Find OpenCitations on Infra Finder, a new tool to discover and support Open Infrastructures

If you are a leader of a Library or a Research Institution and would like to learn more about the existing open infrastructures that could help your institution to evolve in the research environment, but you don’t know where to look for, you can now use Infra Finder, a brand-new tool aimed at foster discovery, adoption, and investment for open infrastructure services. Infra Finder is launched by Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI), and is designed to be the go-to resource for anyone navigating the complex landscape of infrastructure services and standards enabling open research and scholarship. 

The tool stems from the feedback collected from the community after the launch, in 2022, of the Catalog of Open Infrastructure Services pilot project in 2022, from which IOI decided to re-envision what outcomes they could affect and rethink what solutions could look like, also by furthering the Open Science principles conveyed by UNESCO’s Recommendation on Open Science, the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure, and other Open Science initiatives and guidelines.  

We are happy to announce that OpenCitations is among the 56 infrastructures which have accepted IOI’s invitation to be included in this first release of Infra Finder. During its development, IOI team has been constantly collecting feedback from the infrastructures involved, and has conducted user testing to understand how different people might approach it. In OpenCitations we believe that Infra Finder could serve as an helpful tool to make OpenCitations and the other infrastructure services more visible to a wider and diverse community. Infra Finder allows users to easily find and compare the catalogued services, and its intuitive use could work as a starting point towards the creation of a greater awareness of existing open infrastructures, thus leading users to further explore their features and services and, hopefully, to consider the possibility of support their sustainability. 

IOI is currently planning to include new services in Infra Finder: if you are part of an organization that would like to be included, you can apply by filling out their Expression of Interest form. IOI will give two identical webinars to share with the community more details about the background and features of Infra Finder and on how interested infrastructure services can express interest in being listed. Register here to the either slot:  

May 2, 2024, 1600 UTC / 12pm Eastern 

May 3, 2024, 1400 UTC / 10am Eastern (in your time zone) 

The IOI blog post for the launch is available at https://investinopen.org/blog/infra-finder-your-hub-for-finding-infrastructure-services-enabling-open-research-and-scholarship  

OpenCitations supports the Barcelona Declaration on Open Research Information for a fundamental transformation in the research information landscape

Research Information can be defined as an information (sometimes referred to as metadata) relating to the conduct and communication of research. This includes, but is not limited to, (1) bibliographic metadata such as titles, abstracts, references, author data, affiliation data, and data on publication venues, (2) metadata on research software, research data, samples, and instruments, (3) information on funding and grants, and (4) information on organizations and research contributors. Research information is located in systems such as bibliographic databases, software archives, data repositories, and current research information systems.  

Decision-making in science is often biased by the typology of research information, and too often is based on closed research information, which is locked inside proprietary infrastructures and run by for-profit providers that impose severe restrictions on the use and reuse of the information. As a consequence, errors, gaps, and biases in closed research information are difficult to expose and even more difficult to fix. Indicators and analytics derived from this information lack transparency and reproducibility. Decisions about the careers of researchers, the future of research organizations, and ultimately the way science serves the whole of humanity, depend on these black-box indicators and analytics.  

There is an urgency for a fundamental change in the research information landscape towards openness. Indeed, open research information enables science policy decisions to be made based on transparent evidence and inclusive data and information used in research evaluations to be accessible and auditable by those being assessed. It makes it possible for the global movement towards open science to be supported by information that is fully open and transparent. 

Today, over 40 organizations, including the University of Bologna, are committing to making openness of research information the norm and to lead this change in the research information landscape. The signatories of the Barcelona Declaration on Open Research Information commit to taking a lead in transforming the way research information is used and produced, to make the openness of information about the conduct and communication of research the new norm. 

The full text of the Barcelona Declaration is now publicly shared on barcelona-declaration.org and presents the commitments that all the signatories of the Declaration adhere to, namely 

  • To make openness the default for the research information we use and produce; 
  • To work with services and systems that support and enable open research information; 
  • To support the sustainability of infrastructures for open research information; 
  • To support collective action to accelerate the transition to openness of research information. 

In addition to the signatories, the Declaration has been supported by several organizations providing data, services and infrastructures. OpenCitations has declared its support to the Declaration, together with AmeliCA, Crossref, Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI), DataCite, EuropePMC, DOAB, DOAJ, Europe PMC, Liberate Science GmbH, OAPEN, OpenAIRE, OurResearch, Redalyc and ROR. OpenCitations believes in the Declaration as a starting point for a substantial change by promoting values which OpenCitations fully supports, as stated in the words of our Director and Associate Professor at the University of Bologna Silvio Peroni:  

Since its creation in 2010, OpenCitations has always advocated and actively worked to produce open research information and develop infrastructural technologies to maximise its sharing and reuse in different applicative contexts. Thus, we embrace the Declaration’s goals and commitments and look forward to working with all the signatories to foster the use and production of open research information.

Prof. Silvio Peroni has been a part of the initial team of over 25 research information experts, representing organizations that carry out, fund, and evaluate research, as well as organizations that provide research information infrastructures, which first prepared The Barcelona Declaration on Open Research Information. The group met in Barcelona in November 2023 in a workshop hosted by SIRIS Foundation. The preparation of the Declaration was coordinated by Bianca Kramer (Sesame Open Science), Cameron Neylon (Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative, Curtin University), and Ludo Waltman (Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University).  

As of April 15, 2024, the list of signatories involves universities and other research performing organizations such as Αthena Research Center (Greece), Charles University (Czech Republic), Coimbra Group (international), Hamburg University of Technology (Germany), I-CERCA – Centres de Recerca de Catalunya (Spain), Instituto Brasileiro de Informação em Ciência e TecnologiaIbict (Brazil), Leiden University (Netherlands), Museo Galileo. Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Italy), Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg (Germany), Sorbonne Université (France), Spanish National Research Council – CSIC (Spain), Udice – French Research Universities (France), UnilLaSalle (France), Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia), Università di Bologna (Italy), Universitat de Barcelona (Spain), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain), Université Grenoble Alpes (France), Université Le Havre Normandie (France), Université Paris Saclay (France), University of Coimbra (Portugal), University of Groningen (Netherlands), University of Maribor (Slovenia), University of Milan (Italy), University of Poitiers (France), University of the Azores (Portugal), University of the Balearic Islands (Spain), University of Turku (Finland), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Netherlands); research funding organizations and governments, including Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (US), Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation – FCRI (Spain), Dutch Research Council NWO (Netherlands), French Open Science Committee (France), French National Research Agency – ANR (France), Fundació Internacional Josep Carreras (Spain), Région Normandie (France), Regione Toscana (Italy), ZonMw (Netherlands); other organizations: Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya – CSUC (Spain); EOSC Association (international), Latin American Council of Social Sciences – CLACSO (international), National Open Research Analytics, Technical University of Denmark (Denmark), State Scientific and Technical Library of Ukraine (Ukraine), TIB – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology and University Library (Germany), UK Reproducibility Network – UKRN (UK). 

There is a need for global and concrete action to reach the tipping point in the transition from closed to open research information, and the Barcelona Declaration on Open Research Information is open for signature by all organizations that carry out, fund, and evaluate research to support this transition.  

If you want to learn more about the Barcelona Declaration, join us in the launch webinar on April 23, 1.00-2.30pm CEST. Click here to register for the webinar.  

You can also keep yourself up to date by following the Barcelona Declaration’s social media channels:  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/barcelona-declaration/ 

Mastodon: https://mastodon.social/@BarcelonaDORI 

X: https://x.com/BarcelonaDORI 

 

OpenCitations needs you: support the change in research practices

In OpenCitations, we like to define our infrastructure organization as “community-based” and “community-driven”, and we really mean it. The support coming from the number of academic libraries and consortia coming after OpenCitations’ involvement in the 2nd SCOSS funding cycle has made it possible, starting from 2020, to make OpenCitations develop from a small university project based on time-limited grant incomes to being an open infrastructure globally recognized for the provision of open citation data and bibliographical metadata. We want to thank all our members and donors, for trusting our mission and sustaining OpenCitations activities with their continuous and generous support, despite the pandemic and post-pandemic times. 

While retracing our work in the last three years, we are astonished by the achievements our team has accomplished, and by how in such a limited time frame OpenCitations has approached David Shotton’s initial vision (who is one of the co-directors of OpenCitations), when he first shaped the project back in 2010. Here are just some of the technical developments that have marked the last years:

  • in 2021, COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations crossed the threshold of one billion citations stored;
  • in 2022, we released the two new OpenCitations indexes of open citations, DOCI (citations from DataCite) and POCI (citations from PubMed);
  • we expanded our collection besides the citation data by releasing OpenCitations Meta, a database storing and delivering bibliographic metadata for all the publications in the OpenCitations Indexes, including the publication’s title, type, venue (e.g. journal name), volume number, issue number, page numbers, publication date, identifiers and details of the main actors involved in the document’s publication (the names of the authors, editors, and publishers); 
  • as of October 2023, OpenCitations Indexes contain information on 1.82 billion unique open citations. 

However, the most significant achievements for OpenCiations in the last years have been the creation of a prolific network of collaborations with other Open Science projects, such as OpenAIRE-Nexus, RISIS2 and GraspOS, and the establishment of a structured team, involving young researchers and PhD students, whose work at the University of Bologna has made it possible to work on the technical developments day by day. 

Our results are a strong indicator of the growing sensibility on the theme of the open provision of bibliographical metadata and citation data, of which Open Citations is at the forefront as a founding member of the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) and the Initiative for Open Abstracts (I4OA). The effort and awareness campaigns led by these initiatives, by DORA and the Open Science community as a whole, have led more and more publishers to a change of heart and to open their reference lists. OpenCitations is an integral part of an ongoing process of transformation of the research environment, and we have collected and interpreted some of the needs of the academic community to plan our future activities and developments. We still need your help and support to make it possible to maintain and improve our infrastructure and to sustain the team working at OpenCitations

If you believe in

  • the importance of open bibliographic data for the creation of reproducible metrics for research assessment exercises
  • the power of the scholarly community to change existing practice by reclaiming ownership of its own data– and you want to become an active part of this change

please consider supporting OpenCitations either via membership or donation. You can find all the information on membership on our website at https://opencitations.net/membership, or you can ask for information by contacting us at membership@opencitations.net

Together, we can work to create an open and inclusive future for science and research. 

Thank You!

OpenCitations is part of the CoARA Working Group Towards Open Infrastructures for Responsible Research Assessment (OI4RRA)

Last March, the  Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) launched its call for members to propose Working Groups and National Chapters. The aim of the call (which was closed in June) was to foster the creation of Working Groups that would work as ‘communities of practice’ to enable systemic reform of research assessment by providing mutual learning and collaboration on specific thematic areas 

A group of 23 Coalition members, including University of Bologna’s personnel working at OpenCitations, collaborated in designing and proposing the CoARA Working Group Towards Open Infrastructures for Responsible Research Assessment (OI4RRA), focusing on having open infrastructures for making research assessment more transparent and responsible, and thus enabling the research community to be in full control of the data and indicators it relies on in assessments. 

We are now thrilled to announce that the proposed Working Group has been accepted, and will start its activities in the next months, with the mission to “enable institutions to move from proprietary infrastructure and research information, to open alternatives–in support of the transition to responsible research assessment practices. This effort will take into consideration the wide range of research outputs and open science practices and address the diversity of the global research community”. 

The CoARA Working Group Towards Open Infrastructures for Responsible Research Assessment will work to facilitate the use of existing open infrastructures, -, with the aim to make it possible a transition to a fully OI4RRA ecosystem – interconnected, decentralised and open –  that is fit to serve existing and emerging needs of reformed RRA agendas.  

For more information visit the dedicated section on CoARA’s website, and read the full list of participants in OI4RRA here 

The Dutch Research Council sustains OpenCitations

We are most grateful to the Dutch Research Council (NWO) for its commitment to sustaining the activities and developments of three SCOSS-selected infrastructures (PKP, OpenCitations and ROR) together with the Netherlands Reproducibility Network.

The selected infrastructures have been evaluated as “essential for a high-quality open science communication system”, and part of a network that “helps to promote reproducibility and strengthens the transition to open science”. OpenCitations, in particular, plays a strong role in reducing “the reliance on commercial products for doing bibliometric research and citation measurement” by providing an open database of citations.

This pledge carries out NWO’s enhancement of Open Science policy, as part of its strategy 2023-2026. The Dutch Research Council aims to support and encourage projects that put Open Science into practice, thus contributing to the transition towards a healthier research culture.

The yearly funding of 8000 EUR (year 2023-2025) will help us realise our planned future developments. Thank you, NWO!

Follow OpenCitations on Mastodon

OpenCitations has happily joined the open-source social media platform joinmastodon.org.

Mastodon is “a free and open-source software developed by a non-profit organization”, with the aim of favouring interoperability and bringing social media interaction “back in the hands of the people”.

We look forward to recreating there our wide network of connections, and getting in touch with new people, projects and institutions in a different virtual environment.

Follow us at https://scicomm.xyz/@opencitations !

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!

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

Crossing a significant threshold: more than one billion citations now available in COCI!

“The competitive benefits of closing access to citation data diminish with each new citation released to the public domain, but the benefits of open data remain. Going forward, citation data is almost completely public domain”.

With these words, from the article “A tipping point for open citations data” (July 15, 2021), Ian Hutchins celebrated the threshold crossing of one billion citations on public-domain databases in February 2021.

Now, a new significant milestone has been reached. We are enthusiastic to announce that COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations has just been extended with 334 million additional citations. Its most recent release, the COCI July 2021 release, now contains a total of 1.09 billion DOI-to-DOI citation links derived from open references within Crossref,which includes the references of articles deposited or opened in Crossref between November 2020 and January 2021.

These numbers make us proud, and confirm the essential value of the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC). Since 2018, the mission of I4OC has been to persuade publishers to provide open citation data by means of the Crossref platform. The I4OC untiring commitment has led the major academic publishers to a progressive change of heart regarding open citations, and the scholarly community to a deeper interest in this openness.

These factors contributed to the creation of COCI in 2018, the first open citation index created by OpenCitations, in which we applied the concept of citations as first-class data entities (Heibi I., Peroni S., Shotton D., 2019). Over the last three years, COCI has been extended in a series of releases, by harvesting citations mostly from Crossref data dumps, starting from an initial coverage of 300 million citations (First release).

A crucial event that preceded (and delayed!) this latest COCI release was Elsevier’s endorsement in the DORA Declaration on Research Assessment in December 2020, thereby making “reference lists for all articles published in Elsevier journals openly available via Crossref so they can be available for reuse. This means other important initiatives like I4OC can draw on this metadata”. As described in our previous post, Elsevier’s welcome commitment led to the opening of many previously closed references from its numerous academic journals submitted to Crossref. Now, after an extended period of data ingestion and processing, all these newly opened Elsevier references are available at OpenCitations within COCI.

Elsevier’s involvement has both an effective and a symbolical value. Even if publishing more than one billion citations is a thrilling achievement, and – as Hutchins wrote – we are now at a tipping point with regard to open citations data, this milestone is not the last stop. Together with the other organizations and projects that participate in the Initiative for Open Citations, we will keep claiming the urgency for the remaining academic publishers to join our cause, and sharing our values with the whole academic community to make all existing citations data freely open and accessible. Recalling what Dario Taraborelli wrote in the conclusion of his article “The citation graph is one of humankind’s most important intellectual achievements“, “the world is waiting for the citation graph to become a public good”.

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