We’re happy to announce the 3rd edition of the Workshop on Open Citations and Open Scholarly Metadata (WOOC2022), to be held online on 5 October 2022 (h. 15-18 CEST).
It has now been two years since the last edition of the Workshop on Open Citations and Open Scholarly Metadata (WOOC2020) took place as an online event. During that event, the virtual format did not constrain an enriching and stimulating debate, fostered by the distinguished voices of the speakers involved.
In the past two years, the Open Science ecosystem has been enriched by growing infrastructures, new projects, and the increasing availability of open scholarly data. OpenCitations itself is now hosting over 1.36 billion open citations. We would like WOOC2022 to re-create a theme-focused virtual space to share updates, thresholds and challenges. Like the last event, WOOC2022 will take the form of a three-hour webinar for researchers, scholarly publishers, funders, policy makers, and opening citations advocates, interested in the creation, reuse, and improvement, of open citation data and open scholarly metadata, with speaker contributions followed by Q&A sessions. The workshop is organized around the following topics:
Reforming research assessment with open citations and open scholarly metadata;
Artificial intelligence to support the extraction and analysis of citations and metadata;
Sustainability of open science infrastructures;
Availability of open citations and open scholarly metadata in scholarly disciplines.
The participation is free of charge and requires no registration. The event will be live-streamed on OpenCitations YouTube channel and it will be possible to interact with the speakers through the YouTube live comments section during the streaming.
During the Workshop on Open Citations and Open Scholarly Metadata, the talks of the distinguished speakers will be divided into four sessions, with one 5-minute break. At the beginning of the Workshop, OpenCitations director Silvio Peroni will acknowledge the selected author’s video contributions, whose links will be made available on the workshop website for engaging with interested parties and encouraging a broader discussion.
15:10 – 15.30 Victoria Moody: Lift, shift and re-use: Repurposing open access in new ways: The possibility (and probable necessity) of ensuring the capability and sustainability of research infrastructure assets through the enhanced deployment of open science approaches, creating new pathways for established approaches and extending their impact.
15:30- 15:50 Alberto Martín-Martín: Managing the scholarly record
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!
We announce the August 2022 release of COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations, which is based on open references to works with DOIs within the Crossref dump dated August 2022. This new release extends COCI with more than 48 million additional citations, giving a total number of more than 1.36 billion DOI-to-DOI citation links.
This release includes citations from the articles published over the last four years by IEEE, whose bibliographic references were opened in June 2022.
A fundamental role in pushing the commercial publishers to open their citation data was played by Crossref’s recent announcement to change its reference distribution policy, by making all its metadata open.
You can find more information about COCI in our open-access article
Ivan Heibi, Silvio Peroni & David Shotton (2019). Software review: COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations. Scientometrics, 121 (2): 1213-1228. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-019-03217-6
Finally, just a reminder that the bibliographic and citation data in COCI:
can be queried using the OpenCitations Indexes SPARQL endpoint;
Posted on August 10th 2022 by Chiara Di Giambattista
More than a year ago, Ginny Hendricks, Director of Member & Community Outreach for Crossref, and a valued member of the OpenCitations International Advisory Board, published on the Crossref blog the post “The road ahead: our strategy through 2025”. In order to describe all Crossref’s principles and activities, Ginny presented the Crossref strategic planning framework as a diagram summarizing Crossref’s statements, key messages and truths. The clarity and immediacy of the diagram were such that we adapted it to present OpenCitations’ own statements and goals. The resulting poster “OpenCitations – what does the future hold?” was presented by our Director David Shotton at the OASPA2021 conference, and can be found in this blog post.
Although the poster offered a wide overview of OpenCitations values, unique traits, benefits and plans, it differed slightly from Ginny’s original diagram, in particular because it lacked a “Mission Statement”, scattering the relevant information within the “Values” and “Principles” boxes. Indeed, at that time (September 2021), we didn’t have a clearly defined Mission Statement.
Nevertheless, the creation of that poster was crucial in helping us start to articulate more clearly the purpose and meaning of OpenCitations. As David underlined in his post “From little acorns…a retrospective on OpenCitations”, since 2018 OpenCitations activities have progressively increased and, with them, the number of related journal articles, conference papers and technical definitions. OpenCitations’ involvement in international networks and collaborations (such as SCOSS and the OpenAIRE-Nexus project), together with our need of identifying and reaching out to new stakeholders to assure OpenCitations’ development and sustainability, has made it necessary to publicly define OpenCitations’ mission, unique strengths and next developmental steps.
which together provide a summary of why we exist and where we are heading.
We are particularly proud of the definition of OpenCitations’ primary mission, namely
“to harvest and openly publish accurate and comprehensive metadata describing the world’s academic publications and the scholarly citations that link them, and to preserve ongoing access to this information by secure archiving.”
The Mission Statement also presents brief descriptions of the OpenCitations context, our vision, our value proposition and our relationship with the community and stakeholders.
The Uniqueness of OpenCitations provides the answer to the question ‘Why choose to use OpenCitations?’, and is a detailed presentation of OpenCitations’ benefits.
OpenCitations – Present Status and Future Plans summarizes OpenCitations’ ongoing activities, that can be quickly visualized on our public roadmap. It also introduces the OpenCitations Working Groups, served by the members of the OpenCitations International Advisory Board, which are currently working on the themes of governance evolution and community building, with the common purpose of driving OpenCitations along the path from being a ‘sustainable infrastructure’ (in POSI terms) to being an enduring community led andfinancially sustained infrastructure.
In fulfilling our mission and reaching our goals, the support and vital interest of our community members is fundamental. We request that you, as a member of our community, provide us with feedback on these documents and the ideas they contain, or indeed to ask for clarifications, to help us improving our mission and our communications to explain it. You can reach us here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "New documents that present OpenCitations’ mission, unique benefits, present status and future plans," in OpenCitations blog, 10/08/2022, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/2498.
In March, The Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS) celebrated, together with the generous funders and the projects involved (including OpenCitations), the achievement of an amazing milestone: a total of 4 million Euros raised so far for supporting the growth and development of Open Science Infrastructures. This significant sum is not just a number, but a concrete sign of the commitment of numerous institutions all over the world to ensure the success of vital organs of the Open Science ecosystem. Thanks to the pledges recently made, the new infrastructures selected for the third SCOSS pledging round have now started developing their services and can now look to the future with more surety.
At the end of 2019, OpenCitations was selected by SCOSS for its second pledging round, and since then much progress has been made. As the OpenCitations’ founder and director David Shotton recently stated:
“OpenCitations is growing, thanks to the generous support from our members and donors, and we thank SCOSS sincerely for bringing us into contact with them. The citation coverage provided by OpenCitations is now approaching parity with that of the leading commercial citation indexes, and our ambition, within the next five years, is for OpenCitations to be routinely used by our worldwide stakeholders as their primary source of comprehensive scholarly citation information”.
In 2020, OpenCitations monitored the achievements of the first year of SCOSS support and shared the most important updates in a blog post. After a review from SCOSS Advisory Group and the SCOSS Board, the OpenCitations 2021 report to SCOSS is now available in the SCOSS May newsletter. We’re proud of the successful developments that 2021 brought with it in many areas, from the technical enhancements to OpenCitations to its new supporters and partnerships.
After a two-year-long collaboration, we in OpenCitations recognise that one of the most precious benefits of being part of SCOSS is working within a community: SCOSS not only provides a framework but also a real family of supportive institutions that support the Infrastructures during their growth and provide a safety net if troubles occur along the path. The bi-monthly meetings organized by the SCOSS team enable dialogue with the other infrastructures within the same pledging round, while presentation and promotion to the institutions worldwide are fostered by participation in webinars and conferences. During 2021, OpenCitations participated in 16 events, and in 5 of them (LIBER Webinar 2021, JISC Webinar 2021, LIBER Annual Conference 2021, Open Science Fair 2021, and Open Access Tage 2021) OpenCitations’ director Silvio Peroni gave talks together with the representatives of others infrastructures involved in the SCOSS second pledging round.
In compliance with the POSI principles, SCOSS encouraged OpenCitations to set up an open governance structure. As described here, the organizational bodies included in the OpenCitations present governance are three: the Directors, the International Advisory Board, and the Council. Although executive power is still currently vested in the hands of the Directors, in the last two years the OpenCitations International Advisory Board, a committee that now comprises nine Open Science experts from different professional and academic backgrounds, has had a crucial role in guiding the OpenCitations activities, and it is now working on strategic developments in terms of collaborations, policies, support and governance. Moreover, last December OpenCitations organized a Webinar in conjunction with its Annual Meeting to present and discuss with the OpenCitations Council members OpenCitations’ recent developments and future plans.
OpenCitations is highly reliant upon the connections we have created and on people working together: thanks to the support we received throughout the last two years, the OpenCitations team has grown and now includes six people employed by the Research Centre for Open Scholarly Metadata at the University of Bologna, the administrative body for OpenCitations. Besides the previously announced appointments of Claudio Fabbri (Research Manager), Chiara Di Giambattista (Communications Director and Community Development Manager), Giuseppe Grieco (Software and Systems Developer), and Arcangelo Massari (Software Developer, working within the OpenAIRE-Nexus project), early in 2022 Ivan Heibi, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bologna, joined OpenCitations with responsibility for the technical infrastructure, and Arianna Moretti, who recently graduated in Digital Humanities and Digital Knowledge, joined as a software developer. This enlarged team, involving young and motivated researchers, is working on numerous projects to be announced later in 2022. You can learn more about OpenCitations’ ongoing activities on our public roadmap.
OpenCitations’ aim continues to be the publication of open data describing the bibliographic citations linking global scholarly publications, with depth and scope, while maintaining the highest standards of accuracy and provenance. Most importantly, OpenCitations services will always be free, making global scholarly citation data available at zero cost and without restriction for third party analysis and re-use.
With its support, SCOSS has been helping OpenCitations to pursue its mission and spread the benefits of Open Science. However, 2022 will be the last year of the three-year-long support ensured by SCOSS. OpenCitations activities won’t stop in 2023 — indeed there still are many long-planned activities that we hope to initiate in the near future, given sufficient resources. This is why OpenCitations requires ongoing support from the scholarly community. All the information you may require to start helping us financially is available on the OpenCitations website: https://opencitations.net/membership
By supporting OpenCitations, you will embrace and sustain the ideals and vision of Open Science, and you will help in creating a more open, democratic and fair knowledge environment.
The OpenCitations Roadmap consists of a board fulfilled with colour-labelled cards which present the goals so far reached, the present projects and activities, and the future plans. By clicking on the cards, it is possible to visualize a description for each activity, the progress state, and who in the OpenCitations team is working on it.
The OpenCitations Roadmap covers all kinds of activities divided according to the scope, identified by the coloured labels, in particular:
light blue for the technical development, such as the development of the software for the creation of the new database OpenCitations Meta and of DOCI, the OpenCitations Index of DataCite open DOI-to-DOI citations, and the re-engineering of the infrastructure and the website;
green for the data model implementation;
yellow for the data development, such as the bi-monthly COCI releases;
purple for the events and outreach activities.
The cards also highlight the activities related to the two EC-funded projects OpenCitations is involved in, OpenAIRE Nexus (blue label) and RISIS2 (orange label). We thank the OpenAIRE team for the help and suggestions during the Roadmap review process.
The OpenCitations Roadmap is an open work in progress that will reflect the developments and growth of OpenCitations. At OpenCitations, we don’t want this Roadmap to be just an online ‘showcase’, but a room in which to share ideas and opinions. We invite you – the members of our community, our stakeholders, the other Open Science actors, researchers, and librarians, and anyone who is interested in OpenCitations activities – to add a comment or a question in the ‘Leave feedback‘ card. This will help us to better understand our strong and weak points, and to stay in touch with the needs and thoughts of the community.
In this way, supplementing the conventional communications channels of email and the social platforms (our blog, Twitter, LinkedIn), the OpenCitations Roadmap will become a new virtual place for dialogue, where you can directly contribute to improve OpenCitations.
The incentives for new OpenCitations innovative solutions
Two years ago, in their canonical 2020 QSS paper on OpenCitations, Silvio Peroni and David Shotton anticipated the creation of the new database, OpenCitations Meta, able to “offer a faster and richer service” by storing bibliographic metadata “in house”. Meta would “avoid duplication of data by efficiently permitting us to keep […] a single copy of the metadata for each of the bibliographic entities involved as citing or cited entities in the different OpenCitations’ citation indexes”, would remove the requirement for potentially slow API calls to external metadata sources such as Crossref and ORCID, and would enable us to index citations involving entities lacking DOIs.
Important synergies to achieve goals
Today, thanks to the recent involvement of OpenCitations in two EC-funded projects, the OpenAIRE-Nexus Project (Horizon 2020 EU funded project, GA: 101017452) and the RISIS2 Project (Horizon 2020 EU funded project, GA: 824091), the development of OpenCitations Meta has commenced, with a planned release date later in 2022.
The OpenAIRE-Nexus project started in January 2021 to embrace and expand the operation of a portfolio of thirteen services, provided by OpenAIRE infrastructure, public institutions, organisations and universities, classified into three portfolios entitled PUBLISH, MONITOR, and DISCOVER. The OpenAIRE-Nexus portfolios focus on the demands of the three main categories of the research lifecycle. Therefore, OpenAIRE-Nexus makes sure such services are integrated to provide a uniform Open Science Scholarly Communication package for the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). Within the OpenAIRE Nexus project there is scope for producing not only support materials (factsheet, guides, video tutorials, demos) but also training sessions where the services in the three portfolios will be showcased, anticipating the EOSC onboarding process. The role of OpenCitations in the project is to provide open bibliographic citations, and interconnect and integrate (and vice versa) functionalities with the OpenAIRE Research Graph and more OpenAIRE-Nexus services such as EpiSciences, OpenAIRE MONITOR) the core component of OpenAIRE infrastructure and services and of the EOSC Resource Catalogue.
Additionally, we are happy to announce our recent involvement in the RISIS2 Project. The Research Infrastructure for Science and Innovation Policy Studies (RISIS) is a project funded by the European Union under a Horizon2020 Research and Innovation Programme. RISIS2 involves 18 partners working together to create and maintain a research infrastructure for the field of Science, Technology, and Industry (STI) Studies, and to build an advanced research community in this field. OpenCitations’ contributions to RISIS2 will include not only the creation of OpenCitations Meta but also the development of a new citation index of open references, the OpenCitations Index of DataCite Open Citations (DOCI), which will be based on the open reference holdings of DataCite and, together with COCI, will be cross-searchable through our unified OpenCitations API.
Lessons learnt so far
A year into the OpenAIRE-Nexus project, we have found that one of the most significant benefits for OpenCitations is our involvement with this wide cooperative network of European research infrastructures, services, and communities, within which we can exchange experiences, ideas, and knowledge, and discuss any challenges and outcomes with our colleagues. More importantly, OpenCitations becomes positioned within the Open Science ecosystem, as a valuable innovative infrastructure with strong proof of integration and interoperable operations. Being part of the OpenAIRE-Nexus team has opened up more future challenges and expectations, and raised the bar for the inclusion of more functionalities of value. Thanks to the dedication of its efficient communication team, OpenAIRE is also helping us by communicating OpenCitations services to additional users and stakeholders, by inclusion within the comprehensive OpenAIRE services catalogue, by releasing an OpenCitations factsheet and by permitting us to present the latest information on OpenCitations through established events (i.e. Open Science FAIR 2022). FAIR and openness of information is our motto, and we strongly promote this through all our activities.
Expanding our team
As announced in our previous blog post “Five reasons why 2021 has been a great year for OpenCitations”, the support we receive from the EU as part of OpenAIRE-Nexus has enabled our recent appointment of Arcangelo Massari, a software developer who is now playing a crucial role in the creation and development of OpenCitations Meta.
As the year 2022 progresses, we look forward to bringing you further information about other new goals for OpenCitations, made possible by the support we receive from our numerous partnerships.
2021 is just behind us. Since January is “the Monday of the months”, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, it’s a good time to take stock of what happened at OpenCitations during the past year.
Among the numerous events, achievements and challenges that 2021 brought with it, we want to highlight five milestones which make us proud to look back:
1. We extended our coverage to well over one billion citations
During 2021, OpenCitations’ largest index COCI (the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations) was able to include for the first time the citation links involving references that had been opened at Crossref by Elsevier and the American Chemical Society, thereby greatly expanding its coverage. The last release of COCI (November 2021) is based on open references to works with DOIs within the Crossref dump dated October 2021, and, as a result, COCI now contains information on more than 1.23 billion citations involving almost 70 million publications. A recent analysis by Alberto Martìn-Martìn (Facultad de Comunicación y Documentación, Universidad de Granada, Spain), published on the OpenCitations Blog in October, shows that the citation coverage provided by OpenCitations is approaching parity with that of the leading commercial citation indexes, Web of Science and Scopus, offering a viable alternative upon which to base open and reproducible metrics of academic performance.
2. OpenCitations team grew
Last summer, we appointed Claudio Fabbri as our Administrator and Research Manager to take responsibility for the day-to-day administrative and financial activities of OpenCitations; Chiara Di Giambattista as Communications Director and Community Development Manager to take care of all communications and community interactions made on behalf of OpenCitations; and Giuseppe Grieco as our new Software and Systems Developer to take charge of technical development related to the OpenCitations services.
Thanks to the support from the OpenAIRE Nexus project, the team has also recently welcomed Arcangelo Massari as our new Software Developer to take care of the development of the new database OpenCitations Meta. We anticipate further appointments during 2022!
Our International Advisory Board met in November, and we thank its members for the valuable advice they provided. The Board will meet again later this month.
3. We participated in many international meetings
During the past year, OpenCitations’ directors Silvio Peroni and David Shotton took part in numerous international conferences, webinars and workshops, including the LIBER Annual Conference 2021, the OS Fair 2021, OASPA 2021 and FORCE2021. These provided excellent opportunities to describe and promote OpenCitations, to reach out to new potential stakeholders, and to discuss with other experts the main themes of our activities and plans as they relate to Open Science.
In 2021, thanks to our involvement in the SCOSS funding campaign and to our commitment to reaching out to the libraries and universities potentially interested in OpenCitations, we gathereda wide international community of stakeholders and supporters around us. We are deeply thankful to the 6 consortia and 56 institutions across the globe which are now supporting us financially, thus making it possible for us to enhance our services and expand our team. You can find the full list of our supporters on the OpenCitations website and in this recent Thank You video:
Additionally, in January 2021, we started our involvement in the EC-funded OpenAIRE Nexus project, bringing us into closer collaboration with our European colleagues and infrastructures, including OpenAIRE. The main aim of the project is to create a framework of services for assisting in publishing research, monitoring its impact, helping promote its discovery, and integrating it into the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) “for the benefit of the open science community worldwide”. In OpenCitations, we’re thrilled to be part of this collaborative project by providing open bibliographic citations as part of the open data components of OpenAIRE and the EOSC.
5. We set the stage for future developments
Thanks to the research grants and the support and endorsement we have received from the international scholarly community, we are now working on a variety of new services, thus setting our goals for the coming years. In particular, we want to enhance OpenCitations partnerships and dialogue with the scholarly community; to collaborate with colleagues to develop new services that will expand our citation coverage, including new OpenCitations indexes of NIH-OCC, of DataCite and of other sources of open references, that will all be searchable through a single API; and to create OpenCitations Meta, our new database that will hold comprehensive bibliographic metadata of the publications involved in our indexes citations, thereby enabling faster query responses and the ability to host citations involving publications lacking DOIs.
“What role does ‘open’ play in making this project special?”
This apparently easy, but not banal, question was asked in the Open Publishing Awards nomination form, and at OpenCitations we prefaced our answer to it by stating “For OpenCitations, ‘open’ is the crucial value and the final purpose.” We consider the free availability of bibliographic citation data to be a necessary condition for the establishment of an open knowledge graph, and believe that having citations open helps achieve a more transparent, accessible and comprehensive research practice.
Since 2019, the Open Publishing Awards, founded and organized by the Coko Foundation and sponsored by OASPA, Crossref and Cloud68.Co, “celebrate software and content in publishing that use open licenses but also, importantly, provide a chance to reflect on the strategic value of openness”. The award judges considered open access projects divided into five categories: Open Publishing Lifetime Contribution, Open Content, Open Publishing Models, Open Source Software and Open Data.
It is in this final Open Data category of the Open Publishing Awardsthat OpenCitations was selected, as an infrastructure that perfectly represents the open principles, from among the few semantic web and linked open data initiatives currently available in the scholarly communication landscape. The award was announced in the Open Publishing Awards Ceremony, during the closing session of the FORCE2021 conference “Joining Forces to Advance the Future of Research Communication” (7-9 December). You can learn more about the Awards and the other projects selected here: https://openpublishingawards.org/results/2021/index.html
The greatest honour for OpenCitations was receiving the following comment given on behalf of the jury panel, which included open source and scholarly communication experts:
“At the time of writing this review, the largest database provided by OpenCitations contains more than 1.23 billion citations. Compiling this database in a license-friendly way is a feat on its own, but combine that with OpenCitations’ persistence (established 11 years ago), their active and consistent involvement with the community, and the number of works that were made possible by their effort (Google Scholar lists 1440 results), it is clear that OpenCitations is one of the fundamental projects in open publishing, specifically in open scientific publishing”.
We are proud and humbled to count the Open Publishing Award in Open Data among the acknowledgements so far received by OpenCitations. Despite the term “award”, the Open Publishing Awards, in fact, don’t aim to proclaim winners, but rather to “shake the hands” of some projects which seem to be following (and tracing) a right path towards a more open knowledge. All the projects awarded help by defining more concretely what “open”means, and at the same time their example encourages awareness on the variety of the open publishing projects, and a reflection about the common values and goals that gather so many different people, institutions and organizations.
Recognizing the commitment to the openness of knowledge and research of the not-for-profit and collaborative projects like OpenCitations is about community, not competition.
As Silvio recently stated:
“OpenCitations is a plural. Together, we are OpenCitations.”
Guest post by Arcangelo Massari, University of Bologna
In this post, Arcangelo Massari, who recently graduated in Digital Humanities and Digital Knowledge under Professor Silvio Peroni at the University of Bologna, shares the results of his master thesis.
A particular problem in information retrieval is that of obtaining data from an evolving dataset, independent of the time at which that item of data was added, changed or removed. To permit such time-independent queries to be performed over evolving RDF datasets, I have developed two new pieces of open source software, time-agnostic-library  and time-agnostic-browser , that are now available from the OpenCitations GitHub repository.
The time-agnostic-library is a Python library to perform live time-traversal queries on RDF datasets. Time-traversal means being agnostic about time: a SPARQL query that is not run on the current state of the collection but over its entire history or over a specified timespan of that history . This tool allows materializations – obtaining all versions of an entity over time, or its status at a given time. Furthermore, SPARQL queries can be performed to get the delta between two or more versions of one or more resources. Thereby, the time-agnostic-library realizes all the retrieval functionalities described in the taxonomy by Fernández et al. .
To complement this query software, the time-agnostic-browser is a web application built on top of the time-agnostic-library to achieve the same results via a graphical user interface.
The primary purpose of these developments is to offer a system for browsing the provenance  of RDF statements across time: who produced them, when, where the information was taken from, and what changes were made compared to the previous state of the resource. Knowledge of such information is essential because data changes over time, either because of the natural evolution of concepts or due to the correction of mistakes. Indeed, the latest version of knowledge may not be the most accurate. Such phenomena are particularly tangible in the Web of Data, as highlighted in a study by the Dynamic Linked Data Observatory, which noted the modification of about 38% of the nearly 90,000 RDF documents monitored for 29 weeks, and the permanent disappearance of 5% of them  (Figure 1).
Additionally, the truthfulness of data cannot be assessed without provenance records and a system to query them. In fact, the truth value of an assertion on the Web is never absolute, as demonstrated by Wikipedia, which in its official policy on the subject states: “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.” . The Semantic Web does not alter that condition, and trustworthiness has to be evaluated by each application by probing the context of the statements . It is a challenging task and thus, in the Semantic Web Stack, trust is the highest and most complex level to satisfy, subsuming all the previous ones (Figure 2).
Notwithstanding these premises, at present the most extensive RDF datasets – DBPedia , Wikidata , Yago , and the Dynamic Linked Data Observatory  – do not use RDF to track changes and record the provenance of such changes. Instead, they all adopt backup-based archiving policies. Some of them, such as Yago 4, record provenance but not changes. As far as citation databases are concerned, OpenCitations is the only infrastructure to implement change-tracking mechanisms and to record full RDF provenance records for each data entity. Among the leading players in this field, neither Web of Science nor Scopus have adopted similar solutions.
In accordance with the OpenCitations Data Model (OCDM) ,a provenancesnapshot is generated by OpenCitations every time a bibliographical entity is created or modified. Each snapshot (prov:Entity) records the responsible agent (prov:wasAttributedTo), the generation time (prov:generatedAtTime), the invalidation time (prov:invalidatedAtTime), the primary source (prov:hadPrimarySource), and a link to the previous snapshot (prov:wasDerivedFrom), using terms from the Provenance Ontology. In addition, OCDM introduced a system to simplify restoring an entity’s status at a given time, by saving the delta between two versions as a SPARQL update query (prov:hasUpdateQuery)  (Figure 3). This approach enables one to restore an entity to a specific timepoint (snapshot) in a straightforward way by applying the inverse operations, i.e., deletions instead of additions, etc.
This solution is concretely used in all the datasets related to the OpenCitations infrastructure, such as COCI, an open index containing almost 1.2 billion DOI-to-DOI citation links derived from the open reference data available in Crossref . It is important to note that this OpenCitations provenance model is generic and reusable in any other context. Since the time-agnostic-library leverages OCDM, it too is generic and can be used for any RDF dataset that tracks changes and provenance as OpenCitations does.
The time-agnostic-library is released under the ISC license and is downloadable through pip . Test-driven development was adopted as a software development process during its creation . It makes three main classes available to the user: AgnosticEntity, VersionQuery, and DeltaQuery, for materializations, version queries, and delta queries, respectively (Listing 1).
All three operations can be performed over the entire available history of the dataset, or by specifying a time interval via a tuple in the form (START, END).
The time-agnostic-browser  is also released under the ISC license and can be run as a Flask application. It is organized into two macro-sections: “Explore” and “Query”. In the former, a text input accepts a URI. By submitting it, the entire history of the corresponding resource is displayed. In the latter, a text area receives a SPARQL query, which is resolved on all dataset states. Its main added value is hiding the triples and the complexity of the underlying RDF model: predicate URIs, as well as subjects and objects, appear in a human-readable format. Moreover, all the entities are displayed as links, providing shortcuts to reconstruct the history of the related resources (Figure 4).
The efficiency of time-agnostic-library was measured with two types of benchmarks , one on execution times and the other on the amount of computer memory (RAM) required by ten different use cases, each repeated ten times to produce significant results and avoid outliers. In light of these benchmarks, time-agnostic-library has proven effective for any materialization. Regarding structured queries, they are swift if all subjects are known or deductible. On the other hand, the presence of unknown subjects in the user’s SPARQL query involves the identification of all present and past entities that satisfy that pattern, and so requires a more significant amount of time and resources. Specifically, all materializations and the cross-version structured query with known subjects required about half a second and about 50 MB of RAM; conversely, with unknown subjects, 581 seconds and 519 MB of RAM are required. It can be concluded that the proposed software can be used effectively in all cases where the subject is known, that is, for any materialization or formulated SPARQL queries without isolated triple patterns containing unknown subjects.
Other software solutions for such problems have been proposed. Table 1 shows the list of available software to perform materializations and time-traversal queries on RDF datasets. As can be observed, time-agnostic-library is the only one to support all retrieval functionalities without requiring pre-indexing processes. This feature makes it particularly suitable for use in scenarios with large amounts of data that often change over time. Moreover, compared to the approach of Im, Lee and Kim  and OSTRICH , the OpenCitations Data Model only requires storing the current state of the dataset, rather than the original one, allowing one to query the latest version, without additional computational effort to first re-create the original version.
Table 1. Comparative between time-agnostic-library and preexisting software to achieve materializations and time traversal queries on RDF datasets. (Scroll right to see Columns 6-8).
The OpenCitations Data Model and the time-agnostic-library software are the pre-requisites that will allow OpenCitations to involve third parties, for example members of staff in academic libraries, in the submission, curation and updating of OpenCitations bibliographic and citation data. At this stage, all entities in COCI have a single snapshot — the one made at the time of creation. However, since these entities may become modified, corrected or enriched over time, it is imperative to have appropriate software tools available for use by curators. With the time-agnostic-library software and its associated time-agnostic-browser, it will be possible for a curator to explore the entire history of the changes within an RDF dataset, to know when they were made, based on which source, and by which responsible agent, thus ensuring the reliability and verifiability of data, and facilitating any necessary further changes.
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