New documents that present OpenCitations’ mission, unique benefits, present status and future plans

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.

After numerous revisions, aided by wise advice from members of the OpenCitations Advisory Board members, we’re now happy to publish the following three OpenCitations documents:

OpenCitations Mission Statement,

The Uniqueness of OpenCitations   and

OpenCitations – Present Status and Future Plans,

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 and financially 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: contact@opencitations.net.

Thank you!

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.

Two years of achievements within the ‘SCOSS family’ (and it’s not over yet!) 

Posted on August 10th 2022 by Chiara Di Giambattista

← Previous post: The OpenCitations Roadmap is now publicly available on Trello

→ Next post: New documents that present OpenCitations’ mission, unique benefits, present status and future plans

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.   

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "Two years of achievements within the ‘SCOSS family’ (and it’s not over yet!) ," in OpenCitations blog, 31/05/2022, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/1529.

OpenCitations and EC funding: OpenAIRE Nexus and RISIS2

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.

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "OpenCitations and EC funding: OpenAIRE Nexus and RISIS2," in OpenCitations blog, 08/03/2022, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/1510.

OpenCitations receives the Open Publishing Award in Open Data

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.”

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "OpenCitations receives the Open Publishing Award in Open Data," in OpenCitations blog, 14/12/2021, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/1464.

Open Access Tage 2021: valuable insights from the libraries in the German-speaking region 

On September 27, OpenCitations’ director Silvio Peroni, together with Niels Stern (DOAB/OAPEN) and James MacGregor (PKP), held the online workshop “How Open Infrastructure Benefits Libraries” during the Open Access Tage 2021. Open-Access-Tage (Open Access Days) are the annual central platform for the steadily growing Open Access and Open Science community from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and are aimed at all those involved with the possibilities, conditions and perspectives of scientific publishing.  

The workshop gathered three of the SCOSS-supported infrastructures to discuss how Open Infrastructures (OIs) could encourage the engagement of university libraries, and how they could be beneficial game-changing alternative to commercial infrastructures. This theme, which was also been presented during the last LIBER conference, was here discussed under a new perspective, by involving the specific case of the libraries from the German-speaking region. Their point of view particularly emerged during the second part of the workshop, during which the participants were divided into two breakout rooms to discuss two questions each. These are the answers and comments that emerged from the discussions.  

1. What would prevent or encourage libraries in the German-speaking region to support open infrastructures? 

The three main concepts held to be crucial in this field were transparency, promotion and governance.  

Transparency: German libraries and public institutions often deal with strict funding limitations relating to donations. It is therefore crucial for OIs (a) to present in a clear way how libraries can get involved and the money needed, (b) to communicate what they do and how they can add value to libraries compared to other services, and (c) to clarify the direct return and benefits on investments. These points would make it easier to recommend OIs internally, especially when people from subject-specific institutions are interested in subject-independent OIs. Point (b) leads to the Promotion issue: Open Infrastructures should promote themselves non only on a global level, by communicating their impact in the open research movement as against non-transparent propitiatory services, but also at a local level, by providing information about the usage (and the value) of their services at an institutional and/or national level. This case-by-case narration (with attention to the specific benefits) would make it easier for the institutions to evaluate the sustainability of the investment. An incentive to donate is being actively involved in the community governance, i.e.through a board membership.  

Nevertheless, is also necessary for libraries to “take courage” when investing in such OIs, and, when possible, to overcome administrative boundaries by forming consortia. Finally, of particular note was a desire to see locally-managed sub-communities that could speak specifically to the German (or whichever) language environment, much as ORCID arranges itself.  

2. Community Governance. What kind of involvement do you want to see, how do you want to be involved? 

Some common problems which prevent the institutions from being involved are (a) a general concern about the fact that negotiations with publishers are typically the main focus of OA discussions – leaving little time to focus on OIs and other open initiatives, and (b) a lack of time, or of guidelines, for evaluating the different infrastructures to invest in. This is why SCOSS was appreciated as an intermediary in the decision process, because of its own rigorous evaluation and selection mechanismThe community-funding approach proposed by SCOSS thus seems to be the preferred way by which to support OIs.  

Regarding community governance, one idea could be to involve interested scholars in the governance of the open infrastructures (with the library acting as an interface between the open infrastructure and the scholars) rather than only involving library staff – although this idea was argued against in the second group, as researchers are often percieved as too busy to be functional in operational infrastructure groups. What also emerged from this second question is an interest in community involvement on different levels, for example as a community of practices or through discussion boards, mailing lists, periodic meet-ups, workshops, newsletters, etc. The community could also be articulated into local sub-communities, as in the successful case of ORCID and ORCID_DE.  

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "Open Access Tage 2021: valuable insights from the libraries in the German-speaking region ," in OpenCitations blog, 07/10/2021, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/1394.

Save the dates: OpenCitations October events 

With the numerous September events in which the OpenCitations’ directors have recently been involved behind us, it is now time to announce the participation of our director Silvio Peroni in two October events. 

On Wednesday 6th, Silvio will take part in the Beilstein OpenScience Symposium 2021 (October 5-7), giving a short presentation “Open Citations, an Open Infrastructure to Provide Access to Global Scholarly Bibliographic and Citation Data” during the Poster Flash Talk Presentation (17:10-18:00 CEST). The Beilstein OpenScience Symposium is an annual event that gathers leaders in the FAIR and Open Data movement, covering a wide range of research fields, including biomedical research, physics and social science, and exploring how open data practices are transforming sectors outside academia. The 2021 online edition will present a series of talks addressing the many ways that data transparency contributes to the research progress. Among them, the poster presentations involve short oral presentations on Wednesday, 6th October, to accompany the posters that will be displayed throughout the entire symposium. Poster abstracts are available in the Abstract Book that can be downloaded on Beilstein Symposium’s website: https://www.beilstein-institut.de/en/symposia/open-science/program/ .

You can register for the event here: https://www.beilstein-institut.de/en/symposia/open-science/registration/

The poster and slides from the presentation are available on Zenodo:

Peroni, S. (2021, October 6). Open Citations, an Open Infrastructure to Provide Access to Global Scholarly Bibliographic and Citation Data—Poster Flash Talk Session slides. Beilstein Open Science Symposium 2021, Virtual Event. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5553025

Peroni, S., Shotton, D. W., & Di Giambattista, C. (2021). Open Citations, an Open Infrastructure to Provide Access to Global Scholarly Bibliographic and Citation Data. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5553040

The second event is the annual European Computer Science Summit (ECSS), organized by Informatics Europe and involving academics, industry leaders, decision makers and others interested in Informatics/Computer Science research and education in Europe. ECSS 2021, “Informatics for a Sustainable Future” (Oct. 25-27), will be held as a hybrid event, involving both online as well as on-site sessions held in Madrid, at the Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte (INEF), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid located at Calle de Martín Fierro, 7

During the last day of the meeting (Oct. 27), Silvio Peroni will be speaking at the “National Informatics Associations Workshop”, an annual workshop organised by Informatics Europe in collaboration with the National Informatics Associations in Europe. This year the workshop will address the themes Informatics in Interdisciplinary Curricula and Research Evaluation in Informatics, thus focusing on an important question: how to recognise, assess and credit research contributions specific to Informatics, such as conference publications and software artefacts. Elaborating on this, Silvio’s talk (to be delivered in person, rather than online!) is entitled “Open citations in Informatics” (9:00 CEST).  

For further information and registrations: https://www.informatics-europe.org/ecss/registration/how-to-register.html

We thank Beilstein Institute and Informatics Europe for involving OpenCitations in these international events, which provide opportunities to promote the OpenCitations infrastructure and services in stimulating environments.

We hope to see you there

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "Save the dates: OpenCitations October events ," in OpenCitations blog, 05/10/2021, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/1383.

Academia’s missing references

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) [3]. 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 [1]. 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.” [4]

I stand by that statement, and, through OpenCitations [5], 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.


WorksReferencesAverage references per work
Total126,627,618

Without references70,477,843
(55.7% of total)


With references56,149,775
(44.3% of total)
1,734,831,31130.9
Open49,274,155
(38.9% of total)
1,605,120,22932.6
Limited2,933,323
(2.3% of total)
66,459,70422.7
Closed3,942,297
(3.1% of total)
63,251,37816.0
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 [3]. 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) [6], 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 [1], 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.

Conclusion

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.

Are you willing to be involved?

References

[1] B. Ian Hutchins et al. (2019). The NIH Open Citation Collection: A public access, broad coverage resource. PLoS Biol. 17 (10): e3000385. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000385

[2] B. Ian Hutchins (2021). A tipping point for open citation data. Quantitative Science Studies 2 (2): 433–437. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_c_00138

[3] 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-019-03217-6

[4] David Shotton (2013). Open citations. Nature, 502 (7471): 295-297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/502295a

[5] Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2020). OpenCitations, an infrastructure organization for open scholarship. Quantitative Science Studies, 1(1): 428-444. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00023

[6] Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2019). Open Citation Identifier: Definition. Figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7127816

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Academia’s missing references," in OpenCitations blog, 23/09/2021, https://opencitations.hypotheses.org/1349.
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search