Looking back to look ahead: OpenCitations’ achievements in 2023

The first month of the new year has almost come to an end, and we at OpenCitations have dedicated these weeks after the holiday season to retrace the progress we reached as an open infrastructure throughout 2023, an activity that has become a tradition in the past few years. Looking back to the achievements has proven to be a great practice for our team not only to honour and celebrate the success, but also to visualize the points to focus on to best serve our community when planning future activities. During 2023 we have reached numerous milestones, which can be summarized under the two main topics: technical developments and new connections. 

Technical Developments

1. New sources

At the end of 2022, we had enriched our collection with two more sources, PubMed and DataCite, which were added to Crossref. During 2023 we completed the integration between OpenCitations and the OpenAIRE Graph as concerns open bibliographic and citation data, and in December we included the DOI-to-DOI citation links derived from the Japan Link Center (JaLC). As a result, by the end of 2023, OpenCitations counted almost 2 BILLION open citations available in its collection.

2. A brand-new workflow for an easier consultation

The progressive integration of new sources is one of OpenCitations’ main objectives. However, the recent source increase made it necessary to design a new ingestion workflow to facilitate their management. In November 2023 OpenCitations launched the new workflow, designed to produce just two comprehensive collections: OpenCitations Index, collecting open citation data, and OpenCitations Meta, containing open bibliographic metadata of citing and cited entities involved in citations. This evolution is making it simpler for OpenCitations users to consult the data maintained by our infrastructure without reducing the information content and accuracy.  

New connections 

3. A great event for the community

In October 2023, OpenCitations hosted the Workshop on Open Citations and Open Scholarly Metadata 2023 (WOOC 2023) in the historical location of the University of Bologna. After two online editions, it was exciting to meet in person the researchers, policy makers and service providers who in the past few years have collaborated with OpenCitations in many ways. For two days, almost 80 people from all around the world gathered to discuss the theme “The value of open scholarly metadata for Research Assessment purposes”. The event gave us a picture of a young and enthusiastic research community, aiming to collaborate among different countries to spread the message “Open Science is Better Science”. If you couldn’t attend the workshop, but are interested in the theme, you can find all the presentations from WOOC 2023 on Zenodo. Stay tuned on the WOOC X account and website, we will announce the 2025 edition later in 2024! 

4. New and old partnerships

OpenCitations’ main activities, besides the technical development, are tied to its participation in R&D and funded projects. Since 2019, we have started building a network of collaborations all around the world with institutions which share the same Open Science values. In 2023, our involvement in the SCOSS 2nd funding cycle has come to an end. In the last four years SCOSS has worked as an international showcase for OpenCitations, making it possible for us to get known by many institutions on an international level. We are now proud to keep on collaborating with SCOSS within the SCOSS Family network, a community of practice gathering all the OS infrastructure involved in the SCOSS funding cycles. During 2023, the SCOSS Family was involved in four internal sprints dedicated to planning four actions – collectively advocating the importance of open  infrastructure, communications kit for ‘the post-SCOSS phase’, collective self-assessment towards POSI, and map open science infrastructure ecosystem including SCOSS infrastructures – and the initial outcomes were presented in the Scoss Family Public Webinar 2023. The SCOSS family will continue its activities throughout 2024.

In 2023, we also celebrated the update of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure (POSI), as a result of the work conducted since 2022 with the “POSI-Adopters” group to make the principles clearer and more inclusive. In June, the OpenAIRE-Nexus project, started back in 2021, formally came to an end, with the release of the index of citations from OpenAIRE. OpenCitations is part of the OpenAIRE Catalogue, which also links to the exhaustive and engaging materials we produced within the project. However, we continue to meet the familiar and friendly faces from the OpenAIRE team in the meetings of GraspOS, a project which started in January 2023 involving several European Open Science institutions, services and infrastructures. In GraspOS, OpenCitations is involved as one of the Data Asset Sources, which provides both the raw and the structured data that can be used to directly support OS-aware RRA processes or to calculate indicators or collect evidence that can be of value in these processes. The researchers from OpenCitations and the University of Bologna are contributing to GraspOS by developing a tool for the extraction of citation data from PDFs, enriched with additional information on the reasons for citing (because the citing entity reuses a method described in the cited entity, for agreeing with the claims of the cited entity, etc.) through the implementation of machine-learning systems. Also, together with GraspOS, OpenAIRE, and many other Coalition members, the OpenCitations personnel at the University of Bologna is among the participants of the CoARA Working Group Towards Open Infrastructures for Responsible Research Assessment (OI4RRA), to work on enabling the research community to be in full control of the data and indicators it relies on in assessments. OpenCitations is always seeking interest from new institutions, and we are proud that our visibility is boasted by some reliable catalogues including the OpenAIRE catalogue, the EOSC Marketplace and, from 2023, also the JISC Catalogue. And soon you’ll find us in a new tool – stay tuned to find out!

5. Our way towards sustainability 

OpenCitations is increasingly gaining a prominent role in the community, establishing itself as a key player in changing research evaluation practices towards greater openness and equity. In recent years, OpenCitations has grown a lot both technically and in popularity, and for this we want to thank the number of members and donors who, even in the last year, have decided to support us and believe in our infrastructure. During 2023, our two Internal Working Groups “Governance Evolution” and “Community Building”, thanks to the participation of some members of the International Advisory Board for OpenCitations, reflected on the sustainability of OpenCitations, discussing strategies both at the management and communication level to ensure the integration of new actors into its subsistence. The groups will continue to meet throughout 2024, and some of the results will be released in the coming months. However, there is still a long way to go towards sustainability, and OpenCitations’ existence still relies on community funding, which is why OpenCitations still needs support: if you are looking for more information on why and how to support OpenCitations, you can read our recent call for action here. Thank you! 

6. Enlarging our team 

It is thanks to the support received that OpenCitations was able to develop its yearly activities, and we are happy to announce that in 2023 a new software developer, Elia Rizzetto, and a new PhD student, Francesca Cappelli, have joined our team to make this progress possible. The OpenCitations team now has a total of 12 members, including research fellows, PhD students, MA students, a Reseach Manager, an Assistant Professor and OpenCitations’ Directors. The number is expected to grow soon, as OpenCitations has recently released a call for the hiring of a System Administrator for technical infrastructure management.  

As can be seen from this brief (and detailed) report of some of the developments that have marked our 2023, OpenCitations is increasingly emerging as a community-based and community-guided infrastructure organization, in which there is an indissoluble link between technical progress and the network of people who guide the planning, work on implementation, and use or promote our services. Throughout 2024, OpenCitations aims to focus even more on harmonizing the relationship between the technical infrastructure and the community, developing more intuitive ways of accessing services and communications, and continuing to weave relationships with new research groups. We look forward to seeing what the year ahead will bring with it, and we hope you will continue to be with us.  

OpenCitations’ 2022: one year, numerous outcomes

2023 has arrived, and it’s the time to put aside the old agendas and to fill the freshly printed organizers with new tasks. However, it is also worth looking back over the achievements of the past year.

So, before consigning 2022 to the archives, we want to take a moment to recall and celebrate all that OpenCitations has achieved over the past year, in terms of technical developments, community building, and our own internal organization.

Clarifying our objectives

Since its foundation, OpenCitations has been presented to the scholarly community as a infrastructure organization guided by the values of openness, equity and accessibility. In 2022, we publicly clarified our mission, our aims and our unique points by publishing these three documents:

In addition, we continued to monitor OpenCitations’ compliance with the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure. Because one area in which we were still falling short involved stakeholder involvement in OpenCitations’ governance, in 2022 OpenCitations started reflecting on its organizational structure by creating a Governance Evolution Working Group. In addition, we explored the further development of our stakeholder community by establishing a parallel Community Building Working Group. These two small working groups, involving members of the OpenCitations International Advisory Board, will continue to meet throughout 2023 to develop strategic plans concerning OpenCitations open governance structure and outreach.

More people, more tools

In 2022, OpenCitations welcomed two new full-time developers to its team: Arianna Moretti as software developer, and Ivan Heibi as the person responsible for OpenCitations’ technical infrastructure. As of January 2023, the OpenCitations team consists of our two directors Silvio Peroni and David Shotton, our administrator and research manager Claudio Fabbri, myself as our communications director and community development manager, and our four developers: Giuseppe Grieco (software and systems developer), Arcangelo Massari (developer of OpenCitations Meta), Arianna Moretti (software and indexes developer), and Ivan Heibi (technical infrastructure manager). This team meets weekly at the Research Centre for Open Scholarly Metadata within the University of Bologna.

This enlarged technical workforce has been crucial in the development of the two new OpenCitations indexes, DOCI (citations from DataCite) and POCI (citations from PubMed), and our new database of bibliographic metadata, OpenCitations Meta, all of which were released in December 2022:

  • DOCI, the OpenCitations Index of DataCite open DOI-to-DOI citations, is an RDF dataset containing details of all the citations that are specified in the most recent dump of DataCite metadata. The citations available in DOCI are treated as first-class data entities, with accompanying properties including the citations timespan, modelled according to the OpenCitations Data Model. Its first release (December 2022) contains information on 169,822,752 citations from 358,277 bibliographic resources.
  • POCI, the OpenCitations Index of PubMed open PMID-to-PMID citations, is an RDF dataset containing details of all the citations from publications bearing PubMed Identifiers (PMIDs) to other PMID-identified publications, harvested from the National Institutes of Health Open Citations Collection (NIH-OCC). As for DOCI, the citations available in POCI are treated as first-class data entities, with accompanying properties including the citations timespan, modelled according to the OpenCitations Data Model. Its first release contains 717,654,703 citations from 26,024,862 bibliographic resources.
  • OpenCitations Meta database stores and delivers bibliographic metadata for all the publications involved as citing or cited publications in the citations recorded in the OpenCitations Indexes. For each publication, the metadata exposed by OpenCitations Meta includes the publication’s title, type, venue (e.g. journal name), volume number, issue number, page numbers, publication date, and identifiers such as Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and PubMed Identifiers (PMIDs). In addition, OpenCitations Meta includes details of the main actors involved in the document’s publication, i.e., the names of the authors, editors, and publishers, each with its own additional metadata and identifier (e.g. ORCID). Its first release (December 2022) contains information on 87,321,593 bibliographic entities, 277,750,235 authors and 2,359,301 editors (counted by their roles, without disambiguating individuals), 710,226 publication venues, and 17,268 publishers.

As can be seen on OpenCitations roadmap, we have many tasks already scheduled for 2023, and for this reason OpenCitations team needs to expand further: we now seek applicants for a new Research Fellow position to work on the further development of the OpenCitations technical infrastructure from April 2023.

Our role in the community

Throughout 2022, the OpenCitations team has participated both online and in person in a number of international events, presenting details of OpenCitations to potential stakeholders and to Open Science experts, and connecting with similar organizations.

In October, OpenCitations organized our third workshop, the Workshop on Open Citations and Open Scholarly Metadata 2023, as a three-hour online event, to gather together and connect researchers, publishers and policy makers interested in the creation, reuse and improvement of open citation data and open scholarly metadata. The invited speakers provided a broad overview of the current state and future development of open bibliographic metadata and the scholarly record, and the role of OpenCitations in research assessment.

We have participated in two major European research and development project: In the context of the EC-funded project RISIS2 we released the new database OpenCitations Meta and the index DOCI, while within the OpenAIRE-Nexus project network we continue to provide open bibliographic citations as part of the open data components of OpenAIRE and the European Open Science Cloud. During 2022, the OpenAIRE team supported our activities in many areas, with a particular attention to communication and dissemination, as we explained in our blog post OpenCitations and EC funding: OpenAIRE Nexus and RISIS2.

The end of 2022 brought with it two new exciting collaborations that will be developed during the coming year: the inclusion of OpenCitations in the Jisc Collections, thereby permitting UK institutions to support OpenCitations through JISC; and our involvement in the GraspOS project (starting date January 1, 2023) as an open and trusted federated infrastructure for next-generation research metrics and indicators.

Continuing support

At OpenCitations we are deeply grateful to all our members and donors that have supported us financially so far, thus making it possible to enlarge our team, maintain our technical infrastructure, and work on our new data releases.

Much of our success has been due to our selection as an infrastructure worthy for inclusion in the SCOSS second pledging round in 2019. SCOSS helped us get in touch with a wider community, and enabled OpenCitations to have an increasingly significant role in the research environment. OpenCitations is now part of the SCOSS family, the community of all SCOSS-supported infrastructures, that provides a framework of mutual support for the the Infrastructures during their growth and a safety net should troubles occur along the path.

However, OpenCitations still has a long way to go along the path from being a sustainable open infrastructure to becoming a sustained open infrastructure providing reliable and invaluable services to our global stakeholder community. There are still 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 as our three-year period of SCOSS sponsorship draws to a close. All the information you may require to start helping us financially is available on the OpenCitations website: https://opencitations.net/membership.

2023 has just started. With your support, you can help us in making it an impactful year for OpenCitations and the Open Science community as a whole.

The OpenCitations Enhancement Project – final report

The OpenCitations Enhancement Project
Final report for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Report period: 1st May 2017 – 30 November 2018.
Report written: 30th December 2018


OpenCitations (http://opencitations.net) is a scholarly infrastructure organization dedicated to open scholarship and the publication of open bibliographic and citation data by the use of Semantic Web (Linked Data) technologies, and engaged in advocacy for semantic publishing and open citations [Peroni and Shotton, 2018b]. It provides the OpenCitations Data Model [Peroni and Shotton, 2018d], the SPAR (Semantic Publishing and Referencing) Ontologies [Peroni and Shotton, 2018e] for encoding scholarly bibliographic and citation data in RDF, and open software of generic applicability for searching, browsing and providing APIs over RDF triplestores. It has developed the OpenCitations Corpus (OCC) [Peroni et al., 2017] of open downloadable bibliographic and citation data recorded in RDF, and a system and resolution service for Open Citation Identifiers (OCIs) [Peroni and Shotton, 2018c], and it is currently developing a number of Open Citation Indexes using the data openly available in third-party bibliographic databases.

The Directors of OpenCitations are David Shotton, Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford (david.shotton@opencitations.net), and Silvio Peroni, Digital Humanities Advanced Research Centre, Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies, University of Bologna (silvio.peroni@opencitations.net). We are committed to open scholarship, open data, open access publication, and open source software. We espouse the FAIR data principles developed by Force11, of which David Shotton was a founding member (https://www.force11.org/group/fairgroup/fairprinciples), and the aim of the Initiative for OpenCitations (I4OC, https://i4oc.org), of which both David Shotton and Silvio Peroni were founding members, to promote the availability of citation data that is structured, separable, and open.

Project personnel and roles

Ivan Heibi – Research Fellow

Ivan Heibi was appointed to the 12 months Research Fellowship position funded by the Sloan Foundation.

Ivan has been responsible for the development of new visualization and programming interfaces for exploring and making sense of the citation data included in the OCC and in the new OpenCitations Indexes, for the main part of the scripts related to the population and regular maintenance of COCI (The OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations, the first of the OpenCitations Indexes), and for conference presentations and paper writing.

Silvio Peroni – Lead Applicant and Principal Investigator

Silvio has been responsible for project management, for interview, appointment and supervision of the work of Ivan Heibi, for all aspects of software coding and technical developments required for the OpenCitations Corpus (OCC), the OpenCitations Indexes, and the Open Citation Identifier Resolution Service, for the ordering and management of new Sloan-funded hardware, and for conference presentations, paper writing and other forms of outreach and dissemination (e.g. blog and social networks).

David Shotton – Consultant Co-Investigator

David has been responsible for project management, interaction with publishers, conference presentations, paper writing, other forms of outreach and dissemination (e.g. blog and social networks), for web site and data model revision, and for independent usability evaluation, stress-testing and design feedback of new user interfaces and applications.

Project management

Project management has been straightforward, as should be the case, given the small size of our team. It has involved more than 1500 e-mail exchanges between David Shotton and Silvio Peroni, about 500 e-mail exchanges between Silvio Peroni and Ivan Heibi since November 2017, two dozen or so video conferences, some of which have involved collaborators, and an extended face-to-face meeting during the WikiCite 2017 Conference in Vienna at the start of the project and the Workshop on Open Citations 2018 in Bologna.

We have together harmoniously developed the concept of and vision for OpenCitations as an infrastructure organization, the structure and content of the OpenCitations web site (http://opencitaitons.net), the classes and properties of our supporting SPAR ontologies (http://www.sparontologies.net), and the community of collaborators and users of our developments. This has involved outreach and dissemination at a number of international research conferences, involvement with publishers through the Initiative for Open Citations, and associated publications.

We have studied and preliminarily tested a new scalable architecture centred on one powerful independent physical server, that both stores and handles all the data in the Corpus and in the new OpenCitations Indexes, and also offers adequate performance for query services. This server is supplemented by 30 additional small physical machines, Raspberry Pi 3Bs, working in parallel, each in charge of ingesting a defined set of reference lists and feeding the ingested data to the central server for further processing and storage as RDF in our Blazegraph triplestore.

Current status of the OpenCitations services

Currently, we release two different datasets – the OpenCitations Corpus and COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations – and several interfaces so as to make these data queryable from different access points.

Functionality and holdings

As of 29th December 2018, the OpenCitations Corpus (OCC) contains information about 13,964,148 citation links to 7,565,367 cited resources, ingested from 326,743 citing bibliographic resources obtained from the Open Access corpus of Europe PubMed Central and from the citation data imported from the EXCITE project. The main part of the development effort in the past months has been spent in implementing ingestion strategies that allow partners to provide us citation data, stored according the OpenCitations Data Model [Peroni and Shoton, 2018b], so as to be added directly into the Corpus. In September 2018, we successfully completed the ingestion of the initial data coming from the EXCITE project (citations from social sciences scholarly papers published by German publishers), and we are actively interacting with the LOC-DB project and the Venice Scholar Index so as to add their data to the OCC as well. In ongoing work, we are also collaborating with arXiv and EXCITE to harvest all the references from all PDF documents in the arXiv ePrints collection, to record these in RDF according to the OpenCitations Data Model, and to ingest them into the OpenCitations Corpus, as well as creating a new Index of these citations.

The first of these OpenCitations Indexes is COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations, an RDF dataset containing details of all the citations that are specified by the open references to DOI-identified works present in Crossref, as of the latest COCI update. COCI does not index Crossref references that are closed, nor Crossref references to entities that lack DOIs. These citations are treated as first-class data entities, with accompanying properties including the citations timespan and possible kinds of self-citation characteristics, modelled according to the index data model described in the OpenCitations Indexes page. COCI was launched in July 2018, and the most recent update of COCI is dated 12 November 2018. It presently contains 449,840,503 citations between 46,534,705 bibliographic resources. COCI is the first citation index released by OpenCitations, being a bibliographic index recording citations between publications that permits the user to establish which later documents cite earlier documents, and to create citation graphs of these citations.).

While full coverage of the scholarly citation graph depicted by the aforementioned datasets (or as full as practically possible) is required for the calculation of certain bibliometric indicators such as journal impact factors and individual h-indexes (Hirsch numbers), partial coverage while OCC grows is still of value, since it includes citations of all the most important biomedical papers obtained from the Open Access Subset off PubMed Central. These can be easily recognized by their large number of inward citation links, and can be used to explore the development of disciplines and research trends. In addition, COCI, with its wider scope, has sufficient coverage to be used for large-scale bibliometrics analysis.

Purchase of new hardware, and testing and development of new software

Because of unavoidable academic teaching commitments for Silvio Peroni, the installation of the new Sloan-funded hardware for OCC, purchased in autumn 2017, had to be postponed. All the services (old and new) of OpenCitations were successfully transferred to our new server in October 2018. In order to implement such transition, the ingestion process of the OCC was halted, so as to allow Silvio Peroni to properly test the new hardware and to extend the existing ingestion software so as to be usable within the new parallel processing architecture. The final tests are currently running, and we will recommence the full ingestion process of the OCC using the new hardware configuration, with its greatly enhanced ingest rate, in January 2019. In the meantime, the new infrastructure has been used to allow us to create COCI, so far the largest RDF dataset of open citation data available worldwide.

In addition, we have completed the transition of all the OpenCitations software from the old GitHub repository (i.e. https://github.com/essepuntato/opencitations) to a new GitHub organization, namely https://github.com/opencitations. This organisation includes several repositories which permit third parties to initiate the whole suite of OpenCitations software on a local machine. This is of key importance for the resilience of this open source project.

User interfaces

SPARQL, the query language used to interrogate RDF triplestores, is a quite powerful language. However, one needs appropriate skills with Semantic Web technologies to master it for solving even easy search tasks. Thus normal web users are unable to use appropriately such technologies if not appropriately instructed, leaving all these technologies in the hands of a limited number of experts. The datasets made available by OpenCitations suffered similar issues.

Initially, the goal we had was to develop ad-hoc user interfaces to abstract the complexities of the SPARQL endpoints into well-designed Web interfaces that anyone could use. During the development, though, we thought it would be better to develop generic frameworks for building customizable interfaces that allow one to expose, in a more human-understandable way, RDF data stored in any RDF triplestore and accessible through any SPARQL-endpoint, so as to forster reuse of such software in contexts that, in principle, might go far beyond the OpenCitations domain.

To this end we developed three different open software applications:

  • OSCAR [Heibi et al., 2018a] [Heibi et al., 2018b], a Javascript application for creating textual search interfaces to RDF data;
  • LUCINDA, another Javascript application for creating Web browsers over RDF data;
  • RAMOSE, a Python application that permits one to easily create and serve a conventional HTTP REST API over a SPARQL endpoint.

All these tools provide a configurable mechanism – by means of one single textual configuration file – that allows one to generate Web-based interfaces to any SPARQL endpoint. In practice, these tools are flexible Web-interface makers to RDF data, and as such represent a significant advance available to the entire community.

All these applications have been used to produce several interfaces to all the datasets released by OpenCitations. In particular, we have created user-friendly textual search interfaces (via OSCAR) both for the OCC (see the search box now on the OpenCitations home page, and the related search page) and for COCI (see the related search page). We have additionally developed browsing applications (via LUCINDA) to permit humans an easier navigation of all the entities included in the OCC (e.g. see the bibliographic resource br/1791056) and in COCI (e.g. see the citation oci:02001010806360107050663080702026306630509-02001010806360107050663080702026305630301). Finally, we have also implemented REST HTTP APIs (via RAMOSE) for simplifying the queries to both datasets, the OCC and COCI, by Web developers with no expertise in Semantic Web technologies.

In addition, in order to demonstrate its flexibility, we have also created two web pages using OSCAR, LUCINDA, and RAMOSE for permitting similar tasks (text query, browsing, and REST APIs) on the scholarly data in Wikidata / WikiCite – another project recently funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. These interfaces have been introduced in two distinct event: during the hack day of the Workshop on Open Citations 2018 and during the WikiCite 2018 Conference.

A further prototypical interface / service has been recently proposed so as to try to gather additional open citation data to include in the OCC, involving users of the scholarly domain such as editors and researchers. This application is called BCite [Daquino et al., 2018]. BCite is designed to provide a full workflow for citation discovery, allowing users to specify the references as provided by the authors of an article, to retrieve them in the required format and style, to double-check their correctness, and, finally, to create new open citation data according to the OpenCitations Data Model [Peroni and Shotton, 2018d], so as to permit their future integration into the OCC. While presently only a prototype, we received several commendations for this tool, and we are currently studying funding strategies to develop a full standalone application that can be used by anyone and that allows users to directly interact with the OCC, so as to upload new data into the Corpus.

Open Citation Identifiers

During the reporting period, it became increasingly evident to us that citations deserved treating as First Class Data Entities, which would give the following advantages:

  • All the information regarding each citation would be available in one place.
  • Citations become easier to describe, distinguish, count and process.
  • If available in aggregate, citations become easier to analyze using bibliometric methods, for example to determine how citation time spans vary by discipline.

Four developments were required to make this possible:

  • The metadata describing the citation must be definable in a machine-readable manner.
  • Such metadata must be storable, searchable and retrievable.
  • Each citation must be identifiable, using a globally unique Persistent Identifier.
  • There must be a Web-based resolution service that takes the identifier as input and returns a description of the citation.

To this end, we have achieved:

  • the first requirement by the addition of appropriate classes and properties to CiTO, the Citation Typing Ontology, and by the addition of a new member of the class datacite:ResourceIdentifierScheme in the DataCite Ontology, namely Open Citation Identifier;
  • the second requirement by modifying the OpenCitations Data Model [Peroni and Shotton, 2018d] so that citations can be properly described using these new ontology terms within the OpenCitations Corpus;
  • the third requirement by creating the syntax for this new Open Citation Identifier (OCI) [Peroni and Shotton, 2018c], and enabling the creation of such identifiers, both to specify citations within the OpenCitations Corpus, and also (importantly) to specify citations described in Wikidata (by QIDs) and in Crossref (by DOIs); and
  • the fourth requirement by creating a resolving service for OCIs at http://opencitations.net/oci and additional software (in Python) for retrieving information about a particular citation identified by an OCI.

To date, OCIs have been actively used both in the OCC and in COCI to identify all the citations they contain. In addition, we now plan to create and publish additional OpenCitations Indexes of all the citations DataCite, Wikidata and (of course) the OCC, which we hope will be of great benefit to bibliometricians in their analysis of citation networks, self-citation, etc., and in the calculation of citation metrics. OCIs have been recognised by the EU Project FREYA as unique global identifiers for bibliographic citations.

Collaborations and Users

OpenCitations Data Model

We are collaborating with the following groups and academic projects, both to promote the use of the OpenCitations Data Model (OCDM), and to provide a publication venue for the citation data that they are liberating from the scholarly literature:

  • Matteo Romanello of the Digital Humanities Laboratory at the University of Lausanne is using OCDM for modelling citations of the classical literature within ancient Venetian documents in the context of the Venice Scholar Index, and is currently working on producing a dataset of citation data compliant with OCDM so as to be ingested in the OCC.
  • Two DFG-funded German projects that are extracting citations from Social Science publications:
    • The Linked Open Citations Database (LOC-DB) at the University of Mannheim is using OCDM to model their data, with the aim of producing them accordigly with such model so as to be ingested in the OCC.
    • Steffen Staab (University of Koblenz) and Philipp Mayr (GESIS) are running the EXCITE Project, which uses OCDM to model their citation data, and already adopted the OCC as their publication platform. In fact, in September 2018, ~1 million citations coming from the EXCITE Project were successfully ingested in the OCC.
  • Sergey Parinov is technically leading CitEcCyr, which is an open repository of citation relationships obtained from research papers in the Russian language and Cyrillic script. This project intends to model its citations using the OCDM, and will use the OpenCitations Corpus as its publication platform.

Users of OpenCitations data

The following project and organizations have let us know that they are using data from the OCC and COCI:

  • Wikidata includes alignments between several bibliographic entries with OCC resources;
  • OpenAIRE imported OCC metadata about articles into their LOD database;
  • Daniel Ecer and Lisa Knoll of eLife performed analytics on the OCC data;
  • Ontotext demonstrated SPARQL query federation between Springer Nature LOD and OCC;
  • Anna Kamińska published a bibliometrics case study of PLOS ONE articles in OCC;
  • Daniel Himmelstein processed OpenCitations data to create DOI-to-DOI citation tables;
  • Thiago Nunes and Daniel Schwabe are using OCC to exemplify their XPlain framework;
  • Antonina Dattolo and Marco Corbatto are using the OCC as source for VisualBib framework;
  • Nees Jan van Eck and Ludo Waltman extended VOSviewer so as to use data in the OCC + COCI, that will be officially published in the next release of the tool;
  • Barney Walker developed Citation Gecko, a graph-based citation discovery tool based on the OCC and COCI for retrieving citation data about the papers;
  • Philipp Zumstein developed a Zotero plugin that gives information about open citations using COCI;
  • Dominique Rouger developed a Web application that provides a visual graph representation of citation links in COCI.

Website statistics

From May 2017 to November 2018, the official OpenCitations website has been accessed ~5.8M times – we have excluded from this list the hits done by well-known spiders and crawlers. It is worth mentioning that the pages related to the data available and the services for querying them (i.e. “/corpus”, “/sparql”, and “/index” in the following diagram) have together gained a very high percentage of the overall accesses, showing that the main reason people access the OpenCitations website is to explore and use the data in the OCC and in COCI. It is also clear how the introduction of COCI brought additional accesses to the OpenCitations services, and the trend is increasing – e.g. in December 2018 (not shown in the following diagram) we got more than 200M accesses to “/index”, mainly related to the use of the COCI REST APIs.

Community outreach

From May 2017 to November 2018, the documents (i.e. [Peroni and Shotton, 2018b] [Peroni and Shotton, 2018c] [Peroni and Shotton, 2018d]) and the dumps of the OCC and of COCI available on Figshare (see http://opencitations.net/download) have been viewed 37,960 times and downloaded 3,842 times. The figure below summarizes how many views and downloads such resources have received month by month. For example, the latest version of COCI in CSV has been downloaded 239 times since its release in November (see https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6741422.v3).

In the past nineteen months, the posts published by the official Twitter account of OpenCitations have been engaged by 599,200 distinct Twitter accounts, the Twitter profile (@opencitations) has been visited 12,719 times and has been mentioned in 565 tweets written by others, and it has collected an additional 1,925 followers. The diagram below shows all these statistics month by month.

Although we made relatively few new blog posts in the reporting period (there have been twenty more since then), from May to November 2018, the blog dedicated to OpenCitations (http://opencitations.wordpress.com) received 19,454 visits by 15,184 distinct users. As shown in the diagram below, the biggest peaks in terms of visits has been in July 2018 (the month when we launched COCI) and in September 2018 (the month of the Workshop on Open Citations).

Users of the SPAR Ontologies

The SPAR Ontologies [Peroni and Shotton, 2018e] are in use by about 40 other projects and organizations, including:

  • The United States Global Change Information System, which encodes federal information relating to climate change, makes extensive use of SPAR ontology terms.
  • The United Nations Document Ontology (UNDO) has been specifically aligned with FaBiO.
  • Wikidata has many classes that have been alighted with FaBiO or CiTO.
  • DBPedia’s DataID ontology uses the FaBiO and DataCite ontologies.
  • W3C’s Data on the Web Best Practices: Dataset Usage Vocabulary uses SPAR Ontologies.

For the full list, see http://www.sparontologies.net/uptake.

To date, as far as we are aware, more than 677 papers have been published that cite or use one or more of the SPAR ontologies. For the full list, see http://www.sparontologies.net/uptake#publications.

OpenCitations and the Initiative for Open Citations

OpenCitations and the Initiative for Open Citations, despite the similarity of title, are two distinct organizations. The primary purpose of OpenCitations is to host and build the OpenCitations Corpus (OCC) and the OpenCitations Indexes, as long as additional service to browse, query, and analyse citation data. In contrast, the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC, https://i4oc.org) is separate and independent organization, whose founding was spearheaded by Dario Taraborelli of the WikiMedia Foundation. OpenCitations is one of several founding members of the Initiative for Open Citations, as documented at https://i4oc.org/#founders. I4OC is a pressure group to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data, but does not itself host citation data.

Because open reference lists are necessary for the population of OCC, we at OpenCitations have devoted considerable effort to promoting I4OC’s aims, and we host the I4OC web site on behalf of that community.

Within a short space of time, I4OC has persuaded most of the major scholarly publishers to open their reference lists submitted to Crossref, so that the proportion of all references submitted to Crossref that are now open has risen from 1% to over 50%. These are now available for OpenCitations to harvest into the OpenCitations Corpus and publish in RDF, as well as for others to harvest and use as they wish [Shotton, 2018].

Publications during the reporting period

Scholarly papers

Marilena Daquino, Ilaria Tiddi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). Creating Open Citation Data with BCite. In Emerging Topics in Semantic Technologies – ISWC 2018 Satellite Events: 83-93. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-894-5-83, OA at http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-2184/paper-01.pdf

Ivan Heibi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). Enabling text search on SPARQL-endpoints through OSCAR. Submitted for publication to Data Science – Methods, Infrastructure, and Applications. OA at at https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/papers/oscar-datascience2019/

Ivan Heibi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). OSCAR: A Customisable Tool for Free-Text Search over SPARQL Endpoints. In Semantics, Analytics, Visualization – 3rd International Workshop, SAVE-SD 2017, and 4th International Workshop, SAVE-SD 2018, Revised Selected Papers: 121-137. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-01379-0_9, OA at https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/papers/oscar-savesd2018.html

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). OpenCitations: enabling the FAIR use of open citation data. In Proceedings of the GARR Conference 2017 – The data way to Science – Selected Papers. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26314/GARR-Conf17-proceedings-19

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). The SPAR Ontologies. In Proceedings of the 17th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2018): 119-136. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-00668-6_8

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton, Fabio Vitali (2017). One year of the OpenCitations Corpus: Releasing RDF-based scholarly citation data into the Public Domain. In Proceedings of the 16th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2017): 184-192. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68204-4_19, OA at https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/papers/oc-iswc2017.html

David Shotton (2018). Funders should mandate open citations. Nature 553: 129. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-00104-7

Additional documents

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). Open Citation: Definition. Figshare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6683855.v1

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). Open Citation Identifier: Definition. Figshare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7127816.v1

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). The OpenCitations Data Model. Figshare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3443876.v5

Blog posts

6 May 2017: Querying the OpenCitations Corpus

15 May 2017: The Sloan Foundation funds OpenCitations

24 Nov 2017: Milestone for I4OC – open references at Crossref exceed 50%

24 Nov 2017: Elsevier references dominate those that are not open at Crossref

28 Nov 2017: Openness of non-Elsevier references

9 Jan 2018: The new Crossref reference distribution policy

9 Jan 2018: Barriers to comprehensive reference availability

15 Jan 2018: Funders should mandate open citations

16 Jan 2018: Oxford University Press opens its references!

29 Jan 2018: OpenCitations and the Initiative for Open Citations: A Clarification

19 Feb 2018: Citations as First-Class Data Entities: Introduction

22 Feb 2018: Citations as First-Class Data Entities: Citation Descriptions

25 Feb 2018: Citations as First-Class Data Entities: The OpenCitations Data Model

4 Mar 2018: Citations as First-Class Data Entities: The OpenCitations Corpus

12 Mar 2018: Citations as First-Class Data Entities: Open Citation Identifiers

15 Mar 2018: Citations as First-Class Data Entities: The Open Citation Identifier Resolution Service

23 Mar 2018: Early adopters of the OpenCitations Data Model

17 Apr 2018: Workshop on Open Citations

12 Jul 2018: COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI references

19 Nov 2018: New release of COCI: 450M DOI-to-DOI citation links now available

Conference presentations and other outreach

Workshop on Open Citations 2018

OpenCitations, the EXCITE Project and Europe PubMed Central ran the first Workshop on Open Citations (Twitter: @workshop_oc) at the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy, on 3-5 September 2018. It was organised as follows:

  • Day One and Day Two: Formal presentations and discussions on the creation, availability, uses and applications of open bibliographic citations, and of bibliometric studies based upon them;
  • Day Three: A Hack Day on Open Citations to see what services can be prototyped using large volumes of open citation data.

The workshop involved 60 participants, including researchers, computer scientists, scholarly publishers, academic administrators, research funders and policy makers. The workshop was organised around the following topics:

  • Opening up citations: Initiatives, collaborations, methods and approaches for the creation of open access to bibliographic citations;
  • Policies and funding: Strategies, policies and mandates for promoting open access to citations, and transparency and reproducibility of research and research evaluation;
  • Publishers and learned societies: Approaches to, benefits of, and issues surrounding the deposit, distribution, and services for open bibliographic metadata and citations;
  • Projects: Metrics, visualizations and other projects. The uses and applications of open citations, and bibliometric analyses and metrics based upon them.

All the sessions were recorded and are available on the official YouTube channel of the University of Bologna, and are linked (together with slides) at the website of the workshop – https://workshop-oc.github.io.

A further Workshop on Open Citations is being planned for autumn 2019.


We have made conference presentations on OpenCitations, the Initiative for Open Citations, and Open Citation Identifiers at the following international conferences and workshops:

WikiCite Conference 2017, Vienna, 23 May 2017, https://www.slideshare.net/essepuntato/opencitations (Silvio Peroni and David Shotton)

COASP 9, 9th Conference of Open Access Scholarly Publishing, Lisbon, 20 September 2017, https://www.slideshare.net/essepuntato/the-initiative-for-open-citations-and-the-opencitations-corpus (David Shotton)

SemSci 2017, 1st International Workshop on Enabling Open Semantic Science, Vienna, 21 October 2017, https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/presentations/the-open-citations-revolution.html (Silvio Peroni)

ISWC 2017, 16th International Semantic Web Conference, Vienna, 24 October 2017, https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/presentations/oc-iswc2017.html (Silvio Peroni)

FORCE 2017, Research Communication and e-Scholarship Conference, Berlin, 27 October 2017, http://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/presentations/oc-force2017.html (Silvio Peroni)

Linked Open Citation Database (LOC-DB) Workshop, Mannheim, 7 November 2017, https://locdb.bib.uni-mannheim.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Shotton-LOC-DB-Mannheim.pdf (David Shotton)

GARR Conference 2017, Venice, 16 November 2017, https://www.eventi.garr.it/it/documenti/conferenza-garr-2017/presentazioni-2/232-conf2017-presentazione-peroni/file (Silvio Peroni)

OpenCon 2017, Oxford, 1 December 2017, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5844981.v1 (David Shotton)

PIDapalooza Conference of Persistent Identifiers, Girona, 24 January 2018, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5844972.v2 (David Shotton)

2018 International Workshop on Semantics, Analytics, Visualisation: Enhancing Scholarly Dissemination, Lyon, 24 April 2018, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7531577.v1 (Ivan Heibi)

Workshop on Open Citations 2018, Bologna, 3 September 2018, https://workshop-oc.github.io/presentations/D1S3_David_Shotton.pdf (David Shotton)

Workshop on Open Citations 2018, Bologna, 4 September 2018, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1mybQmjhFY6kLtTE1TdONaxsl0nSjmRGOSCnFMTwfzWQ/edit?usp=sharing (Silvio Peroni)

The 5th Conference on Scholarly Publishing in the Context of Open Science (PUBMET 2018), Zadar, 20 September 2018, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7110653.v3 (Silvio Peroni)

The 17th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2018), Monterey, 12 October 2018, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7151759.v1 (Silvio Peroni)

WikiCite Conference 2018, Berkeley, 27 November 2018, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7396667.v1 (Ivan Heibi)

A further presentation on Open Citation Identifiers will be given at the 2019 PIDapalooza Conference of Persistent Identifiers in Dublin in January 2019.


We have tweeted about the project and related matters under the names @opencitations, @dshotton, @essepuntato, @ivanHeiB, @workshop_oc, and @i4oc_org.

Future sustainability

While presently the OpenCitations Corpus has only partial coverage, our aim is that OpenCitations should become a comprehensive source of open citation information from all disciplines of scholarly endeavour, used on a daily basis by scholars worldwide, to equal or better the commercial offerings from Clarivate Analytics (Web of Science) and Elsevier (Scopus).

We also wish to develop effective graphical user interfaces to explore the citation network, and analytical tools over our open data. Since the OCC and COCI data are all open and available for others also to build such tools, we anticipate that such developments will best be undertaken collaboratively, under some open community organization, and indeed such development is currently being undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from CWTS at the University of Leiden, famous for their development of VOSviewer.

In order to fully support open scholarship, OpenCitations need to mature from being an academic research and development project to become a recognised scholarly infrastructure service such as PubMed. We wish to avoid becoming a commercial company, and see our development better served by being ‘adopted’ by a major established scholarly institution such as national or university library or an internationally recognised centre providing scholarly bibliographic services, that has already shown a commitment to open scholarship, where the interaction between that institution and OpenCitations would be mutually beneficial. To this end, we are currently in the mid-phase of negotiations with two institutions.


The grantees wish to express their deep gratitude to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for financial support enabling them to undertake the OpenCitations Enhancement Project, without which the rapid developments reported here would not have been possible.


Marilena Daquino, Ilaria Tiddi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018). Creating Open Citation Data with BCite. In Emerging Topics in Semantic Technologies – ISWC 2018 Satellite Events: 83-93. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-894-5-83, OA at http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-2184/paper-01.pdf

Ivan Heibi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018a). Enabling text search on SPARQL-endpoints through OSCAR. Submitted for publication to Data Science – Methods, Infrastructure, and Applications. OA at at https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/papers/oscar-datascience2019/

Ivan Heibi, Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018b). OSCAR: A Customisable Tool for Free-Text Search over SPARQL Endpoints. In Semantics, Analytics, Visualization – 3rd International Workshop, SAVE-SD 2017, and 4th International Workshop, SAVE-SD 2018, Revised Selected Papers: 121-137. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-01379-0_9, OA at https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/papers/oscar-savesd2018.html

Silvio Peroni, Alexander Dutton, Tanya Gray, David Shotton (2015). Setting our bibliographic references free: towards open citation data. Journal of Documentation, 71: 253-77. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-12-2013-0166, OA at http://speroni.web.cs.unibo.it/publications/peroni-2015-setting-bibliographic-references.pdf

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018a). OpenCitations: enabling the FAIR use of open citation data. In Proceedings of the GARR Conference 2017 – The data way to Science – Selected Papers. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26314/GARR-Conf17-proceedings-19

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018b). Open Citation: Definition. Figshare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6683855.v1

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018c). Open Citation Identifier: Definition. Figshare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7127816.v1

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018d). The OpenCitations Data Model. Figshare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3443876.v5

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton (2018e). The SPAR Ontologies. In Proceedings of the 17th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2018): 119-136. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-00668-6_8

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton, Fabio Vitali (2016a). Building Citation Networks with SPACIN. Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management – EKAW 2016 Satellite Events, EKM and Drift-an-LOD, Revised Selected Papers: 162-166. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-58694-6_23, OA at https://w3id.org/oc/paper/spacin-demo-ekaw2016.html

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton, Fabio Vitali (2016b). Freedom for bibliographic references: OpenCitations arise. In Proceedings of 2016 International Workshop on Linked Data for Information Extraction (LD4IE 2016): 32-43. http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-1699/paper-05.pdf

Silvio Peroni, David Shotton, Fabio Vitali (2017). One year of the OpenCitations Corpus: Releasing RDF-based scholarly citation data into the Public Domain. In Proceedings of the 16th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2017): 184-192. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68204-4_19, OA at https://w3id.org/people/essepuntato/papers/oc-iswc2017.html

David Shotton (2013). Open citations. Nature, 502: 295-297. https://doi.org/10.1038/502295a

David Shotton (2018). Funders should mandate open citations. Nature 553: 129. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-00104-7

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