Five reasons why 2021 has been a great year for OpenCitations

2021 is just behind us. Since January is “the Monday of the months”, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote[1], it’s a good time to take stock of what happened at OpenCitations during the past year.

Among the numerous events, achievements and challenges that 2021 brought with it, we want to highlight five milestones which make us proud to look back:

1. We extended our coverage to well over one billion citations

During 2021, OpenCitations’ largest index COCI (the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations) was able to include for the first time the citation links involving references that had been opened at Crossref by Elsevier and the American Chemical Society, thereby greatly expanding its coverage. The last release of COCI (November 2021) is based on open references to works with DOIs within the Crossref dump dated October 2021, and, as a result, COCI now contains information on more than 1.23 billion citations involving almost 70 million publications.
A recent analysis by Alberto Martìn-Martìn (Facultad de Comunicación y Documentación, Universidad de Granada, Spain), published on the OpenCitations Blog in October, shows that the citation coverage provided by OpenCitations is approaching parity with that of the leading commercial citation indexes, Web of Science and Scopus, offering a viable alternative upon which to base open and reproducible metrics of academic performance.

2. OpenCitations team grew

Last summer, we appointed Claudio Fabbri as our Administrator and Research Manager to take responsibility for the day-to-day administrative and financial activities of OpenCitations; Chiara Di Giambattista as Communications Director and Community Development Manager to take care of all communications and community interactions made on behalf of OpenCitations; and Giuseppe Grieco as our new Software and Systems Developer to take charge of technical development related to the OpenCitations services.

Thanks to the support from the OpenAIRE Nexus project, the team has also recently welcomed Arcangelo Massari as our new Software Developer to take care of the development of the new database OpenCitations Meta. We anticipate further appointments during 2022!

Our International Advisory Board met in November, and we thank its members for the valuable advice they provided. The Board will meet again later this month.

3. We participated in many international meetings

During the past year, OpenCitations’ directors Silvio Peroni and David Shotton took part in numerous international conferences, webinars and workshops, including the LIBER Annual Conference 2021, the OS Fair 2021, OASPA 2021 and FORCE2021. These provided excellent opportunities to describe and promote OpenCitations, to reach out to new potential stakeholders, and to discuss with other experts the main themes of our activities and plans as they relate to Open Science.

The year ended with a bang, with the announcement during the closing session of FORCE2021 that the 2021 Open Publishing Award for Open Data had been awarded to OpenCitations.

4. We received a world of support

In 2021, thanks to our involvement in the SCOSS funding campaign and to our commitment to reaching out to the libraries and universities potentially interested in OpenCitations, we gathered a wide international community of stakeholders and supporters around us. We are deeply thankful to the 6 consortia and 56 institutions across the globe which are now supporting us financially, thus making it possible for us to enhance our services and expand our team. You can find the full list of our supporters on the OpenCitations website and in this recent Thank You video:

Additionally, in January 2021, we started our involvement in the EC-funded OpenAIRE Nexus project, bringing us into closer collaboration with our European colleagues and infrastructures, including OpenAIRE. The main aim of the project is to create a framework of services for assisting in publishing research, monitoring its impact, helping promote its discovery, and integrating it into the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) “for the benefit of the open science community worldwide”. In OpenCitations, we’re thrilled to be part of this collaborative project by providing open bibliographic citations as part of the open data components of OpenAIRE and the EOSC.

5. We set the stage for future developments

Thanks to the research grants and the support and endorsement we have received from the international scholarly community, we are now working on a variety of new services, thus setting our goals for the coming years. In particular, we want to enhance OpenCitations partnerships and dialogue with the scholarly community; to collaborate with colleagues to develop new services that will expand our citation coverage, including new OpenCitations indexes of NIH-OCC, of DataCite and of other sources of open references, that will all be searchable through a single API; and to create OpenCitations Meta, our new database that will hold comprehensive bibliographic metadata of the publications involved in our indexes citations, thereby enabling faster query responses and the ability to host citations involving publications lacking DOIs[2].

[1] F. Scott Fitzgerald (2002). The beautiful and damned (page 50 in the original 1922 edition); United Kingdom: Dover Publications. https://www.google.it/books/edition/The_Beautiful_and_Damned/-tUoAwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0

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

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.  

OpenCitations at LIBER Annual Conference 2021: ‘How Can Open Infrastructures Support the Role of Research Libraries?’

For the second year, OpenCitations has taken part in the LIBER annual conference.  LIBER (Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche – Association of European Research Libraries) is a network that gathers 440 research libraries, based in more than 40 countries all over the world, with the mission of supporting Europe’s research libraries by highlighting their value to policymakers, providing resources and training, and forming valuable partnerships. 

Since 1951, the LIBER Annual Conference is a key event for the entire network, a keenly anticipated meeting for research library professionals whose mission is “to identify the most pressing needs for research libraries, and to share information and ideas for addressing those needs”. Due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions, the 50th LIBER meeting (23-25 June 2021) was held online, as was the 2020 meeting, with digital co-hosting by the University of Belgrade Library in Serbia. The online-showcase format, however, didn’t constrain the creation of a vital virtual square, fostered by the voices of 70 speakers. The main theme of the conference, “Libraries and Open Knowledge: from vision to implementation” was deepened in 12 parallel sessions.

Professor Silvio Peroni, Director of OpenCitations, participated in Session #5 ‘How Can Open Infrastructures Support the Role of Research Libraries?’ with a presentation dedicated to the benefits of Open Infrastructures for libraries, dialoguing with James MacGregor (interim Managing Director of the Public Knowledge Project), Joanna Ball (Head of Roskilde University Library), and Niels Stern (director of OAPEN and co-Director of DOAB).  

The session, chaired by Maaike Napolitano (National Library of the Netherlands) opened with a presentation by Fidan Limani (Research assistant at ZBW– Leibniz Information Centre for Economics) about the integration of scholarly artifacts from the domain of economics using Knowledge Graphs (KG), and the creation of a network of entities describing objects of interest and connections, while keeping a library perspective. The use of citation links connecting datasets and citations, and the adoption of ontologies and data exportation in RDF would facilitate a possible beneficial collaboration between ZBW and Open Infrastructures such as OpenCitations (whose data is itself in the form of a Knowledge Graph). 

OpenCitations also shares some common features with the other Open Infrastructures described in the second presentation: the financial support from SCOSS project; the community-based approach; and their promising value for libraries and the entire scholarly community.  

OpenCitations is an independent not-for-profit infrastructure organization dedicated to open scholarship and the publication of open bibliographic and citation data by the use of Semantic Web (Linked Open Data) technologies, engaged in advocacy for open citations and open bibliographic metadata, as a founding member of both the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) and the Initiative for Open Abstracts (I4OA). It provides data containing more than 7 hundred million citations that the community can use for any purpose. Such data can be crucial as a vehicle for use in national and international research evaluation exercises to make such activities more transparent and reproducible as compared to other proprietary services. Librarians can use OC citation data (e.g., via our REST API) to enhance or develop tools to support their authors, researchers, students, institutional administrators in different kind of contests, for instance by providing metrics to monitor research at your institution and by improving the discoverability of research products such as publications and data. 

OAPEN is a no-profit foundation dedicated to increase the discoverability of open access books and trust around them. They are running three Open-Source platforms enabling open access to books:  the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) – a freely available basic indexing service easy integrable within library catalogues; OAPEN Library – a publication platform dedicated to hosting, preserving and distributing books; OAPEN OA Books Toolkit – public information resource for authors to build trust around open-access books. 

PKP (Public Knowledge Project) is a software and library project, consisting of three applications (Open Journal System, Open Pre-printer System and Open Monograph Press).  

The dialogue during this LIBER session wasn’t a mere presentation of these projects and their technical properties: the speakers emphasized the importance of ensuring the participation and the engagement of the stakeholder community, pointed out the crucial value of the support received – not only financial – from Research Libraries, and discussed how such Open Infrastructures can be beneficial for libraries. 

How can libraries support Open Infrastructures? And what role do they play in a long-term solution? According to Joanna Ball, from a librarian perspective, it’s not only a who-benefits-whom problem, but it’s more about finding a “third way, about developing mutually beneficial partnerships, and going beyond the traditional way of approaching things so that we can really play to each other’s strengths.” 

This approach is fully aligned with OpenCitations’ intentions. As Silvio Peroni underlined, in most of cases the active collaboration between Open Infrastructures and libraries is not only about the financial support, but in cooperatively reach a common goal. In particular, “if infrastructures like OpenCitations provide appropriate and easy-to-use interfaces and tools that allow librarians to contribute appropriate bibliographic metadata, and if librarians are willing to enter such metadata from their own records, libraries may become a significant reliable source of this kind of information”. The result of such a ‘crowd-sourced’ entry of bibliographic metadata by libraries would be an enrichment of the overall global open knowledge graph made available through citational links.  

In the last presentation, dedicated to two services provided by OPERAS, Emilie Blotière, (CNRS) and Tiziana Lombardo (Net7) reiterated the value of scholarly communication. COESO and GO TRIPLE, funded by the European Commission, aim in fact to create a persistent dialogue in the Social Sciences and Humanities community, by tackling the fragmentation and becoming a meeting point among different communities.  

What emerged from the session is the importance of communication, cooperation and networking between Open Infrastructures and Libraries, and this is a message that perfectly matches with the core values of LIBER, collaboration and inclusivity. The next LIBER annual conference is scheduled for June 2022 in Odense, hopefully recreating the physical and enthusiastic gathering of the previous meetings.  

You can find the recording of the full session here: LIBER 2021 Session #5: How Can Open Infrastructures Support the Role of Research Libraries? 

You can find the slides of the session on Zenodo.

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