OpenCitations described

OpenCitations is an infrastructure organization for open scholarship dedicated to the publication of open bibliographic and citation data. We at OpenCitations are proud to announce the publication, in the first issue of Quantitative Science Studies, of a canonical paper in which we introduce and describe OpenCitations and outline its achievements and goals [1].

Here, I outline the contents of our paper, and provide definitive links on the topics described. Many of these topics have been the subjects of earlier blog posts.

This paper appears in the first Special Issue of QSS, dedicated to the description of the bibliometric data sources that lie at the heart of scientometric research, which aims to characterize the most important data sources currently available and to show how they differ in various dimensions, for instance in the data they provide, their level of openness, and their support for making research reproducible. The first three papers in this special issue cover the most important commercial bibliographic data sources: Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics), Scopus (Elsevier), and Dimensions (Digital Science), while the remaining three articles describe open data sources: Microsoft Academic, Crossref and OpenCitations.

In the introduction to our own paper, we describe the origins of OpenCitations, discuss the growth and benefits of open science, and introduce the Semantic Web techniques used at OpenCitations for recording and publishing our data. We then go on to describe OpenCitations’ services and data, namely Open Citation Identifiers, the OpenCitations Data Model, the SPAR (Semantic Publishing and Referencing) Ontologies, the OpenCitations Corpus, and the OpenCitations Indexes of citation data, of which the first and largest is COCI, the OpenCitations Index of Crossref open DOI-to-DOI citations, that currently holds information on over 624 million citations. We conclude our survey of OpenCitations’ services and data by outlining the generic open source software developed at OpenCitations, including OSCAR, the OpenCitations RDF Search Application for searching over RDF datasets, LUCINDA, OSCAR’s associated OpenCitations RDF Resource Browser, and RAMOSE, OpenCitations’ application for creating REST APIs over SPARQL endpoints, thus opening Semantic Web datasets to those not familiar with SPARQL, the RDF query language.

In the second half of the paper, we describe OpenCitations as an organization in terms of its compliance with the principles for the sustainability of open infrastructures proposed by Bilder, Lin and Neylon (2015) [2], and report the selection of OpenCitations by the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS) as an open infrastructure organization worthy of crowd-funding support by the stakeholder community. We then provide usage statistics for our datasets and web site, and describe the adoption of OpenCitations data and services by the community, before concluding with a forward look at our proposed developments of OpenCitations activities.


[1] Silvio Peroni and David Shotton (2020). OpenCitations, an infrastructure organization for open scholarship. Quantitative Science Studies 1 (1): 428-444.

[2] Geoffrey Bilder, Jennifer Lin and Cameron Neylon (2015). Principles for open scholarly infrastructures. Figshare.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "OpenCitations described," in OpenCitations blog, 26/02/2020,

The first issue of Quantitative Science Studies

The memorable date 20/02/2020 saw the publication by MIT Press of the first issue of Volume One of a new journal, Quantitative Science Studies (QSS), the official open access journal of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI). QSS’s Editor in Chief is Ludo Waltman (CWTS, University of Leiden, Netherlands), Vincent Larivière (Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and Staša Milojević (Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana, USA) are its Associate Editors, and it has a large and distinguished editorial board.

What makes the launch of this new journal remarkable is the story of how it came into being. In 2019, the entire editorial team of the Journal of Informetrics (JOI), a leading journal in this field published by Elsevier, resigned en masse and decided to start an alternative journal, QSS, both because of Elsevier’s position on open citations, and because, in their opinion, the financial model used by Elsevier violates the scientific ethos.

Reproducibility in the field of scientometrics requires scientific metadata that are both of high-quality and open, particularly those relating to bibliographic citations. The JOI editorial board was deeply concerned by the refusal of Elsevier to join almost all other large scholarly publishers in supporting the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC). As we have previously reported on this blog, Elsevier is the largest contributor of bibliographic references to Crossref, but insists that these data should be kept closed.

Elsevier’s position, driven by commercial interests (since it sells access to citation data through Scopus), flies in the face of the scientific community’s clear move towards open science, with hundreds of scientometricians having signed an ISSI open letter urging scholarly publishers to support I4OC.

Science is a self-governing system, and the editorial team held the view that the ultimate responsibility for a scholarly journal should fall with the scientific community, who serve as the gatekeepers, producers, and consumers of scientific content.

The editorial team also believed Elsevier’s subscription fees to be excessive, and its article processing charges (APCs) for open access publishing to be unfairly high, thus limiting both those who can afford to read Elsevier journals and those who can afford to publish in them, so that publishing with Elsevier inevitably places major limits on scholarship, harming both science and society. It was for all these reasons that they forsook JOI and started QSS.

We at OpenCitations congratulate the editorial team for their courage in deciding to make this journal flip, and wish them, together with the ISSI and MIT Press, every success for this important new journal. We also commend the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology and the Communication, Information, Media Centre (KIM) of the University of Konstanz, who, in collaboration with the Fair Open Access Alliance (FOAA), have generously agreed to cover APCs for the first three years of the QSS journal.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "The first issue of Quantitative Science Studies," in OpenCitations blog, 26/02/2020,

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