrate the fact that well over one billion bibliographic citations are now openly available under CC0 waivers in NIH OCC (the National Institutes of Health Open Citation Collection) [1,2] and COCI (the OpenCitations Index of Crossref DOI-to-DOI Citations) . Despite present gaps in their coverage, they include references to all the most important publications within the global corpus, because these will all have been cited multiple times.
Open references available from Crossref and other aggregators and indexes
Crossref, with over 1.6 billion open references, is the largest single source of such bibliographic metadata. Significant numbers of references are also available in a variety of other databases, repositories and indexes.
NIH OCC (the National Institutes of Health Open Citation Collection) is a merger of several citation databases, drawing on PubMed for crucial article metadata, and augmenting this with information from full-text articles that have been made freely available on the internet . The CiteSeerX database, the arXiv preprint repository, and the Dryad data repository are examples of different types of infrastructure that also publish open bibliographic references, while there is further availability of article references from open aggregators such as DataCite and Wikidata. These may either use their own DOIs, DOIs from the Crossref DOI registration agency, or no DOIs at all. Either way, those references will not appear in Crossref.
What is lacking is semantic coherence and interoperability between these sources, permitting federated queries across them. This makes difficult the task of obtaining a comprehensive overview of the availability of open bibliographic references.
However, there are even more citations that are not yet freely and easily available anywhere in bulk, relating to the reference lists within publications of a number of distinct types. This blog post explores academia’s missing references – those that have not yet been documented within open freely accessible citation indexes – and what might be done to bring these into the public domain.
1 References that are closed at Crossref
Eight years ago, I wrote
“In this open-access age, it is a scandal that reference lists from journal articles — core elements of scholarly communication that permit the attribution of credit and integrate our independent research endeavours — are not readily and freely available for use by all scholars.” 
I stand by that statement, and, through OpenCitations , I have been working with colleagues to rectify the situation, as I described in my previous post. The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) can rightly be applauded for its part in encouraging almost all the major academic publishers who deposit references at Crossref to make them open.
The only major scholarly publisher not to be listed as an I4OC Participating Publisher is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), that, having deposited at Crossref reference lists for 58% of its preprints and publications, persists in keeping these deposited references closed and unavailable for indexing and re-use. It is to be hoped that IEEE will now realize that what it looses by not having references openly available outweighs any benefits it might have received from keeping them closed, and will join its fellow publishers in ensuring that its Crossref-deposited references are made open, both for its current issues and for its back-number journal articles. I thus call again upon IEEE to change its present position, as both Elsevier and the American Chemical Society had the courage to do recently, and to instruct Crossref to open all IEEE references. A single email to Crossref Support, with the instruction “Open all references”, is all it would take!
References in Crossref are either open, ‘limited’ or closed. Limited references are available to those subscribing to Crossref Metadata Plus, which includes OpenCitations, but not to the general public. Closed references are not freely available to anyone. The following table shows the number of Crossref works in each category, and the number of references within those categories.
Average references per work
70,477,843 (55.7% of total)
56,149,775 (44.3% of total)
49,274,155 (38.9% of total)
2,933,323 (2.3% of total)
3,942,297 (3.1% of total)
Table 1. Numbers of works and their references recorded in Crossref on 31 July 2021.
2 References not deposited at Crossref for publications with Crossref DOIs
The number of works with Crossref DOIs that lack submitted references is surprisingly large. As of 31 July 2021, 70,477,843 publications (55.7% of all works recorded at Crossref) lacked deposited references (Table 1).
Crossref classifies all types of journal content, including editorials, book reviews and letters, as “journal articles”, thus some of these works without deposited references genuinely lack them. However, the majority are conventional journal articles and books with reference lists that the publishers have simply not deposited at Crossref along with the other metadata for these works.
The average number of references per Crossref work with deposited references is 30.9 (Table 1). If, to make allowance for those works that genuinely lack references, we assume a conservative average of 25 references per work for the 70,477,843 works lacking deposited references, this means that there are over 1.75 billion references within these works that have not been deposited at Crossref, and thus are not conveniently available for indexing and reuse.
These missing references relate both large publishers that have submitted references for only some of their publications, and small publishers that perhaps lack, or think they lack, the resources to deposit any reference lists in addition to the other metadata they are already sending to Crossref for each of their DOIs. However, there are several easy methods for depositing reference lists, as detailed by Crossref here. So I encourage all publishers who are supportive of Open Science to update their procedures and commence or complete the deposition of their publication reference lists at Crossref, starting with their current issues. Crossref Support will provide assistance if required. Note that a publisher does not have to subscribe to the Crossref Cited-by service to deposit its references!
3 Citations missing in COCI: open references in Crossref to publications lacking DOIs
COCI is the OpenCitations Index of Crossref DOI-to-DOI Citations, and, as the name suggests, it indexes Crossref open references from works with Crossref DOIs to other works that have DOIs . It therefore does not index open references in Crossref to works that, for whatever reason, lack DOIs.
The most recent (September 2021) release of COCI, based on the August Crossref dump, contains 1,186,958,898 citations between 69,074,291 unique work, comprising 51,103,720 citing bibliographic resources bearing Crossref DOIs and 56,105,783 cited bibliographic resources. Of the cited bibliographic resources, 38,135,212 bear a DOI issued by Crossref and have open or limited references (thus also being COCI citing resources), while 17,970,571 either have a Crossref DOI but lack open or limited references or have a DOI issued by another DOI registration agency such as DataCite (thus not being COCI citing resources).
Note that in Crossref, the ratio of works with open or limited references to works without open or limited references is 0.7:1 (Table 1). However, in COCI, the ratio of cited works with Crossref DOIs containing open or limited references to all other cited works is 2.1:1. Thus works with Crossref DOIs containing open or limited references are three times more likely to be cited than works that either have a Crossref DOI but lacking open or limited references or have a DOI issued by another DOI registration agency. This is most likely because the most important journals from almost all the larger publishers now have open references. However, it is still a remarkable ratio.
Because references to works lacking DOIs are not included in COCI, the average number of bibliographic references per citing article in COCI is only 23.2, in contrast to the numbers of references to works of all types given in Table 1.
From these data, it can be seen that there are over 480 million open Crossref references to a wide variety of works lacking DOIs that OpenCitations does not index in COCI. This is because of an intentional and fundamental limitation in the structure of the Open Citation Identifier (OCI) , requiring both citing and cited publications to have identifiers of the same type, that lies at the heart of the functionality of our OpenCitations Indexes.
OpenCitations is currently developing a solution that, without compromising that intentional design limitation in OCIs, will nevertheless permit us to index and publish these ‘missing’ references as Linked Open Data. We will report on this development in due course.
Crossref Event Data is a Crossref service / database that records mentions of publications bearing Crossref DOIs in social media including tweets and blog posts, and in other non-traditional citation sources such as news items and Wikipedia articles. From today (Thursday 23rd September 2021), Crossref Event Data will start to include in its holdings open references from publications bearing Crossref DOIs to other publications bearing DOIs. Limited and closed references will not be included. Initially, open references from current publications will be included in Crossref Event Data, with open references from older works with DOIs being added later. In that respect it will come to resemble COCI, except that COCI also included ‘limited’ references, treats citations as first-class data entities with their own identifiers, and makes its citation data available in RDF as Linked Open Data, as well as via a REST API. Subsequently, Crossref Event Data will also record references to publications with other forms of identifier, as OpenCitations also plans to do.
4 References available on publishers’ web sites
Many publishers, particularly those of Open Access works, already make their publication reference lists openly available on their own web sites. While this is commendable, it is not sufficient, since, if scholarly references are not made available in a centralized aggregator such as Crossref from which they can be conveniently harvested in bulk for analysis and re-use, they are much more difficult to access.
Scraping references from the HTML of individual web sites is difficult, time-consuming and liable to be incomplete. While Microsoft Academic achieved considerable success in scraping references from publishers’ web sites, possible because of the special relationships these publishers have with the Microsoft search engine Bing, this service will unfortunately soon no longer be available, illustrating a problem inherent with scholarly infrastructures provided by commercial companies that do not adopt the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructures.
A consequence is that such publications will become increasingly ‘invisible’, as bibliographic and analytical services come to rely more and more on centrally available data.
6 References within PDFs of scholarly works lacking DOIs
There is a large but unknown quantity of reference-containing books, academic reports, patents and journal articles from publishers that, for their own good reasons, choose not to use DOIs. The text of many of these publications is already available in a marked-up machine-readable format such as JATS, used in preparation for publication, from which the reference lists could easily be extracted. Other publications are only available as PDFs, both as published Versions of Record, or as preprints deposited in a variety of preprint repositories such as arXiv or CORE. Mining reference lists out of PDFs required expertise in text mining and AI technologies, and is labour-intensive, since it usually required the tuning of extraction algorithms to handle the particular styles and formatting of individual journals, one at a time. Two stages are involved: first, the recognition and extraction of the text of the individual references from the PDF, and second the parsing of each text string into the component parts of the reference (author names, title, publication year, etc.) A considerable number of the citations within NIH-OCC have been obtained in this manner , commercial companies such as Lexical Intelligence specialize in this area, and publicly available software such as GROBID is available for the purpose. However, the overall task of extracting ‘missing’ academic references from the global PDF corpus is daunting in magnitude and would require a well-funded organization.
The correct way to proceed would be for each publisher to take responsibility for liberating the references of their own publications, whether or not the publications themselves are open access, and whether or not these references are already available in a marked-up machine-readable format or only within PDF documents. Then, if the publisher still chose not to use DOIs and to submit these metadata to Crossref, these references could be submitted directly to OpenCitations for aggregation and publication as Linked Open Data.
From the foregoing discussion it is clear that the academic community has a long way to go before the majority of scholarly citations, the products of their own labours, are openly available for analysis and re-use. We at OpenCitations are working to address these issues and to publish more of these missing citations. However, completion of the task will require a coordinated collaborative international effort.
 Ivan Heibi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2019). Software review: COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations. Scientometrics121 (2): 1213-1228. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-019-03217-6
Now that OpenCitations is hosting over one billion freely available scholarly bibliographic citations, this is perhaps an opportune moment to look back to the start of this initiative. A little over eleven years ago, on 24 April 2010, I spoke at the Open Knowledge Foundation Conference, OKCon2010, in London, on the topic
OpenCitations: Publishing Bibliographic Citations as Linked Open Data
I reported that, earlier that same week, I had applied to Jisc for a one-year grant to fund the OpenCitations Project (opencitations.net). Jisc (at that time ‘The JISC’, the Joint Information Systems Committee) was tasked by the UK government, among other things, to support research and development in information technology for the benefit of the academic community.
The purpose of that original OpenCitations R&D project was to develop a prototype in which we:
harvested citations from the open access biomedical literature in PubMed Central;
described and linked them using CiTO, the Citation Typing Ontology ;
encoded and organized them in an RDF triplestore; and
I told those at the conference that in this demonstration project, with limited JISC funding, we could not hope to “boil the whole ocean”, but that nevertheless there would be substantial benefits from even partial coverage of citation data from the scholarly literature:
We could show the way and establish best practice.
Despite partial coverage, all key papers would most likely be cited several times.
The overall topological structure of the citation network would be revealed.
We would create a ‘benchmark’ corpus of high-quality RDF citation data that could be used to develop analytical and visualization tools.
We could show the value of open citation data in helping scholars to discover full text articles of all types, and thus encourage subscription-access publishers to release their reference metadata.
The important thing, I said, was to make a start!
The Jisc OpenCitations Project
That JISC grant application was funded, and the project, to last for a year with modest funding of £100K, started in my lab in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University on 1st June 2010, and was subsequently extended for a further six months.
Using data from the Open Access subset of PubMed Central, we created the first prototype release of the OpenCitations Corpus of linked bibliographic citation data, containing 6,529,815 independent bibliographic records of both citing and cited entities, comprising references to ~20% of all post-1980 articles recorded in PubMed, including those to all the most important highly cited papers in every field of biomedical endeavour.
This achievement was almost entirely the result of the excellent work by our chief data wrangler Alex Dutton, whose skill and natural feel for linked data did wonders for this project. Ben O’Steen, Graham Klyne and Alistair Miles made important contributions.
The project also resulted in many other development, described here, most which were developed or at least initiated during a short but wonderfully productive collaboration with Silvio Peroni, who spent six months with me in 2010 as a doctoral student intern from the University of Bologna, to which he subsequently returned to complete his thesis and develop his academic career.
the deconstruction and re-development of the original version of CiTO into a suite of orthogonal and complementary ontologies covering the whole domain of scholarly publishing – the SPAR (Semantic Publishing and Referencing) Ontologies [2, 3];
the mapping of various existing metadata schemas into RDF using SPAR, including the DataCite Metadata Schema, and subsequently JATS, now the default NISO standard for XML markup of scholarly documents) ; and
After the Jisc funding ended and I, after a long career in biological teaching and research, formally retired from the Department of Zoology at the Oxford University, members of the initial OpenCitations team moved on to other things. Like so many grant-funded academic project whose initial financial support had dried up, OpenCitations could have foundered at that stage, as an interesting prototype but with too little content to be useful. However, the concept of providing an open alternative to proprietary citation indexes was too important to abandon. But how could it be transitioned into something enduring and useful, particularly when as a matter of principle one had decided that the citation data should be made freely available, thus precluding income generation by charging for ‘premium’ services or the formation of a commercial spin-off?
Finally, I realized that something radical needed to be done to move OpenCitations forward. I had maintained a lively collaboration with Silvio Peroni at the University of Bologna, resulting between 2011 and 2014 in the publication of 18 articles and conference papers concerning the SPAR ontologies, ontology development, documentation and visualization, and related topics, and in 2015 I invited him to start working with me directly on OpenCitations. It was the best decision I could have made. We decided to take the initial concept and re-implement it from the bottom up. OpenCitations gave Silvio a major computer science project to which he could apply his considerable talent, and soon resulted in the development of a revised RDF data model for describing citation data, the OpenCitations Data Model (OCDM)  and a suite of new software tools to harvest, organise and publish citations at linked open data . The credit for almost all the subsequent conceptual and technical developments within OpenCitations, which have incrementally led to our present situation, is due to Silvio Peroni, and the scholarly community is indebted to him for the intelligence, skill and diligent application he has given to OpenCitations over the past six years. I am truly honoured to have Silvio as co-Director of OpenCitations, and wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge his contributions and to thank him publicly.
Our work on OpenCitations at that stage, summarized in , would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of Silvio’s senior colleague Fabio Vitali and of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Bologna, which not only provided a stimulating environment for Silvio’s post-doctoral work, but also supplied computing services and infrastructure at no charge to OpenCitations. It was also greatly helped by Professor David De Roure of Oxford University, who gave me an academic home and a formal affiliation within the Oxford e-Research Centre after my retirement from the Department of Zoology, which enabled me to continue to hold research grants.
A significant breakthrough came in January 2018 with our decision to treat citations as first-class data entities, each with its own persistent identifier (PID), the Open Citations Identifier (OCI) . This gave Silvio the freedom to envision a new kind of database, a citation index in which each citation had its own metadata, including citation timespan, citation categorization (e.g. self-citation), and of course the DOIs of the citing and cited publications. The creation of this new index was possible only with the incredible effort by Ivan Heibi, who served as a Research Fellow in the project funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at that time, and who was entirely responsible for developing the first version of the code necessary for creating such a database. Having harvested all the open references from Crossref metadata dumps, Silvio and Ivan created COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref DOI-to-DOI Citations, which immediately became our principal source of open citations, the original OpenCitations Corpus being retained as a ‘sandbox’ in which to experiment with new data representations, for example those required for the Open Biomedical Citations in Context Corpus. Access to COCI was facilitated by Silvio’s development of a REST API, using his software tool RAMOSE (Restful API Manager Over SPARQL Endpoints), which enables the easily configurable deployment of a REST API over any SPARQL endpoint to an RDF triplestore . We were able to organize our all data, both ‘traditional’ and new, and to encode it in RDF, thanks to the comprehensive OpenCitations Data Model , itself based on our SPAR Ontologies , which we evolved as necessary to accommodate new data representation requirements.
During this period we published a number of definitions, conference papers and journal articles documenting these advances, details of which can be found here. Of these, the most recent canonical publication describing OpenCitations as an infrastructure for open scholarship, and its datasets, tools, services and activities, is Peroni and Shotton (2020) . We also established the Research Centre for Open Scholarly Metadata at the University of Bologna, primarily to handle administrative, financial and academic aspects of OpenCitations activities.
The problem remained: how to sustain the OpenCitations infrastructure financially. We were greatly helped by Bilder, Lin and Neylon’s formulation of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructures (POSI) , in which they clearly pointing out that reliance solely on grant funding for specific projects was not the answer. OpenCitations compliance with POSI is described here. We were thus immensely grateful that SPARC Europe and other institutions had the wisdom to establish SCOSS (The Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services) to facilitate the crowd-sourced financial support of useful open infrastructures by the scholarly community, including academic libraries, government agencies and other stakeholders. OpenCitations applied for SCOSS support in 2019, which led to the selection of OpenCitations for support in the SCOSS second round.
The donations we are now starting to receive from such stakeholders, and the new staff that this funding has recently allowed us to hire, signal the start of our transition from a financially vulnerable academic project to a sustainable open scholarly infrastructure of real value to the community.
The work of opening more of the global citation graph now requires two things:
that each publisher takes responsibility for ensuring that the references from all of its journal articles and books are submitted, together with all other bibliographic metadata, to open scholarly bibliographic metadata aggregators such as Crossref and DataCite, from which they can be indexed into open citation indexes of sufficient quality, depth of detail and breadth of coverage that these offer genuine alternatives to the expensive proprietary citation indexing services upon which the academic community presently relies; and
that the entire scholarly stakeholder community re-directs a fraction of the enormous sums currently spent on its subscriptions to proprietary bibliographic services in order to support Open Science infrastructures such as OpenCitations that making citations and other forms of scholarly metadata and objects freely available.
 Peroni S, Lapeyre DA and Shotton D (2012) From Markup to Linked Data: Mapping NISO JATS v1.0 to RDF using the SPAR (Semantic Publishing and Referencing) Ontologies. Proc. 2012 JATS Conference, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland, USA (October 2012): 16-17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK100491/
 Silvio Peroni, David Shotton, Fabio Vitali (2017). One Year of the OpenCitations Corpus: Releasing RDF-based scholarly citation data into the Public Domain. In The Semantic Web – ISWC 2017 (Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol. 10588, pp. 184–192). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68204-4_19
In his call for open citations, Dario Taraborelli hailed the scholarly citation graph (in which the nodes (vertices) are individual academic publications and the links (edges) represent bibliographic citations from one publication to another) as one of humankind’s most important intellectual achievements.
We all understand that the inclusion within our own academic publications of bibliographic references to the works of others is one of the most explicit ways of acknowledging the thoughts, discoveries, achievements and influences of other scholars, and their contributions to our own work. Not only does what we gain from their publications enable us to make intellectual progress, by “standing on the shoulders of giants” as Newton once famously observed , but the influence of these publications extends forward in time across the entire intellectual landscape, like gigantic shadows cast at sunset, whether or not those influenced by these publications have occasion to reference them in their own works.
At the anterior margin of a crawling cell, cellular protrusive extension (for example of a pseudopodium) is achieved by the catalysed polymerization of new filaments of the cytoskeletal protein actin from attachment sites on an existing stationary actin filament network, pushing the cell margin forward . The scholarly citation network (or citation graph, the two terms here being used interchangeably) is similarly dynamic and temporally directional, being extended forward as new works of scholarship are published. Extension of knowledge is achieved by the catalytic inspiration provided by existing academic publications, themselves temporally stationary within the expanding citation network, leading to the publication of new works of scholarship that cite these previous publications and thus extend the citation network further into the future. The citation graph is thus not just an acyclic directed graph, but an acyclic temporally directed graph. Indeed, it is this temporal aspect of the citation network that is one of its most important features.
To use another analogy, the human genealogical tree is inherently multidimensional and difficult to represent pictorially in its entirety, because each new birth brings together the family trees of the child’s two parents. However, unless the parents are seriously promiscuous, the resulting genealogical tree is not impossibly complex. In contrast, the scholarly citation network is much more highly interlinked, since each new publication cites not just two but many preceding (‘parent’) publications, which themselves may beget many other citations.
Visualization of the global scholarly citation graph, or portions of it, is thus inherently difficult, and the important temporal aspect of the graph is the one ignored by almost every method used for visualizing aspects of that graph. Existing methods may take the broad view, showing the links, and the strength of those links, between one scholarly domain and another, thus visualizing the ‘structure of science’. Alternatively, they may take a more detailed view of a small section of the graph, visualize the proximity of individual publications to one another. Often a radial display is chosen for this, that shows in closest proximity those papers directly referenced by the selected publication in the centre, then at a greater radius those papers referenced by the cited papers shown in the inner circle, and so on. Because of the graph’s complexity, such displays quickly looses intelligibility after two citation links.
Among a small number of visualization applications that do not ignore the temporal aspect of the graph is Citeology, a temporally based citation network visualization tool developed some years ago by Justin Matejka and colleagues at the design software company Autodesk . Unfortunately, this innovative software prototype was not central to that company’s mission, development ceased, and the Citeology Java app is no longer available. However, in his last email to me, Justin Matejka kindly offered to help others re-create this application.
There is thus an urgent need for innovative new open-source visualization tools that will clearly and dynamically display portions of the global citation graph, for example the direct and indirect citation connections between any two publications or any two individuals, along the temporal axis of publication date. Developers within the open science community please step forward!
We congratulate and thank Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher, for endorsing the DORA Declaration on Research Assessment (https://sfdora.org/), thereby joining the hundreds of other publishers and scientific organizations which have endorsed DORA over the previous eight years, and also for making a commitment to open the references from all its journal articles submitted to Crossref. The text of Elsevier’s endorsement, dated 16th December 2020, is to be found at https://www.elsevier.com/connect/advancing-responsible-research-assessment, and includes the statement:
“We will make reference lists for all articles published in Elsevier journals openly available via Crossref so they can be available for reuse. This means other important initiatives like I4OC can draw on this metadata.”
Particular thanks are due to Kumsal Bayazit, Elsevier’s CEO, and to Andrew Plume, head of Elsevier’s International Center for the Study of Research (ICSR), for spearheading this change in stance on the part of Elsevier, which until this week has been alone among the major scholarly publishers in keeping its reference lists at Crossref closed, for which it has attracted much criticism from the academic community.
This change of heart on the part of Elsevier now means that by next spring, after Crossref has had a chance to implement this change in status over the large corpus of Elsevier journal metadata, the reference lists of articles in the vast majority of the world’s academic journals will be open, enabling such metadata to be used to enhance publication discovery and enable transparent research assessment. The I4OC web site and COCI, OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations, will reflect this change once it has happened.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the University of Chicago Press now stand alone as the only significant scholarly publishers who choose not to make their publication reference lists open.
Last night I watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma (https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224), in which former employees of the big Silicon Valley social media companies expose the serious and sometimes tragic or even fatal consequences that social media may have on individual lives. These social media services are run by commercial companies under pressure from shareholders to make ever increasing profits. In this situation, the ultimate consumers of these services becomes not the individuals using them, but the advertisers, and the users of these services (ourselves) become the commodities whose user profiles and personal preferences are sold by the social media companies to the advertisers for use in targetting adverts.
The Social Dilemma is a compelling documentary, since it is told by those who know (since they helped build and run the systems). It is particularly relevant to those who have pre-teen and teenage children, whose lives and personal interactions are increasingly being shaped and to a large extent controlled by social media, particularly during the current Covid-19 lock-downs. As recent events in the United States have highlighted, social media also pose fundamental issues around the definition of “facts” and “beliefs”, moving the debate from epistemology to politics and affecting the future of our societies.
From social media to academic analytics
Jason Priem’s self-portrait as a phrenology illustration.
Jason Priem is co-founder of ImpactStory, Depsy, UnPayWall and other open analytic and open science infrastructures and services (https://our-research.org/projects) that deserve ongoing support from the academic community.
Academic analytics is the application of statistical, predictive modelling, data mining and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to analyse, evaluate and summarize various types of organizational, educational and bibliographic data derived from higher educational and research institutions, in order to provide numerical results that can be used to guide strategic planning and decision-making practices in these contexts. It is increasingly used for student and faculty assessment, for deciding the allocation of funding, and for evaluating the standing and productivity both of individual academic departments and of entire universities.
Examples of such analyses include the degree of cross-institutional and international authorship of scholarly publications, and their citation counts excluding self-citations, used as indicators of the importance of research project outputs; the correlation of student grades with their interactions with university services such as libraries and virtual learning environments, used improve the learning performance of individual students; and the drop-out rates and degree distributions of different universities, employed to evaluate the quality of teaching. Those using such analyses include not only university administrators and individual academics, but also, in the case of learning analytics, increasingly the students themselves and their parents.
The relevance of The Social Dilemma to academic analytics is that these, like social media, are increasingly controlled by commercial companies under similar pressures to turn a profit. Here it is the universities and their academic data that become the consumed commodities, while the commercial suppliers of academic analytical services are the financial beneficiaries of these data.
There are, of course, differences between these two situations. While social media companies and academic analytics companies both have shareholders that expect profits and users to whom they provide services, the social media companies have advertisers that bring in revenue, while academic analytics companies get most of their revenue directly from the academic community itself. There is thus a relatively close connection between those who provide the raw data and those who pay for the analytical services built over these data. Since the academic community is both data provider and the one who pays the piper, this means that the social dilemma around research analytics should be easier to resolve than the social dilemma surrounding social media.
A further important difference is the following: while participation in social media is strictly voluntary, most of the academic community are evaluated through data analytics and AI without their express consent. Information on faculty members is being collected and used with little or no recourse for the individuals affected, since there are few, if any, rights to disclosure, rights to opt out of data analytics and AI-powered reviews and decisions, rights to review the data for errors, rights to correct errors, or rights to appeal decisions based on such analytics. Academic positions carry with them the expectation of academic freedom, the principles of which are hard to reconcile with the intense individual scrutiny built into the deployment of academic analytics and AI.
The dangers of commercial analytic platforms in academia
In May 2020, Amy Brand and Claudio Aspesi published their seminal article In pursuit of open science, open access is not enough (Science368: 574-577. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba3763), in which they argued cogently about the dangers of commercial dominance of academic data analytics and knowledge infrastructures, and the need for open alternatives. Details of this growing commercial dominance of academic analytics, among other platforms and services, are given in the excellent analysis by Penny C. S. Andrews in her chapter The Platformization of Open (https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11885.003.0027), in the book Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access edited by Martin Paul Eve and Jonathan Gray (The MIT Press, 2020: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/11885.001.0001).
Take, for example, the major university rankings, such as the Times Higher Education ranking. These rankings are extremely powerful. They rely on proprietary data, ironically to a significant extent made freely available to the producers of the rankings by universities, which are then used to define how the performance of universities should be assessed. Times Higher Education, for instance, presents its World University Rankings as “the definitive list of the top universities globally” (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings). The performance criteria used by the Times Higher Education ranking, and a few other major university rankings, now play an important role in the decision-making processes of universities all over the world. However, because the underlying data are proprietary, it is hard to challenge the rankings or to use the data to provide alternative perspectives on university performance. It has become increasingly difficult for universities to develop strategic priorities that do not align with the performance criteria used by the major university rankings. For example, at one major European university, discussions about the development of an open science strategy explicitly take into account the possible negative effects of open science practices on its position in the major university rankings.
Application of the message of The Social Dilemma to the realm of scholarly information shows how the rise of commercially controlled academic analytics might fundamentally threaten academic freedom and access to truth itself. As Penny Andrews points out, several of the big players in academic publishing and scholarly communication are now building suites of products based around scholarly data and analytics, whose platforms rarely have open and transparent governance, and are encouraging universities to subscribe to such suites, sometimes in deals that, in the name of open science, bundle access to the institution’s scholarly data and provision of analytics based upon them with open access publication of that institution’s scholarly outputs, as, for example, in the Dutch Universities’ recent deal with Elsevier (https://tinyurl.com/y5v7ua7u). By gaining proprietorial control of such data, and by providing the default means of information transfer and workflows between a university’s administrative CRIS systems, academic libraries and individual researchers, such commercial companies lock universities and national consortia into non-interoperable situations in which their academic data, whether relating to their own standing, to the sources and distribution of their external research funding, or to the publication records and relative academic merits of their faculty members, are no longer fully under their own control.
The issues posed by the commercial deployment of data analytics are clearly compounded when these services are performed by companies which conduct other business with the academic community. A researcher who is faced with the question of where to publish her next article can be forgiven for deciding that, at the margin, it cannot hurt to submit it to a journal owned by the company tasked with assessing her research performance. There is a massive conflict of interest when companies that derive significant parts of their profits from publishing research also assess it and offer guidance on what projects should be funded next.
The urgent need for open community-governed infrastructures
For the reasons discussed above, the present situation in academia is dire. The academic community should take control of the data analytics infrastructures it uses, which need to be kept open, with transparent governance, to ensure the healthy functioning of the academic community. While the existing scholarly publishing infrastructure is well-established and hard to change quickly, the use of data analytics and AI in academia is still nascent and in flux. Hence it should be relatively easy to prevent ceding complete control of these activities to commercial vendors, who, of course, are merely doing what they exist to do, namely to maximize profits for their owners and shareholders.
Resolving this situation is within the grasp of the academic community, and its clear responsibility, although this will not be without difficulties. It may be much easier for a university administrator to authorize payment for a subscription to academic analytical services from a commercial supplier “that knows what it is doing” than it is to collaborate with colleagues from other academic institutions – often seen as competitors – to develop or fund alternative services that are independent, open and transparently managed, with all the implications that has in terms of the creation of salaried posts, recruitment or retraining of staff, premises, administration, etc. However now is the time to act, even during the current pandemic-induced economic recession, before commercial lock-in becomes a reality. Given the huge sums that universities already spend on subscription services of various types, it is clear that the primary problem is not the redeployment of existing financial resources, but is more fundamentally philosophical: whether or not academia wishes to be in control of its own data, or beholden to commercial interests. The development of community-controlled platforms providing open academic analytical services should now be made a priority, and appropriate sustained financial support for these platforms should be provided by the academic community, including governmental and charitable funders of research.
I would like to acknowledge and thank Ludo Waltman and Claudio Aspesi for reviewing drafts of this blog post, and for their important and insightful suggestions for its improvement and expansion, which I have incorporated with their permission.
OpenCitations is proud to be part of the launch of the Initiative for Open Abstracts, a new cross-publisher initiative calling for the unrestricted availability of abstracts to boost the discovery of research.
The Initiative for Open Abstracts (I4OA), launched on September 24th, calls on all scholarly publishers to open their abstracts, and specifically to deposit them with Crossref, in order to facilitate large-scale access and promote discovery of critical research.
Making abstracts openly available helps scholarly publishers to maximize the visibility and reach of their journals and books. Open abstracts make it easier for scholars to discover, read and then cite these publications; promotes their inclusion in systematic reviews; expands and simplifies the use of text mining, natural language processing and artificial intelligence techniques in bibliometric analyses; and facilitates scholarship across all disciplines by those without subscription access to commercial bibliographic services.
Many abstracts are already available in various bibliographic databases, but these sources have limitations, for example because they require a subscription, are not machine-accessible, or are restricted to a specific discipline. I4OA thus calls on all scholarly publishers using Crossref DOIs to make their abstracts openly available by depositing them with Crossref. This can be done as part of established workflows that publishers already have in place for submitting publication metadata to Crossref.
As detailed on the I4OA web site at https://i4oa.org, 40 publishers have already agreed to support I4OA and to make their abstracts openly available. I4OA is also supported by 56 other stakeholders including research funders, libraries and library associations, infrastructure providers, and open science organizations, demonstrating the importance and relevance of this Initiative to the scholarly community. The launch press release is available at https://i4oa.org/press.html#pressrelease.
I4OA was inspired by the success of the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC, https://i4oc.org/), which encourages the submission of references to Crossref. Since the launch of I4OC in 2017, over two thousand scholarly publishers have chosen to make the reference lists of their journal articles and book chapters openly available through Crossref. I4OA aims to replicate the success of I4OC by achieving a rapid jump in the open availability of scholarly abstracts via Crossref.