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:

Thank you!

Cite this article as: Chiara Di Giambattista, "New documents that present OpenCitations’ mission, unique benefits, present status and future plans," in OpenCitations blog, 10/08/2022,

Early adopters of the OpenCitations Data Model

OpenCitations is very pleased to announce its collaboration with four new scholarly Research and Development projects that are early adopters of the recently updated OpenCitations Data Model, described in this blog post.

The four projects are similar, in that they each are independently using text mining and optical character recognition or PDF extraction techniques to extract citation information from the reference lists of published works, and are making these citations available as Linked Open Data. Three of the four will also use the OpenCitations Corpus as publication platform for their citation data.  The academic disciplines from which these citation data are being extracted are social science, humanities and economics.

1     Linked Open Citation Database (LOC-DB)

The Linked Open Citation Database, with partners in Mannheim, Stuttgart, Kiel, and Kaiserslautern (LOC-DB,, is the first of two German projects funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) that are extracting citations from Social Science publications.  Dr. Annette Klein, Deputy Director of the Mannheim University Library, is the project manager.

The project is using Deep Neural Networks based approaches for reference detection and state-of-the-art methods for information extraction and semantic labelling of reference lists from electronic and print media with arbitrary layouts [3].  The raw data obtained will be manually checked against and linked with existing bibliographic metadata sources in an editorial system.  They will then be structured in RDF using the OpenCitations Data Model, and published in the Linked Open Citations Database under a CC0 waiver. Using its libraries’ own Social Science print holdings and licensed electronic journals as subject material, this project will demonstrate how these citation extraction processes can be applied to the holdings of individual academic libraries, and can be integrated with library catalogues [1, 2, 3].


[1]       Kai Eckert, Anne Lauscher and Akansha Bhardwaj (2017) LOC-DB: A Linked Open Citation Database provided by Libraries. Motivation and Challenges.  EXCITE Workshop 2017: “Challenges in Extracting and Managing References”.

[2]      Lauscher, Anne; Eckert, Kai; Galke, Lukas; Scherp, Ansgar; Rizvi, Syed Tahseen Raza; Ahmed, Sheraz; Dengel, Andreas; Zumstein, Philipp; Klein, Annette  (2018) Linked Open Citation Database: Enabling libraries to contribute to an open and interconnected citation graph. Accepted for the JCDL 2018: Joint Conference on Digital Libraries 2018, June 3-6, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas [Preprint of the conference publication].

[3]       Bhardwaj A., Mercier D., Dengel A., Ahmed S. (2017). DeepBIBX: deep learning for image based bibliographic data extraction. In: Liu D., Xie S., Li Y., Zhao D., El-Alfy ES. (eds) Neural Information Processing. ICONIP 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10635. Springer, Cham [Conference publication].

2     The EXCITE (Extraction of Citations from PDF Documents) Project

The EXCITE Project (, run jointly at the University of Koblenz-Landau and GESIS (Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences), is the second project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) that is extracting citations from Social Science publications.  It is headed by Steffen Staab, head of the Institute for Web Science and Technologies at the University of Koblenz-Landau, and Philipp Mayr of GESIS.

Since the social sciences are given only marginal coverage in the main bibliographic databases, this project aims to make more citation data available to researchers, with a particular focus on the German language social sciences.  It has developed a set of algorithms for the extraction of reference information from PDF documents and for matching the reference entry strings thus obtained against bibliographic databases (see EXCITE git  It is using as its data sources the following Social Science collections: full texts from SSOAR, the Gesis Social Science Open Access Repository ( and scattered pdf stocks from other social science collections including SOLIS, Springer Online Journals and CSA Sociological Abstracts [4, 5].

The EXCITE project organized an international developer and researcher workshop “Challenges in Extracting and Managing References” in March 2017 in Cologne.

EXCITE will then structure the extracted bibliographic and citation data in RDF using the OpenCitations Data Model, and will use the OpenCitations Corpus as its publication platform, employing the OCC EXCITE supplier prefix 0110, described here, to identify the provenance of these citations.


[4]       Martin Körner (2016). Extraction from social science research papers using conditional random fields and distant supervision, Master’s Thesis, University of Koblenz-Landau, 2016.

[5]       Körner, M., Ghavimi, B., Mayr, P., Hartmann, H., & Staab, S. (2017). Evaluating reference string extraction using line-based conditional random fields: a case study with german language publications. In M. Kirikova, K. Nørvåg, G. A. Papadopoulos, J. Gamper, R. Wrembel, J. Darmont, & S. Rizzi (Hrsg.), New Trends in Databases and Information Systems (Bd. 767, S. 137–145). Springer International Publishing.   Preprint:

3    The Venice Scholar Index

The Venice Scholar Index is a citation index of literature on the history of Venice, indexing nearly 3000 volumes of scholarship from the mid 19th century to 2013, from which some 4 million bibliographic references have been extracted.

The Venice Scholar Index is the first prototype resulting from Linked Books Project (, a project spearheaded by Giovanni Colavizza and Matteo Romanello of the Digital Humanities Laboratory at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), with partners in Venice, Milan and Rome.

The project is exploring the history of Venice through references to scholarly literature as well as archival documents found within publications.  To achieve this goal, the project has developed a system to automatically extract bibliographic references found within a large set of digitized books and journals, which has then been applied to the publications on the history of Venice, its main use case [6].

The Linked Books Project is specifically interested in analysing the interplay between citations to primary (e.g. archival) documents and those to secondary sources (scholarly literature), and the citation profiles of publications through time.  To this end, it developed the Venice Scholar Index, a rich search interface to navigate through the resulting network of citations, with the final aim of interlinking digital archives and digital libraries.

The citation data underlying the Venice Scholar Index are modelled using the OpenCitations Data Model, and will use the OpenCitations Corpus as its publication platform, using the OCC Venice Scholar Index supplier prefix 0120 to identify the provenance of these citations.


[6] Giovanni Colavizza, Matteo Romanello, and Frédéric Kaplan (2017). The references of references: a method to enrich humanities library catalogs with citation data. In International Journal on Digital Libraries 18 (March 8, 2017): 1–11.

4    CitEcCyr – Citations in Economics published in CyrillicCitEcCyr  ( is an open repository of citation relationships obtained from research papers in the Russian language and Cyrillic script from Socionet ( and RePEc ( [7, 8].  The CitEcCyr project is headed by Oxana Medvedeva, is technically led by Sergey Parinov, and is funded by RANEPA (, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public. CitEcCyr is also developing a suite of open software for the citation content analysis of these papers.  This project intends to model its citations using the OpenCitations Data Model, and will use the OpenCitations Corpus as its publication platform, using the OCC CitEcCyr supplier prefix 0140 to identify the provenance of these citations.

However, since this is the first project from which OpenCitations will be importing bibliographic metadata and citations in a language other than English and in a script other than the Latin script, we at OpenCitations are going to have to crawl out of our comfortable ‘Western’ shells and learn to handle foreign languages and scripts other than Latin scripts.

For Russian language papers written using Cyrillic script, we at OpenCitations will to decide how best to handle Russian language written using Cyrillic script, Cyrillic script transliterated into Latin script, and Russian language translated into English and rendered using Latin script.  In particular, since in the OpenCitations Corpus our reference entry records are the uncorrected literal texts of the references in the reference lists of the citing papers, these will need to be recorded as given in Cyrillic.

We will need to develop a policy for when to provide Latin script translations of (for example) titles and abstracts, if these are not provided by the data supplier.  To facilitate use of the OpenCitations Corpus by Russian scholars, we will also need to modify the OpenCitations web site, so as to render the static information displayed in the web pages in the language and script appropriate to the language setting on the user’s web browser.

Unfortunately, all this will take time, so we do not anticipate publishing citation data from the CitEcCyr project within OCC any time soon.  However, this collaboration will be of tremendous value to OpenCitations as well as to CitEcCyr, since the lessons learned by our collaboration with the CitEcCyr project will enable the OpenCitations Corpus to handle citation data not just in Russian, but also in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and other languages where the Latin script is not used, something that is not found in other major bibliographic databases.

Watch this space!


[7]       Jose Manuel Barrueco, Thomas Krichel, Sergey Parinov, Victor Lyapunov, Oxana Medvedeva and Varvara Sergeeva (2017).  Towards open data for the citation content analysis.

[8]       Thomas Krichel (2017). CitEc to CitEcCyr – A stab at distributed citation systems.  Presented at the 2017 EXCITE workshop.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Early adopters of the OpenCitations Data Model," in OpenCitations blog, 23/03/2018,

Three publications describing the Open Citations Corpus

Last September, I attended the Fifth Annual Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing, held in Riga, at which I had been invited to give a paper entitled The Open Citations Corpus – freeing scholarly citation data.  A recording of my talk is available here, and my PowerPoint presentation is separately available here.  My own reflections on the major themes of the conference are given in a separate Semantic Publishing Blog post.

While in Riga preparing to give that talk about the importance of open citation data, I received an invitation from Sara Abdulla, Chief Commissioning Editor at Nature, to write a Comment piece for their forthcoming special issue on Impact.  My immediate reaction was that this should be on the same theme, an idea to which Sara readily agreed.  The deadline for delivery of the article was 10 days later!

As soon as the Riga conference was over, I first assembled all the material I had to hand that could be relevant to describing the Open Citations Corpus (OCC) in the context of conventional access to academic citation data from commercial sources.  That gave me a raw manuscript of some five thousand words, from which I had to distil an article of less than 1,300 words.  I then started editing, and asked my colleagues Silvio Peroni and Tanya Gray for their comments.

The end result, enriched by some imaginative art work by the Nature team, was published a couple of weeks later on 16th October [1], and presents both the intellectual argument for open citation data, and the practical obstacles to be overcome in achieving the goal of a substantial corpus of such data, as well as giving a general description of the Open Citations Corpus itself and of the development work we have planned for it.

Because of the drastic editing required to reduce the original draft to about a quarter of its size, all material not crucial to the central theme had to be cut.  I thus had the idea of developing the original draft subsequently into a full journal article that would include these additional themes, particularly Silvio’s work on the SPAR ontologies described in this Semantic Publishing Blog post [2], Tanya’s work on the CiTO Reference Annotation Tools described in this Semantic Publishing Blog post, and a wonderful analogy between the scholarly citation network and Venice devised by Silvio.  I also wanted to give authorship credit to Alex Dutton, who had undertaken almost all of the original software development work for the OCC.  For this reason, instead of assigning copyright to Nature for the Comment piece, I gave them a license to publish, retaining copyright to myself so I could re-use the text.  I am pleased to say that they accepted this without comment.

Silvio and I then set to work to develop the draft into a proper article.  The result was a ten-thousand word paper submitted to the Journal of Documentation a week before Christmas [3].  We await the referees’ comments!


[1]     Shotton D. (2013).  Open citations.  Nature 502: 295–297. doi:10.1038/502295a.

[2]     Peroni S and Shotton D (2012). FaBiO and CiTO: ontologies for describing bibliographic resources and citations. Web Semantics: Science, Services and Agents on the World Wide Web. 17: 33-34. doi:10.1016/j.websem.2012.08.001.

[3]    Silvio Peroni, Alexander Dutton, Tanya Gray, David Shotton (2015). Setting our bibliographic references free: towards open citation data. Journal of Documentation, 71 (2): 253-277.; OA at

This is the main article about OpenCitations, which includes several background information and the main ideas and works supporting the whole project, the Corpus, and some possible future developments in terms of new kinds of data to be included, e.g. citation functions.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Three publications describing the Open Citations Corpus," in OpenCitations blog, 24/01/2014,


The start of something new

Previously, my blog posts relating to semantic publishing have appeared in this Open Citations Blog.

However, because of the merger of the Open Citations Project with the Related Work Project, described here, this Open Citations Blog has been renamed Open Citations and Related Work and has been opened to contributions from others involved in developing Open Citations and Related Work.

It thus makes sense that future blog posts concerned with semantic publishing be given a separate distinct home – a new Semantic Publishing Blog available at at – to which previous blog posts on the semantic publishing theme that originally appeared in this Open Citations Blog will be copied.

Those interested should follow both the Open Citations and Related Work Blog and the Semantic Publishing Blog, and may also be interested in the third more specialized blog concerning the on-line creation of research data management plans, entitled Creating data management plans online that is available at


David Shotton writes: With the return of Heinrich Hartmann and René Pickhardt to Germany and their involvement in other things, the potential collaboration between the Open Citations Project and their Related Works project came to nothing.  Separately, the corpus has recently been renamed OpenCitations and given a new lease of life, described here, with Silvio Peroni as Co-Director.  For this reason, this blog was re-named “OpenCitations” on 30th March 2017.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "The start of something new," in OpenCitations blog, 01/02/2013,


Open letter to publishers

[The text of this post was updated on 27-09-2013 and 04-04-2017 to reflect a new CrossRef metadata best practice document and a change in their URI.]

Today I wrote an open letter to all scholarly journal publishers, available online here, entitled:

Open your article reference lists for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus.

In this letter, I request that publishers open the bibliographic citation data in their journal article reference lists.  There is a growing movement to make such bibliographic citation data open – for example, Nature Publishing Group’s open Linked Data Platform now includes citation metadata for all published article references.

Provided a publisher is already depositing article references with CrossRef as part of the CrossRef CitedBy Linking service, all the publisher need to do is to inform CrossRef that it is willing for CrossRef to freely distribute these reference, for example in response to queries against the CrossRef XML API.  We will then harvest them from CrossRef and incorporate them as open linked data in the Open Citations Corpus.

Nature Publishing Group, Taylor & Francis, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (who publish Science) and Oxford University Press, as well as a number of open-access publishers, have already given their consent to CrossRef to do this for some or all of their journals.

If not already a subscriber to the CrossRef CitedBy Linking service, a publisher can register for this useful service free of charge.  Having done so, there is nothing further the publisher needs to do to ‘open’ its reference data, other than to give its consent to CrossRef.  This can be done automatically, in the submitted article metadata, or (for back numbers) by informing CrossRef directly.

Even Open Access publishers, publishing articles under a CC-By open license, need to give this specific permission to CrossRef for this to occur, because CrossRef policy is that all publishers, including open access publishers, have to opt in to any distribution of references that CrossRef makes.

For new submissions, publishers should follow instructions detailed in the CrossRef blog at, which contains the following key instruction:

“In order for publishers to distribute references along with standard bibliographic metadata, publishers need to set the <reference_distribution_opt> metadata element to “any" for each DOI deposit where they want to make references openly available.”

In this way, publishers can choose to open the reference lists for all their journals, or to do so on a journal-by-journal or on an article-by-article basis (useful for ‘hybrid’ subscription-access journals in which only some articles are open access).

To open reference lists for back numbers, publisher needs to e-mail CrossRef to express their intent,using the template shown at the foot of this post, as detailed in my Open Letter to Publishers.

I have copied this open letter to the CEOs of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), and of the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM), asking them to distribute it to their members, perhaps in association with their next Members News Letter, as CrossRef itself is planning to do later this month.

Please spread the word about this, particularly to publishers who may not be members of these professional associations.  Thanks.

= = =

Template for an e-mail to CrossRef expressing willingness to open reference lists in previously published and future journal articles.


I am writing on behalf of *** [name of publisher] to confirm that *** [name of publisher] is willing for the bibliographic reference lists within the articles in [delete as necessary:] all our journals [or] the attached list of journals be made freely available by CrossRef, for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus. These journals are associated with the following DOI prefix(es): 10.**** [Please complete DOI prefix(es) – see footnote].
Yours sincerely [name, position, date]
= = =
Footnote: Publisher’s DOI prefixes are listed at by name of publisher.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Open letter to publishers," in OpenCitations blog, 03/01/2013,


Taylor & Francis to open article reference lists

I am very pleased to announce that last year Ian Bannerman, Managing Director for Journals at Taylor & Francis, confirmed this publisher’s willingness to pilot the opening of the reference lists from articles in 29 of their subscription access journals, as well as from all of their current list of 15 Open Access journals, for inclusion in the Open Citations Corpus.  The reference lists for these journals are already being supplied to CrossRef as part of the CrossRef CitedBy Linking service, and will be made available publicly via the CrossRef XML query API.

Taylor & Francis is a major international publisher of over 1,000 academic journals and more than 1,800 books per year, incorporating well-known publishing names including Bios Scientific Publishing, CRC Press, Garland Science, Marcel Decker and Routledge.  It is the largest publisher of subscription access journals yet to agree to make reference lists available from its journal articles, and I welcome them warmly into the Open Citations fold.

Incorporation of new reference data from Taylor and Frances journals into the Open Citations Corpus will commence in the near future.

Cite this article as: davidshotton, "Taylor & Francis to open article reference lists," in OpenCitations blog, 03/01/2013,

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