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

Posted on August 10th 2022 by Chiara Di Giambattista

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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.   

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.  

JISC Open Citations: Wider Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution

One of the biggest challenges faced by modern scientists is information overload. The life sciences are probably the area most affected by it, with almost a million new entries being added to PubMed each year. While on-line publishing and bibliographic search engines have made the problem of finding individual research articles considerably easier, the present scholarly citation system inadequately exposes the knowledge networks that exist within the scientific literature, linking papers, authors and research projects.  Much of the problem stems from the lack of freely available citation data in machine-readable form.

In this Open Access age, it is a scandal that reference lists from journal articles, the core elements of the academic data cycle, are not freely available for use by scholars.   Current citation services are largely restricted to a small number of commercial companies whose valuable products are still insufficiently developed to satisfy all the needs of the academic community.

Google Scholar offers navigation through the citation network, but only in one direction – backwards. Thomson Reuter guards citation data in ISI Citation Index and Web of Knowledge as commercial assets, as does Elsevier for citation data in Scopus, with limited subscription-access search and display capabilities, and no methods for extracting citation data in bulk. Furthermore, they do not characterise the nature of citations between publications.

The value of citation data to the research community has grown as research evaluation has increased in importance. Citation metrics are increasingly used by institutions to establish their research quality, and by funding agencies to determine the effectiveness of their grant spending.

Citation data now need to be recognized as a part of the Commons – those works that are freely and legally available for sharing and reuse – extending the Science Commons / Open Knowledge Foundation philosophy to the world of scientific citation.

If machine-readable citation data for all scholarly publications were to be published freely on the Web, the construction and interrogation of citation networks would become trivially simple, with enormous advantages to scholarship. Thanks to CiteSeerX, citation data in computer science have been freely available for several years,

Similar access is now coming for other fields of scholarship, particularly for the biological sciences through CiteXplore. However, in none of these cases are the citation data available as Linked Open Data, and there are no convenient free tools, accessible to working research biologists, that permit them to visualize and navigate the literature by means of its citation network, or that permit knowledge analysts to pose generic questions over the whole corpus, such as determining whether those who publish in Open Access journals are more prone to cite other Open Access articles, in comparison with those who do not.

This project will produce citation information as Open, Linked Data which will address the short-comings of the current situation, aiming to provide researchers with the tools to explore the citation network.

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